Simanaitis Says

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NEWS OF THE Stratolaunch aircraft’s first flight, in The New York Times, April 14, 2019, brings to mind other twin-fuselage designs. These range from an Italian flying boat in the 1930s and a German fighter plane experiment in World War II to the postwar Twin-Mustang and a diminutive Twin Ercoupe in 1946. Also, the Stratolaunch’s intended mission has historical resonance with a late 1930s’ mail plane and the 1947 mission to break the sound barrier.

Here are tidbits on each of these, with half the story told today in Part 1, the rest in Part 2 tomorrow.

The Model 351 Stratolaunch, built by Scaled Composites for Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, is a mobile launch program enabling “airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable, and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.”

This and following images from Stratolaunch Systems Corporation.

The Model 351 Stratolaunch’s wingspan is 385 ft., surpassing that of the previous record holder, the 320-ft. span of the Hughes H-4 “Spruce Goose.” The Stratolaunch is powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines, similar to those powering Airbus A300/A310/A330 and Boeing 747/767/777 craft.

The Stratolaunch’s right fuselage houses its pilot, copilot, and flight engineer. The left fuselage is vacant and unpressurized.

The Stratolaunch had its maiden flight on April 13, 2019, at Mojave Air and Space Port, California. In its 2 hour 2 minute test flight, it reached 17,000 ft. and 189 mph.

The Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.55X evolved from an earlier twin-float flying boat that first flew in 1924.

The Savoia-Marchetti buzzes Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Model by Massimo Taccoli.

The SM.55X is famed for its squadron of 24 visiting the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109Z added a central wing section to a pair of Bf 109 fighters.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109Z “Zwilling.”

The resulting Zwilling, German for “twin,” had its pilot in the left fuselage, with the right cockpit faired over. Though four variants were planned, the project was scrapped in 1944.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see an American twin-fuselage fighter plane prove its mettle in Korea, a private plane find its way into a circus, and other missions aided by a multiplicity of fuselages, though not always connected. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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