First Flight: Scaled Composites Model 401

Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites debuted a new experimental aircraft, the Model 401, in an October 11, 2017 announcement of the prototype’s recent first flight.

The company has built two Model 401 prototypes in service of an undisclosed customer “to demonstrate advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques and to provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government,” it said in a news release.

Both Model 401 planes measure 38 feet long with a 38-foot wingspan, and have an empty weight of 4,000 pounds. The aircraft, which are powered by a Pratt & Whitney JTD15D-5D engine, can reach Mach 0.6, has a service ceiling of 30,000 feet, and flies up to three hours at a time. Its maximum takeoff weight is 8,000 pounds.

“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, a Scaled Composites project engineer. “Today was a great day for our test team. We had a great flight and we are looking forward to the future test program.”

Federal Aviation Administration records show the agency certified both prototypes on April 19.

Beyond those scant details, little information exists about Model 401, although its design suggests an interest in low observability.

Scaled Composites is a specialty aerospace and composites development company offering design, build, and test capabilities. Founded by Burt Rutan in 1982 in Mojave, Calif., Scaled has averaged one first flight of a unique, new airplane per year, according to officials. Scaled Composites is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC).

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