Scaled Composites Unveils Its Latest Experimental Aircraft

Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Scaled Composites subsidiary has unveiled and flown its latest experimental aircraft with more test flights to come, the company announced this week.

The Mojave, California-based aerospace company plans to fly its second manned "Model 401" plane -- capable of reaching Mach 0.6 and a maximum altitude of 30,000 feet -- in the near future, it said in a release.

What is the 401's intended market? Nobody knows. But it's the proof of concept -- that a plane can be produced through low-cost manufacturing techniques -- that makes the experiment unique.

The 401 model is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney JTD-15D-5D engine with 3,045 pounds of thrust, the release said.

Its wingspan stretches 38 feet, and it can take off at a maximum weight "of 8,000 pounds with an endurance of up to three hours," the company said.

"This is such an exciting time for us," said project engineer Aaron Cassebeer. "Scaled is at the forefront of experimental aircraft development, and I am fortunate enough to have a front-row seat."

Aviation critics on social media noted that the aircraft's wingspan and vertical canted tails mimic those of General Atomics' Predator C/Avenger unmanned aircraft.

Scaled is known for its unusual aircraft designs, such as the SpaceShipOne experimental air-launched rocket-powered plane. That aircraft, designed for suborbital flight, had its first manned flight in 2004.

The company -- founded by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan in 1982 before it was bought by Northrop in 2007 -- plans to provide the 401 for research flight services to industry partners and the U.S. government, the release said.

Check out the Model 401's flight here:


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