Stratolaunch, the world's widest aircraft, takes off on first flight

Stratolaunch a giant six-engine aircraft with the world’s longest wingspan, makes its historic first flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave Calif. Saturday

The company, which was founded in 2011 by the late Paul Allen, has a contract with Northrop Grumman is use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space.

Though Stratolaunch is the largest plane by wingspan, another craft, the helium-filled Airlander 10, takes the title of the longest aircraft now flying with a length of 302 feet (92 m).

"It was an emotional moment to watch this bird take flight".

The mega jet called Roc, which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage, carried out its maiden voyage over the Mojave desert shortly before 7am Pacific time (14:00 GMT).

The 117-meter wide plane took off from a runway in California's Mohave Desert and flew for 2.5 hours at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters at speeds of up to 304 km/h.

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Citing initial parameters, the officials said that the platform performed a variety of flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing manoeuvres, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips.

Moreover, it conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.

However, neither Krevor nor Jean Floyd, the chief executive of Stratolaunch, said anything about the test flight program, including when the plane will fly again and how long the overall test program will last. "We are well on our way towards providing new launch opportunities for small satellites that have waited too long for their ride to space", Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said Wednesday in a statement.

Pilot Evan Thomas reportedly said the experience was "fantastic" and that "for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted". The company aims to make access to orbit more affordable and accessible by launching satellites into space from aircraft, rather than from the ground. They include the six-engine Antonov AN 225 cargo plane, which is 275.5ft or 84m long, and the Boeing 747-8, which is just over 250ft (76.3m) long.

"The airplane very nicely, smoothly rotated and really just lifted off the ground", he said.

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