World's biggest plane flies for the first time

14 Avril, 2019, 06:44 | Auteur: Therese Cote
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It was made by reassembling parts from two used Boeing jetliners.

While Stratolaunch calls its aircraft the world's largest, other airplanes exceed it in length from nose to tail.

Saturday's flight, which saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and altitudes of 17,000 feet, was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch.

The pilot Evan Thomas told reporters the experience was "fantastic" and that "for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted". "It definitely was ready to fly and wanted to fly", he said.

It comes just three months after Stratolaunch Systems, the company behind the effort, laid off "more than 50" employees and canceled efforts to develop its own rockets.

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If successful, such a project would be a cheaper way to launch objects into space than rockets fired from the ground.

This handout photograph obtained courtesy of Stratolaunch shows the Stratolaunch plane flying over the California desert, April 13, 2019, the first test flight of the United States company's very big aircraft whose wingspan is nearly half that of an Airbus A380.

The plane flew Saturday for about two and a half hours, Stratolaunch said. But in January the company scaled back those efforts. Stratolaunch, which was founded by Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites. "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". He did not specify what those things were, and briefing participants did not take questions.

"The airplane felt really nice on the touchdown, gear felt good", Thomas said. That's because there'd be no need for ground launches of rockets.

Executives have also said the plane can easily move to areas that are better suited for launching satellites into certain orbits, although it needs a landing strip that can handle its great size.

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