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News Link • Transportation: Air Travel

Scaled Composites new X-plane takes to the skies

• By David Szondy

The aircraft, which was developed in secret by the wholly owned Northrop Grumman subsidiary for an unnamed client, took to the air on Wednesday as part of a program to demonstrate the company's advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques.

Details of the first flight are sketchy, though Scaled posted a video on Facebook showing the takeoff of Vehicle Number 1. The Model 401 prototypes have an identical outer design with a 38-ft (11.6 m) wingspan and identical performance characteristics. Lightweight construction allows for an empty weight of 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) and a takeoff weight of 8,000 lb (3,628 kg).

The Model 401 uses a single Pratt & Whitney JTD-15D-5D engine punching 3,045 lb of thrust. This provides for a speed of Mach 0.6 (456 mph, 735 km/h) and a service ceiling of 30,000 ft (10,000 m) with a flight endurance of three hours.

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