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World's largest plane completes first flight

15/04/2019
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Move over Howard Hughes! Stratolaunch- the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan (and the world’s largest all-composite aircraft) has completed its maiden flight over the Mojave Desert in California, flying for a total of 2.5 hours.
The first flight of Stratolaunch brings us a step closer to an era of airline-style access to space.
(The first flight of Stratolaunch brings us a step closer to an era of airline-style access to space. Image via Stratolaunch). 

The Stratolaunch’s first flight saw the aircraft hit a top speed of 189 mph, achieving altitudes of 17,000 feet in a step which brings a new orbital launch system closer to being operational. During the flight the crew undertook several aircraft testing exercises including flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems and simulated landing approach exercises.
Take off! The first flight of Stratolaunch occurred at 6:58 am PDT from Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
(Take off! The first flight of Stratolaunch occurred at 6:58 am PDT from Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Image via Stratolaunch).

The flight is especially notable as it has toppled an aerospace record which has stood since 1947. That was the year that Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose H-4 Hercules flying boat took to the air on its first, and only, flight. At the time it was not only the world’s heaviest aircraft, but also had the longest wingspan of any aircraft to take flight. The Stratolaunch is certainly not heavier than the Spruce Goose (it weighs only 226,000kg), but it does smash its wingspan record.
The maiden flight of Stratolaunch saw the crew undertake a variety of tests and procedures.
(The maiden flight of Stratolaunch saw the crew undertake a variety of tests and procedures. Image via Stratrolaunch).

The brain-child of Paul G. Allen, the Stratolaunch aircraft is envisioned as a way of enabling airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The dual fuselage design means that the reinforced centre wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.
Touchdown! The first flight of Stratolaunch broke an aerospace record that had stood since 1947.
(Touchdown! The first flight of Stratolaunch broke an aerospace record that had stood since 1947. Image via Stratolaunch).

Commenting on the maiden flight, Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch, said:

“What a fantastic first flight. Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port”.

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World's largest plane completes first flight - Time to read 3 min
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