This past week, Scaled Composites announced the first flight of its experimental aircraft design, Model 401. Scaled—a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman—has built two Model 401 aircraft for an undisclosed customer to demonstrate “advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques.” The company stated in a release that developing the Model 401 was also in part to “provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government.”
The two prototype aircraft—which were certified by the FAA on April 19, 2017—are identical in outer mold line and performance. Each aircraft is made from a composite material and is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney JTD-15D-5D engine with 3045 lb of thrust. The vehicles are capable of flying Mach 0.6 with a service ceiling of 30,000 ft, have a wingspan of 38 ft, and are 38 ft long. They have an empty weight of 4000 lb and a maximum takeoff weight of 8000 lb with an endurance of up to three hours.
“This is such an exciting time for us. Scaled is at the forefront of experimental aircraft development and I am fortunate enough to have a front row seat,” said Aaron Cassebeer, Product Engineer.
The company has released very few details about the Model 401, although the design shares low-observability design similarities with the General Atomics Predator C Avenger. The Model 409 features a cantilevered low wing, pressurized single-seat cockpit, and retractable tricycle landing gear.
Scaled is also currently developing the world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch, which completed the first phase of engine testing (with a “dry motor” that used an auxiliary power unit to charge the engine) in September, 2017.
This first flight is the beginning of the flight test phase for vehicle number one. According to the release, “the Scaled team plans to continue envelope expansion on the first aircraft as they move toward first flight of the second Model 401 vehicle.”