World’s largest plane makes first test flight

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This handout photograph obtained courtesy of Stratolaunch shows the Stratolaunch plane flying over the California desert, April 13, 2019, the first test flight of the US company's gigantic aircraft whose wingspan is almost half that of an Airbus A380. (AFP)
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This handout photograph obtained courtesy of Stratolaunch shows the Stratolaunch plane flying above the California desert, April 13, 2019, the first test flight of the US company's gigantic aircraft whose wingspan is almost half that of an Airbus A380. (AFP)
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The world's largest airplane, built by the late Paul Allen's company Stratolaunch Systems, makes its first test flight in Mojave, California, U.S. April 13, 2019. (REUTERS)
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The world's largest airplane, built by the late Paul Allen's company Stratolaunch Systems, makes its first test flight in Mojave, California, U.S. April 12, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 April 2019
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World’s largest plane makes first test flight

  • The aircraft is so big its wing span is longer than a football field, or about 1.5 times that of an Airbus A380

WASHINGTON: The world’s largest airplane — a Stratolaunch behemoth with two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines — made its first test flight on Saturday in California.
The mega jet carried out its maiden voyage over the Mojave desert.
It is designed to carry into space, and drop, a rocket that would in turn ignite to deploy satellites.
It is supposed to provide a more flexible way to deploy satellites than vertical takeoff rockets because this way all you need is a long runway for takeoff.
It was built by an engineering company called Scaled Composites.
The aircraft is so big its wing span is longer than a football field, or about 1.5 times that of an Airbus A380.
Specifically, the wing span is 117 meters; that of an Airbus A380 is just under 80.
The plane flew Saturday for about two and a half hours, Stratolaunch said. Until now, it had just carried out tests on the ground.
It hit a top speed of 304 kilometers per hour (189 mph) and reached an altitude of 17,000 feet, or 5,182 meters.
“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch.
“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems,” he added.
Stratolaunch was financed by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft as a way to get into the market for launching small satellites.
But Allen died in October of last year so the future of the company is uncertain.


Extreme Easter: Flogging, crucifixions in Philippines

Updated 19 April 2019
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Extreme Easter: Flogging, crucifixions in Philippines

  • Nearly 80 percent of people in the Philippines are Catholic
  • Catholicism is a legacy of the nation’s 300 years of Spanish colonial rule that ended at the turn of the 20th century

SAN FERNANDO, Philippines: Hundreds of barefoot men beat themselves with flails and at least 10 were to be nailed onto crosses throughout Good Friday in a blood-soaked display of religious fervor in the Philippines.
Frowned upon by the Church, the ritual crucifixions and self-flagellation are extreme affirmations of faith peformed every Easter in Asia’s Catholic outpost.
Barefoot men wearing crowns of twigs walked silently on the side of a village road in the scorching tropical heat of the northern Philippines, flogging their backs with bamboo strips tied to a length of rope.
While many of the 80 million Filipino Catholics spend Good Friday at church or with family, others go to these extreme lengths to atone for sins or seek divine intervention in a spectacle that has become a major tourist attraction.
“This is a religious vow. I will do this every year for as long as I am able,” 38-year-old truck driver Resty David, who has been self-flagellating for half his life at his village in the northern Philippines, told AFP.
He said he also hoped it would convince God to cure his cancer-stricken brother.
Blood and sweat soaked through the penitents’ pants with some spectators grimacing with each strike of the lash.
Some hid behind their companions to avoid the splatter of gore and ripped flesh.
Many in the crowds had driven for hours to witness the frenzied climax of the day’s gory spectacle, when believers allow themselves to be nailed to crosses in a re-enactment the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
“I’m a little bit overwhelmed. It’s very intense, I haven’t expected something like this,” German tourist Annika Ehlers, 24, told AFP.
Ehlers said she had witnessed the first of 10 scheduled crucifixions during the day in villages around the city of San Fernando, about 70 kilometers (40) miles) north of Manila.
Eight centimeter (three-inch) spikes are driven through both the man’s hands and feet before the wooden cross is raised briefly for the crowds to see. After that the nails are pulled out and he is given medical treatment.
The Church says the faithful should spend Lent in quiet prayer and reflection.
“The crucifixion and death of Jesus are more than enough to redeem humanity from the effects of sins. They are once in a lifetime events that need not be repeated,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines official Father Jerome Secillano said.
“Holy Week.... is not the time to showcase man’s propensity for entertainment and Pharisaical tendencies,” he added.
Nearly 80 percent of people in the Philippines are Catholic, a legacy of the nation’s 300 years of Spanish colonial rule that ended at the turn of the 20th century.