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Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy

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File:Pregnant Guppy NASA.jpg
The Pregnant Guppy heavy lifter.

The Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the USA 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, Inc. The design also inspired similar designs such as the jet-powered Airbus Beluga, and the Boeing 747 LCF designed to deliver Boeing 787 parts.


This extraordinary aircraft was the result of a confluence of circumstances, aircraft and people. In 1960, US airlines were disposing of their obsolete piston-engined Boeing 377 Stratocruisers in favour 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 was built from an ex-Pan Am fuselage with a five-metre section from an ex-BOAC aircraft added immediately behind the wing. The wing, engines, tail, nose and cockpit were unchanged, but a new upper fuselage of six metres 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 19 September 1962. When Van Nuys traffic control realised that Conroy intended to take off, they alerted 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.

Operational use

In summer 1963 the Pregnant Guppy commenced cargo flights for NASA. As the space program increased through the Sixties, 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 sixties, seventies, 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 broken up at Van Nuys in 1979.

Specifications (Pregnant Guppy)

External links

See also

Related development

See also

de:Guppy (Flugzeug) ja:プレグナントグッピー

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy".