Paul Allen goes all Howard Hughes and spruces up his goose

sprucyHistory appears to be repeating itself as Microsoft founder Paul Allen has started to mimic the millionaire Howard Hughes and started constructing a huge airliner to get rockets into space.

For those who came in late, the eccentric mega-rich Hughes enthusiastically spent a fortune on a huge plane called the Spruce Goose. It did get off the ground, but has sat in a hanger ever since.

Now the mega-rich Allen has suddenly woken up in the dead of night with the cunning plan to strap two 747s together and is assembling one in the Mojave Desert.

According to the Seattle Times, which has seen it, the plane has twin fuselages, 95 feet apart that are joined across the top by a massive wing, 385 feet from tip to tip — longer than a football field including the end zones. It has the lastest wingspan than any aircraft ever built and the six-engines.

Officially called Stratolaunch, it has been nicknamed the Roc, after a mythical Middle Eastern bird so big it could carry an elephant in its claws.

In this case the idea is that the plane will carry a rocket weighing up to 275 tons slung beneath the central part of the wing — between the two fuselages — and release it at 35,000 feet. The rocket will then launch into space and deliver satellites into orbit.

The Roc will be able to land, load up and take off again, making space access easier and cheaper.

The forward end of each fuselage is round, because it’s pressurized, and a long drooping neck tapers to a Boeing 747 cockpit. It has three crew.

Allen bought two used jumbo jets formerly flown by United Airlines and cannibalized them for parts that account for about half the empty weight of the Roc.

With a rocket attached, the aircraft will weigh 1.3 million pounds, equal to the fully loaded weight of an Airbus A380 double-decker jet. The theory is that it will fly, what people are wondering about is if you can launch rockets off it and if the business model will make it worthwhile.

Allen first announced his project in Seattle in 2011, the business plan has changed several times and he has lost a few key partners along the way.

spruce goose