Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy
|The Pregnant Guppy heavy lifter|
|Role||Outsize cargo freight aircraft|
|First flight||September 19, 1962|
|Primary users||Aero Spacelines
|Developed from||Boeing 377|
|Developed into||Aero Spacelines Super Guppy|
The Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the United States and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA's components of the Apollo moon program. The Pregnant Guppy was the first of the Guppy line of aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines. The design also inspired similar designs such as the jet-powered Airbus Beluga, and the Boeing 747 LCF designed to deliver Boeing 787 parts.
In 1960, U.S. airlines were disposing of their obsolete piston-engined Boeing 377 Stratocruisers in favor of the newer jet-engined airliners. NASA was finding that barge transport of their increasingly large space program components from manufacturers on the West Coast to test and launch sites on the East Coast was slow and expensive. Aircraft broker Leo Mansdorf was stockpiling surplus Stratocruisers at Van Nuys prior to resale, and ex-USAF pilot John M. Conroy realized the potential of these aircraft to transport the large but relatively light rocket components.
Conroy presented his plans for an extensively modified Stratocruiser to NASA, where an official commented that the bloated aircraft resembled a pregnant guppy. Although NASA was lukewarm on the concept, Conroy mortgaged his house and founded Aero Spacelines International in order to build and operate the concept aircraft.
Conversion work was undertaken by On Mark Engineering. The Pregnant Guppy (registered N1024V) was built from an ex-Pan Am airframe with a five-meter section from an ex-BOAC aircraft (G-AKGJ) added immediately behind the wing. The wing, engines, tail, nose and cockpit were unchanged, but a new upper fuselage of six meters diameter was added, giving the aircraft a "triple-bubble" appearance in front view. The entire rear section (including tail surfaces) was detachable to allow cargo to be loaded directly into the fuselage.
The aircraft first flew on September 19, 1962, piloted by John M. Conroy and co-pilot Clay Lacy. When Van Nuys traffic control realized that Conroy intended to take off, they notified police and fire departments to be on alert. However the huge aircraft performed flawlessly, the only difference in handling being a slight decrease in speed caused by extra drag of the larger fuselage.
In summer 1963, the Pregnant Guppy commenced cargo flights for NASA. Among its early duties was transporting the first and second stages of the Gemini program's Titan II from the Martin Co. in Baltimore, Maryland to Cape Canaveral. As the space program increased through the late 1960s, it became clear that this one aircraft could not carry the whole transport load, and so 25 more Stratocruisers and ex-USAF C-97s were purchased to construct four Super Guppy aircraft, which were even longer and larger than the original.
The various Guppy aircraft served throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, initially transporting space components, and later, as NASA scaled down its operations after the success of the Apollo program, transporting airliner sections.
The Pregnant Guppy was sold to American Jet Industries and registered N126AJ. Leon Yarzab was assigned as its chief mechanic. It was broken up at Van Nuys in 1979.
Specifications (Pregnant Guppy)
Data from Janes All The Worlds Aircraft 1965
- Crew: 3
- Length: 127 ft 0 in (38.71 m)
- Wingspan: 141 ft 3 in (43.05 m)
- Height: 38 ft 3 in (11.66 m)
- Wing area: 1769 ft² (164.35 m²)
- Empty weight: 91,000 lb (41,275 kg)
- Loaded weight: 141,000 lb (63,945 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 141,000 lb (63,945 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360-59 "Wasp Major" radials, 3,500 hp (2,611 kW) each
- Related development
- Taylor, Michael J.H. . “ Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Studio Editions. London. 1989. ISBN 0-517-69186-8
- Bilstein, Roger E. (1996). Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles. The NASA History Series. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Office. pp. 313–319. SP-4206. Archived from the original on 2004-10-15. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
- "Model 377 Stratocruiser Commercial Transport" by Boeing. Retrieved October 5, 2006.
- "All About Guppys", by Daren Savage. Updated September 17, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2006.
- It's a Plane: One man's obsession, it helped get us to the moon Tripp, Robert S. Spring 2002, American Heritage of Invention and Technology
- "Boeing 377 Pregnant Guppy" by Kenneth W. Shanaberger. Updated August 31, 2004. Retrieved October 5, 2006.
- "The Plane That Won The Space Race" by Margy Bloom. Retrieved May/June 2010.