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The Boeing 747. The Antonov An-225. These airplanes are some of the well-known behemoths of aviation. However, Stratolaunch identified a logistical application for a monstrous aircraft that dwarfs a 747. Enter the Stratolaunch Roc, the biggest plane in the world with a stellar purpose.

With a wingspan longer than a football field, the Stratolaunch Roc is the biggest plane in the world

Interestingly enough, the claim of the “world’s largest operating aircraft” might not be the most bizarre element of the Stratolaunch Roc. A mere glimpse at the Roc places the fuselage (or two fuselages, for that matter) off-center. Instead of a solitary fuselage, cargo area, and cockpit residing in the middle of its 385-foot wingspan and multiple engines, two separate structures bookend a centerline launching surface. That’s right; the biggest plane in the world is itself a launching surface.

Therein lies the Roc’s primary purpose. Specifically, the Roc and its massive layout allows hypersonic aircraft to launch from the centerline. Consequently, Stratolaunch says the application has the potential to “eliminate technical and logistical barriers.” Dr. Mark Lewis, the former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for R & D, says the platform makes testing hypersonic systems much more accessible.

A Stratolaunch Roc, the biggest operating plane in the world, soars through the air.
The Roc is the biggest operating plane in the world | Stratolaunch

“We know hypersonic systems work. Now it’s just a matter of being able to design, test, and deploy these systems in a timely and efficient manner,” Dr. Lewis says of the Stratolaunch Roc. Moreover, in addition to its unique purpose, the biggest plane in the world doesn’t require a large crew to operate.

In fact, the six-engine launch platform will operate with a three-person crew. Specifically, the Roc will fly with a pilot, co-pilot, and a flight engineer. That’s a wild idea to grasp. Especially considering the vast number of crewmembers and passengers aboard some of the largest commercial aircraft in service.

For instance, the Airbus A380 will operate with up to three pilots, 21 flight attendants, and as many as 853 passengers, per CNN Travel. However, the Stratolaunch Roc will outstretch the A380’s wingspan by a staggering 123 feet.