|B-377-SG/SGT Super Guppy|
|Super Guppy Turbine used by NASA|
|Role||Outsize cargo aircraft|
|Manufacturer||Aero Spacelines / Boeing|
|First flight||August 31, 1965|
|Status||Active, operated by NASA|
|Primary users||Aero Spacelines|
NASA, Airbus, Aeromaritime
|Number built||1 SG, 4 SGT|
|Developed from||Boeing 377 Stratocruiser|
The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft that is used for hauling outsize cargo components. It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, the first of the Guppy aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines. Five were built in two variants, both of which were colloquially referred to as the "Super Guppy".
The Super Guppy is the only airplane to carry a complete S-IVB stage, the third stage of the Saturn V rocket. It did so several times during the Apollo program.
The first, the Super Guppy, or "SG", was built directly from the fuselage of a C-97J Turbo Stratocruiser, the military version of the 1950s Boeing 377 Stratocruiser passenger plane. The fuselage was lengthened to 141 feet (43 m), and ballooned out to a maximum inside diameter of 25 ft (7.6 m), the length of the cargo compartment being 94 ft 6 in (28.8 m). The floor of the cargo compartment was still only 8 ft 9 in (2.7 m) wide, as necessitated by the use of the Stratocruiser fuselage.
In addition to the fuselage modifications, the Super Guppy used Pratt & Whitney T-34-P-7WA turboprop engines for increased power and range, and modified wing and tail surfaces. It could carry a load of 54,000 pounds (24,000 kg) and cruise at 300 mph (480 km/h).
After a month of tests, Super Guppy suffered fuselage collapse on September 25 1965 when undergoing high speed dives during certification tests. After starting a dive at 10,000 feet the upper fuselage collapsed. The plane had been carrying 30,000 pounds of borate in 100 pound sacks, which were damaged and spilled powder that temporarily blinded the crew. With the help of a DC-9 chase plane, the crew was able to land on the dry bed of Rogers Dry Lake and save the aircraft. After that, Guppy's upper superstructure was redesigned and rebuilt at Edwards Air Force Base.
The second version was officially known as the Super Guppy Turbine (SGT), although it used turboprop engines like the first Super Guppy. This variant used Allison 501-D22C turboprops. Unlike the previous Guppy, the main portion of its fuselage was constructed from scratch. By building from scratch, Aero Spacelines was able to widen the floor of the cargo compartment to 13 ft (4.0 m). The overall cargo-compartment length was increased to 111 ft 6 in (34.0 m), and the improved fuselage and engines allowed for a maximum load of 52,500 lb (23,800 kg). These design improvements, combined with a pressurized crew cabin that allowed for higher-altitude cruising, allowed the SGT to transport more cargo than its predecessors.
The SGT retained only the cockpit, wings, tail, and main landing gear of the 377. The nose gear was taken from a Boeing 707 and rotated 180 degrees. This dropped the front of the aircraft slightly, leveling the cargo-bay floor and simplifying loading operations.
In the early 1970s, the two Super Guppy Turbines were used by Airbus to transport airplane parts from decentralized production facilities to the final assembly plant in Toulouse. In 1982 and 1983, two additional Super Guppy Turbines were built by Union de Transports Aériens Industries in France after Airbus bought the right to produce the aircraft. The four Super Guppies have since been replaced in this role by the Airbus Beluga, capable of carrying twice as much cargo by weight.
One Super Guppy remains in service with NASA. Three are on display, and one was scrapped.
Data from Encyclopedia of The World's Commercial and Private Aircraft, NASA.gov