The Biggest Flight Took Off
The World's Largest Plane Just Took to The Skies in an Unreal First Flight Stratolaunch, the massive aircraft dreamed up by the late Paul Allen, flew for the first time on Saturday, becoming the largest plane by wingspan ever to take to the skies.
Larger than Howard Hughes's Spruce Goose - which flew only once, in 1947- Stratolaunch lifted off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert and stayed aloft for 2.5 hours, company officials said, hitting an altitude of 17,000 feet (5,000 metres) and a maximum speed of 189 mph (304 km/h).
The plane is a behemoth, with a twin fuselage, 28 wheels, six 747 jet engines and a wingspan longer than a football field, end zones included.
"We finally did it," Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch's chief executive, said in a call with reporters. He said it was inspiring "to see Paul Allen's dream come to life."
But Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, died in October, leaving the future of the plane and the company behind it in doubt. Company officials did not take questions from reporters and did not address the future of the venture in a news release.
Since Allen's death, the company has dramatically scaled back operations and laid off dozens of employees.
From the beginning, Allen's dream was to use the plane to help make getting satellites, and possibly people, into space more affordable and accessible.
Built by Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, Stratolaunch was designed to carry as many as three rockets tethered to its belly into the skies; the rockets would then drop, ignite and shoot off into space with their payloads.