In considering strange sky phenomena, it helps to know wingspans of interesting aircraft.
- The space shuttle: 78 ft
- Airlander 10: 142 ft
- Boeing 767: 156 ft
- C-17 Military Transport: 169.8 ft
- B-2 Spirit (Stealth Bomber): 172 ft
- B-52 Stratofortress: 185 ft
- Martin Mars flying boat: 200 ft
- NASA Centurion flying wing: 206 ft
- Lockheed C-5B transport: 222 ft 9 in
- Solar Impulse 2: 236 ft
- Helios Prototype flying wing: 247 ft
- Antonov AN-225: 290 ft
- Spruce Goose: 320 ft 11 in
- Stratolaunch: 385 ft
The new record wingspan to beat is 385 feet now held by the Stratolaunch.
… On Thursday, Stratolaunch rolled its low orbit launch aircraft out of the company’s hangar in the California desert for the first time.
With wings spanning 385 ft, it is the world’s largest airplane by wingspan — besting the AN-225’s 290 ft. wingspan.
The aircraft is also 238 ft. long and 50 ft. tall. Like the AN-225, the Statolaunch plane is also powered by six high-bypass ratio turbofan engines.
Stratolaunch — owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen — intends to use the aircraft to move forward with its vision to “provide convenient, reliable, and routine access to low Earth orbit.”
There was a hybrid aircraft (the Airlander, part blimp, part airplane) the military was working on and the newest version will beat (in length) the wingspan of the Stratolaunch, but not by much.
… Hybrid Air Vehicles’ technical director claims that “you can put 7 or 8 tons of surveillance equipment on board”, which drops a hint that this might be another eye in the sky tool.
According to Fox News, the Airlander is 302 feet long, roughly 50 feet longer than a Boeing 747. It may not win any contests for being fast, with a top speed of 100 miles per hour, but it can land virtually anywhere: ice, sand, snow, even water. It can also carry 50 tonnes of cargo up to 1,600 miles. The aircraft has the ability to hover in the same spot for about five days while humans are onboard. Without people, it can stay in the same place for weeks.
It’s as long as a football field, packed full of helium like a balloon, can stay up in the air for three weeks and might just change the way we travel around the globe. Introducing “Airlander,” a high-flying mega-blimp from Britain’s Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd.
This amalgam of a plane, airship, helicopter and hovercraft was originally developed for the U.S. Army as a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, but the government ditched the project last year amid budget cuts and sold it back to HAV for just $301,000 (less than 1 percent of the original cost). What they lost out on, it turns out, was a game-changing aircraft that can carry up to 22,000 pounds, sustain a few bullet holes, and set down on ice, land or sea.
… The BBC likened it to three giant cigars sewn together, while the Daily Mail called the Airlander a “flying bum.” …
Unlike earlier helium-filled airships, the Airlander does not need to be tied down by a crew each time it lands because it’s still heavier than air. Several ballonets at the fore and aft in each of the hulls provide pressure control, meaning engineers can land the craft via remote control with no one on board at all. …
The Airlander, which can run with as little as two crew members, has the ability to fly nonstop around the world — twice! It would, however, take much longer than in a traditional aircraft (a hypothetical one with unlimited fuel) as the Airlander only travels at about 100 miles per hour.
… A professional airline pilot and key investor in the Airlander to the tune of $4.2 million, Bruce Dickinson is perhaps better known as the lead singer of the wildly successful English heavy metal outfit Iron Maiden. He told the Independent Friday that the Airlander was an achievement everyone in Britain should be incredibly proud of: “This is a beautiful thing — the sheer imagination and scale of it — British designed and built.
The proposed Airlander 50 will be 390 ft long and 196 ft wide, capable of lifting up to 132,300 lbs. When built, it’s length will surpass the 385 ft wingspan of the Stratolaunch.
The solar plane is also of special interest. Solar Impulse 2 with a 236 ft wingspan moves very slowly, about 30 mph, and flies at night. The Solar Impulse 2 was completed in 2014 and the Solar Impulse 1 with a 208 ft wingspan first flew December 3rd, 2009.
On Wednesday, the plane circled Allentown for nearly four hours before touching down. By 8:15 p.m., the plane was low enough to the ground for onlookers to see its flashing red landing lights and individual solar panels.
Flying at a typical speed of about 30 mph, the single-seat plane took about 17 hours to make its way from Dayton to LVIA, but it’s had legs much longer, including one from Asia to Hawaii that took five days. For Piccard that was five days alone in the cockpit — under the watchful eye of everyone at Mission Control in Monaco. To do it, Piccard and Borschberg have perfected the art of the 20-minute nap, which they take several times a day during multi-day stretches.
“This is the only plane in the world certified to have the pilot sleeping in the cockpit,” Piccard said, adding that the plane can fly forever, its only limits being those of its human pilots.
The NASA Centurion with a 206 ft wingspan was tested in 1998.
The Helios Prototype is an enlarged version of the Centurion flying wing that flew a series of test flights at Dryden in late 1998.
The craft has a wingspan of 247 feet, 41 feet greater than the Centurion, 2 1/2 times that of the Pathfinder flying wing, and longer than the wingspans of either the Boeing 747 jetliner or Lockheed C-5 transport aircraft.
The remotely piloted Helios Prototype first flew during a series of low-altitude checkout and development flights on battery power in late 1999 over Rogers Dry Lake adjacent to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in the Southern California desert.
Airplane specs can be wildly uninteresting to most people, until they see or hear about something flying around with a 5,200 foot wingspan and go to look up which of our aircraft it might be… hmm.