After years of anticipation, the Giant Stratolaunch, officially the world’s largest plane with a wingspan stretching larger than an American football field, took its first flight on Saturday, according to CNN.
The gargantuan six-engine, twin-hulled airplane has been developed by the Seattle-based Stratolaunch Systems. On Saturday morning, the massive plane took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port and soared in the sky above the Mojave desert for a little over two hours. The company’s CEO, Jean Floyd, who was present at the hangar at the time of the plane’s first flight, could not hide his excitement.
“We finally did it,” Floyd exclaimed, admitting that “it was an emotional moment to watch this bird take flight.”
He also thanked the late founder of Stratolaunch Systems, the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who was instrumental in helping Floyd realize the dream of the Giant Stratolaunch. Floyd rued the fact that Allen was no more, but he whispered a private “thank-you” to him as the plane took flight.
“I had imagined this moment for years, but I had never imagined it without Paul standing next to me.”
Allen died in October of last year from complications related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.
Soon after the plane landed successfully at the Mojave Air and Space Port following its maiden flight, test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters that he could not be happier with the results.
“For a first flight, it was spot on,” Thomas said.
“For the most part, the airplane flew as predicted. Systems on the airplane ran like a watch.”
The Giant Stratolaunch is not a commercial carrier and is built with the purpose of assisting private companies, the military, and even NASA a more economical way to get into space. The world’s largest plane is a flying launchpad which can be used to hurtle satellites into low Earth orbit.
With a wingspan measuring 385 feet and a length of 238 feet, the Giant Stratolaunch easily outdoes its competitors in terms of sheer size. Weighing half a million pounds, it even has two cockpits in each fuselage, although only one is needed to fly the plane. Experts said that the scale of the project makes the accomplishment of taking its first flight all the more significant.
“It’s the world’s biggest airplane. It’s so huge, it seems like it shouldn’t be able to fly,” Jack Beyer, an aerospace and launch photographer for NASA, said.