Roc, the World’s Largest Airplane, Emerges for Taxi Testing

Historic Stratolaunch aircraft performs taxi tests for the first time in eight months.

Stratolaunch’s Roc airplane was built to serve as an inflight launch platform. [Courtesy Stratolaunch]

For the first time in eight months, the world’s largest airplane—Stratolaunch’s Rocperformed taxi tests Thursday at California's Mojave Air & Spaceport, north of Los Angeles. 

The one-of-a-kind, twin-fuselage, six-engine behemoth was spotted rolling down the facility’s 12,000-foot runway, in preparation for its next flight, which is expected within several weeks.

“We’re checking all of the communications, the vehicle’s airworthiness, all of the subsystems, making sure that they all function properly and that the plane is fully ready,” Stratolaunch spokesperson Kate Squires told FLYING

On board the airplane were pilots Evan Thomas and Mark Giddings—who flew Roc during previous test flights. Dean Spahr, Brandon Cangiano, and Jake Riley also were on the flight deck.

The taxi tests were expected to last about eight hours, she said, and may continue if required during the coming days. 

Later this year, it’s scheduled to perform its intended role as a midair launch platform for hypersonic test vehicles. Roc is expected to provide “threat replication” for research by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency to help scientists understand how to engage and intercept hypersonic weapons. 

Roc, with wings measuring 385 feet, assumed the title of the world’s largest airplane by wingspan when it first flew in 2019. 

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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