World's largest aircraft completes first successful test flight
15 April 2019
The world's largest all-composite airplane, manufactured by Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, on Saturday successfully completed its test flight over the Mojave Desert in California.
With a dual fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the Stratolaunch aircraft took flight at 0658 (PDT) from the Mojave Air and Space Port. Achieving a maximum speed of over 300 kilometres (189 miles) per hour, the plane flew for 2-1/2 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet.
As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
The Stratolaunch behemoth with two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines is the world’s largest all-composite aircraft.
“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch.
“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.”
During Saturday’s test based on standard aircraft testing exercises, the aircraft performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips.
It also conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.
The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.
“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc and trustee of the Paul G Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”
Founded in 2011 by Paul G Allen, Stratolaunch Systems Corporation believes in safeguarding Earth for future generations. It uses convenient, affordable,?and routine, airline-style access to space that empowers the world’s problem solvers – so that they can collect rich and actionable data and drive advancements in science, research, and technology from space, a company release stated.