Vehicles | May 4, 2021 8:00 am

The World’s Largest Airplane Is Getting Closer to Operation

The Stratolaunch Roc, which boasts a 385-foot wingspan, is designed to carry other aircraft

Stratolaunch's carrier aircraft called the Roc on a runway under a blue sky
When you need a bigger plane, you go to Stratolaunch.
Stratolaunch

Since the first airplanes took to the skies, human flight has taken on a number of forms. As technology has grown, so too have the options available to flyers. In the not-so-distant future, it’s not hard to imagine someone choosing from among a range of options including supersonic jets and dirigibles to get where they’re going.

Many advances in flight technology have focused on smaller aircraft, but there’s also a parallel strain of design that’s all about making planes bigger and bigger. That can be for a host of reasons, including transporting passengers, refueling other planes in midair and even conveying other vehicles into the air. The last of these is the raison d’etre of the world’s largest airplane, Stratolaunch’s Roc.

Stratolaunch, co-founded by the late Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, is working to develop hypersonic aircraft. Part of their plan involves having these vehicles take off from the air — and that’s where having a plane capable of carrying other aircraft comes into the picture. The Roc is aptly named, with a wingspan of 385 feet. And last week, it took its second test flight.

Space.com reports that on the morning of April 29 the Roc took flight and spent 3 hours and 14 minutes in the air, traveling to 14,000 feet and reaching a speed of 199 miles per hour. It was a big step forward for the Stratolaunch team. Next up, a flight with a test version of a hypersonic plane, scheduled for next year.