Microsoft co-founder turns two Boeing 747s into 'FrankenJumbo'

By David Flynn, February 20 2015
Microsoft co-founder turns two Boeing 747s into 'FrankenJumbo'

Take two used Boeing 747s, pull off all the engines, strap six of them to a pair of custom-built composite hulls and you've got – well, the world's biggest and most eye-catching airplane.

It looks like something out of Thunderbirds, goes by the name Stratolaunch and is being built by Paul Allen, the multi-billionaire who co-founded Microsoft alongside Bill Gates.

Allen's plan for the Stratolaunch is to sling a payload between the hulls and their triple-engine wings, fly this 'FrankenJumbo' jet up to a conventional cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and then ignite the payload rocket to carry compact low-cost satellites into low-earth orbit.

With a wingspan of 380 feet (115 metres) – longer than a soccer field – the Stratolaunch would easily dwarf even the 225 feet (68 metre) span of Boeing's latest 747-8.

The 590 tonne 'aerosuarus rex' is almost halfway to completion, with its first flight slated for 2016 ahead of a commercial launch by 2018.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Is the 747 fuselage built to withstand the pressure of escape velocity?


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1513

I also cannot get rationale of having two heavy 747 bodies when payload is rocket between them.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

TheRealBabushka: Not sure if you're joking, but no, this thing doesn't go into space, it just carries the rocket up to a higher altitude then drops it. Like a WhiteKnight/SpaceshipOne combo.

(Also, escape velocity has nothing to do with orbital launches, but that's a common enough misconception...)

The last rendering showing the plane in front of the blackness of space (with the ground below lit, so it's not just nighttime) is pretty deceptive for something that never gets beyond 30,000 feet.

Serg: You'll note from the pictures they're not 747 bodies, they're thinner, lighter-weight composite hulls. Other bits such as the engines, flight deck, landing gear and so forth are cannibalised from old 747s. 

Thanks Hugo. I thought it was escaping earth's gravity. The pictures make it seem like it was.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 132

is it April 1 already?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 73

Will it be a 3 or 4 class config? 
Or will they do a one up on Etihad's A380 and go FIVE class 

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 378

A different class for each and every seat

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1244

RIP beautiful 747s that have been mutilated.

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