What’s the biggest airplane you’ve ever been on? How about ever seen or even heard of? Doesn’t matter, that’s all about to change. The Stratolaunch is officially the world’s largest airplane. It dwarfs the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and the Airbus A380-800, the two largest passenger planes.
This thing even surpasses Howard Hughes’ H-4 Spruce Goose, and anyone who knows even a little bit about planes knows that is saying something. Read on to learn more about this record-breaking airplane (and whether it can even stay in the air).
How Big Is It?
It’s a major understatement to simply say this is a big plane. With a wingspan of 385 feet, it’s longer than a football field. That makes it 20 feet longer than the Apollo-era Saturn V and about half as long as the Hindenburg class airships. Its twin fuselages are 238 feet long, while its tail height is 50 feet. Simply put, it will be the largest airplane, by wingspan, ever to fly.
Why So Big?
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan created Stratolaunch Systems on Dec. 13, 2011, hoping to develop a new air-launch-to-orbit system that could revolutionize space transportation.
Allen’s motivations for building and financing the Stratolaunch were made clear in a 2016 statement:
“When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine,” he wrote. “That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”