Stratolaunch, world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, makes historic first flight

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The world’s largest aircraft by wingspan completed a successful first flight over California’s Mojave Desert on Saturday.

The gigantic, six-engine aircraft known as Stratolaunch has a 385-foot wingspan, weighs about 500,000 pounds and is the dream of late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. It’s so large that it needs two cockpits and it’s powered by six Boeing 747 engines.

Stratolaunch Systems Corp. Chief Executive Jean Floyd said Saturday the aircraft made a “spectacular” landing that was on the mark. Stratolaunch, which was founded by Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites. He died in October.

“It was an emotional moment for me, to personally watch this majestic bird take flight, to see Paul Allen’s dream come to life in front of my very eyes,” Floyd told a teleconference briefing.

Floyd said that as the plane lifted off, “I did whisper a ‘thank you’ to Paul for allowing me to be part of this remarkable achievement.”

The twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port shortly before 7 a.m. and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles. The jet flew for two and a half hours, achieving a maximum speed of 189 mph and altitudes up to 17,000 feet, the company said.

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