Aircraft of the Month: Super Guppy

Super Guppy

Haven’t heard of the Super Guppy? Not only is it one of the most recognizable aircraft ever made, it also has a lot of unique features that you won’t see on other cargo carriers. The Super Guppy (of the Aero Spacelines Guppy line) is a tall, wide-body aircraft that transports over-sized cargo. This unique aircraft has delivered cargo such as military jets and NASA spacecraft vessels.

Brief History

The Super Guppy was created from a Boeing C-97J Stratofreighter long-range military cargo plane and the 377 Stratocruiser passenger plane. The fuselage was extended vertically and horizontally, but the floor was left unaltered. The original Super Guppy was one of the first aircraft to use the Pratt & Whitney T-34 axial flow, turboprop engine. The Super Guppy design was the 2nd in the Guppy line, the first was the Pregnant Guppy. The second generation Super Guppy was able to carry larger cargo.

Super Guppy Specs

Another version of the aircraft, the Super Guppy Turbine, was released that uses Allison 501-D22C turbo-prop engines. The cargo area was specifically created for this aircraft instead of borrowing from the C-97J or 377. The changes made for a larger cargo area with the ability to increase crew cabin pressure.  Some of these aircraft were sold to Airbus, paving the way for the Super Transporter, also known as the Beluga.

NASA & Super Guppy

After a few of these aircraft were created, NASA began to take notice. The upcoming International Space Station project was looming, and transportation was a problem. Shipping large parts by boat or railroad took a great deal of time, air transport did not. In 1997, NASA started using one of the Guppy aircraft.

The Guppy flies differently than modern aircraft. The flight crew has two pilots, a cargo manager, a maintenance technician, and two flight engineers. The aircraft lacks power steering. The flight engineers assist pilots with power and controls during the flight process.

NASA still uses the Super Guppy Turbine to transport cargo set for outer space. There is only one Guppy that is still in use. There is only one retired Guppy available for viewing in the US. It is kept at PIMA Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.  Watch: Orion Backstage: NASA’s Super Guppy Takes on Heavy Lifting for Orion