Aircraft with the largest wingspan in the world completes first flight

Iain Burns | April 13, 2019 in Science

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The largest plane in the world by wingspan has flown for the first time.

Stratolaunch – an American firm set up by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – debuted the aircraft in Mojave, California.

It measures 117 metres from wing to wing, more than a football field.

Photo credit: Stratolaunch

The plane is designed to act as a launching pad for satellites.

On its test flight on Saturday, the aircraft – called the Stratolaunch – reached speeds of 304 km/h and altitudes of up to 17,000 feet.

It flew for 2.5 hours.

Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch, said it was a “fantastic first flight”.

Photo credit: Stratolaunch

He added: “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.”

The centre wing of the plane can hold up to 500,000 pounds in weight.

If successful, it will “enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine,” Stratolaunch explained.

“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust.

“The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”

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