“We’re going to see a guppy, Sherman My Boy.”
“My guppy’s name is Clyde.”
“This fish can fly.”
You have to see it…
On August 31, 1965, fans of super-different airplanes could add another oddity to their list when the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy made its first flight. A bulbous looking whale of an airplane, the Super Guppy was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, an equally goofy looking giant cargo plane.
As stated above, the Super Guppy had been developed from the Pregnant Guppy which in turn was based on the C-97 military cargo plane, itself based on the Boeing 377 airliner which in turn was originally based on the B-29 Superfortress bomber. (It would appear Boeing got their money’s worth out of the B-29 airframe as it had also been used to develop the B-50 bomber and the KC-97 aerial tanker.)
Only 5 Super Guppies were ever built. Operated by NASA, their purpose was to move oversized cargo. Loading was done over the nose which would swing to the side (to port) to reveal the cavernous interior cargo bay. Later, Airbus bought the rights to the design, and in 1982 and 1983, UTA Industries built 2 of these balumpus transports for France (Note: “Balumpus” is an adjective made up especially for this article).
One of these unusual planes is still in service with NASA in El Paso, Texas. The other 4 that were built are on display in France, Germany, England and Tucson, Arizona.
Powered by 4 turboprop engines and manned by a crew of 4, the Super Guppy could fly at speeds of almost 300 mph for almost 2000 miles. The giant cargo bay measured 25 x 25 x 111 feet, and total cargo weight was just over 54,000 lbs.
Certainly a special airplane that had been built for special purposes, this curiosity has since been replaced by even larger jet-powered transports. Still, looking at it, one must wonder how such a bulbous plane was ever able to stay in the air or, for that matter, get off the ground!