World's largest plane takes to the skies over California

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The Stratolaunch, a six-engine, twin-fuselage behemoth with a 385-foot wingspan took off from Mojave after years in development.

The world's largest airplane made its first test flight on Saturday in California.

Stratolaunch, the company founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, conducted the first test flight of the world's largest plane.

Stratolaunch aircraft first emerged from its Mojave hangar in 2017 and underwent ground tests, including taxiing and rolling down a runway at near-takeoff speeds. 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.

At a half-million tons, the jet took flight shortly after 10 a.m.at Mojave Air and Space Port, reaching a maximum speed of 175 miles per hour and a peak altitude of 15,000 feet. The aircraft was conceived by Paul Allen and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan as an aerial launch platform for low Earth orbit satellites that will reduce launch costs substantially.

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"We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today's historic achievement", Jody Allen, the trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, is quoted as saying in a press release announcing the launch.

"The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved". The aircraft is created to release rockets attached to the center of its enormous wing, which stretches 385 feet (117 meters) from tip to tip.

According to test pilot Evan Thomas, a former F-16 Air Force fighter pilot, the plane flew as predicted for the most part.

The aircraft taking off from Mojave, California. Its twin fuselages - sort of the airplane equivalent of a catamaran - are 238 feet (72.5 meters) long. 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.

"What a fantastic first flight", said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch. "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems".

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