World’s Largest Aircraft Has Flown For The First Time

| April 13, 2019 | 29 Comments

roc stratoflight

The aerospace venture Stratolaunch sent the world’s largest airplane into the air today for its first flight test.

The twin-fuselage plane, incorporating parts from two Boeing 747 jumbo jets, has a world-record wingspan of 385 feet. It took off today from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California for a flight that lasted over two hours.

For over seven years, Stratolaunch has been working with Mojave-based Scaled Composites on a project which will use the plane as a flying launch pad for orbital-class rockets. The first flight test had been anticipated for months.

“We finally did it,” Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said today during a briefing.

Stratolaunch’s plane, which has been nicknamed Roc after a giant mythical bird, took off at 6:58 a.m. PT and went through a series of in-flight maneuvers, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, steady heading side slips and simulated landing approach exercises. Stratolaunch said it reached a maximum speed of 189 mph and maximum altitude of 17,000 feet.

The plane “flew much as we expected,” Scaled Composites test pilot Evan Thomas said. “We saw a few little things that were off-nominal, but really, for a first flight, it was spot-on,” he said.

Hat tip to our own Poetrooper for the link. More on the bird and eye-popping pics may be found here: The Drive

Edit- Some good CGI on the aircraft launching a satellite into orbit.

Category: Blue Skies, Bravo Zulu, Guest Link

Comments (29)

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  1. Sapper3307 says:

    Lets start pre-jump and initial manifest at 0300. Full combat equipment and a light coat of CLP.

    • Roh-Dog says:

      Where do I signup for this adventure/misadventure?
      With a 0300 manifest that means we’ll be PLFing at about noon, if we’re lucky, and LSA is better for tanning. May we substitute with LSA?

  2. Blaster says:

    I guess the test pilot for that thing needed a duel fuselage plane, one for each of his balls.

  3. SFC D says:

    Howard Hughes was unavailable for comment.

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    Alrighty then, we gots us a new and improved jet propelled Spruce Goose. Does the payload go inside the fuselage? Mount between the fuselages? I hope the max speeds and altitudes they mentioned was just the max for the test flight. Seems kinda low and slow in the grand scheme of things.

    Dual fuselage would make for a nice Puff/Spectre gunship. You know, double sided flying Artillery. Be interesting to see more on this.

    • Poetrooper says:

      Wouldn’t you suppose that actual data regarding maximum speed, altitude, etc. is classified?

      What’s most intriguing about that dual fuselage is that it’s only held together by the main wing frame. I would have thought that a tail boom connection would be required to strengthen the overall aircraft. Those six big engines have to be torquing the hell outta those fuselages.

      But what do I know? Any aeronautical engineers lurking hereabouts?

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Roger all of that Poe. Poked around on the innerwebby looking for more info. Didn’t find much more than what we had here and the linky. Lots and lots of torque. Hopefully our sleuthy ninjas will keep us posted.

      • AW1Ed says:

        Any aeronautical engineers lurking hereabouts?

        Yes, but I’m Mission Systems. The Air Vehicle bubba’s are downstairs but say some flex between the two fuselages is expected and not a problem. Also this a civilian effort and not classified.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      That thing is for a heavy drop of a spaceship, for high-altitude launch. The launch vehicle will be suspended at the midpoint.

      Speed is not the primary goal. Total lift capacity and maximum altitude are the goals. Speed becoames a useful plus, and it likely high-subsonic at very high altitude.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Tanks Men!. Knew I could count on the staff weenies and edumucated hangers on of TAH for the “rest of the story.” Wonder how that beast will handle with multi tons of payload hanging in the middle? ‘Ed call downstairs and tell the bubbas that inquiring minds want to know.

        Still think it would make a real nice flying Artillery Platform. Imagine how much ARA could be hung on a wing span that long.

        • AW1Ed says:

          “Wonder how that beast will handle with multi tons of payload hanging in the middle?”

          Remember, an aircraft is basically an aluminum tube filled with air, and hard points being the wing spar, engine and landing gear mounts. Military birds have more hard points, but that’s for another post. The engineers have calculated a safe operating envelope for the bird, with various payloads adding weight and drag components.
          These early flights will stay well inside the calculated performance envelope.

          A military aircraft under test will (usually) undergo a series of “envelope expansion” flights to find the no-shit edge of performance. These can be pretty exciting flights- taking a P-8A (militarized Boeing 737) up to the edge of stall, and maybe a bit beyond, is why we have world class test pilots and crew.

          So how will the ‘Roc’ handle with a load? I’m sure exactly as designed. With six Pratt and Whitney (or other) engines the thing is tremendously overpowered, empty. It should do just fine in its intended purpose.

          • 5th/77th FA says:

            Tanks Matey! Can always count on an answer that scratches that inquiring mind itch. Massive amounts of thrust will push mass. (least ways, that’s what she told me)

            Still think it would be a nice Aerial Artillery Platform with a coupla 105s, buncha .50s and a sh^tload of Hellfires, Sidewinders, Slammers, MOABs ect mounted all over hell and 1/2 of MO. Uh oh, thinks I need a cold shower.

  5. Sapper3307 says:

    Jesse Ventura is talking about NAM flashbacks wen filming Predator.

    I’m usually pretty lenient on off-topic comments, but at least keep them in the same time zone, Sappy, or I’ll make them go away.

  6. The Other Whitey says:

    Howard Hughes meets Burt Rutan. Suck it, Antonov!

  7. 26Limabeans says:

    It’s gonna snap in the middle.

  8. OWB says:

    The pic of this beast with all the wind turbines in the background is just…strange. Maybe ironic. Perhaps a bit silly. (Do the turbine blades have safety lights on them?)

    Anywho, nice. Sometimes having the biggest one is great just because.

  9. 26Limabeans says:

    90 degree flaps?

  10. Toxic Deplorable B Woodman says:

    I was thinking similar.
    Not only about the two halves being connected only by the wing joint (yes, I’m still thinking a tail joining would have been a plus)…….
    Pilots (yes, plural) control between the two halves has got to be a computer controlled bitch. Would fly-by-wire be adequate and robust enough?

    • The Other Whitey says:

      The sources I’ve read say the crew flies from the right cockpit, while the left one is an unpressurized avionics bay. Not sure why they put windows on the left side if that’s the case, unless someone sits there for visibility while taxiing on the ground.

  11. Bim says:

    Someone captured the Flightradar24 telemetry of the test flight. Not sure why the guy said that the aircraft only hit 190mph, as there is telemetry showing this thing going over 500kts…

    On another note, Tyler Rogoway from The Drive is probably one of the best military / aviation journalists out there. I really enjoy his articles.

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