Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has unveiled his latest project: the Stratolaunch, a gigantic plane built around two 747s. According to Allen, construction began on the giant plane in 2011, and it's now nearing testing stage, with the first test flights planned for 2016.
Dwarfing even the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, Stratolaunch looks more like a gargantuan air catamaran than a regular aeroplane.
Its wingspan measures 385 feet. By comparison, the Airbus comes in at 260 feet wide.
Kevin Mickey, president of Scaled Composites, the company building the plane, told US TV station KGET that standing on an American football field, the plane’s wingtips would “extend beyond the goalposts by about 15 feet on each side”.
It’s unlikely to become the future of commercial air travel, however. Stratolaunch will need roughly 12,000 feet of runway in order to take off, far more than regular planes which get by with just 7-8,000 feet.
But this isn’t the main goal for the plane. Instead, Stratolaunch’s developers are hoping it will be used to perform air launches of satellite-carrying rockets, to make space travel more affordable.