The Super Guppy is a large, wide-bodied US cargo aircraft used for ferrying outsized cargo components. It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, the first of the Guppy aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines, Inc. Five were built in two variants, both of which were colloquially referred to as the "Super Guppy."
The first, the Super Guppy, or "SG", was built directly from the fuselage of a C-97J Turbo Stratocruiser, the military version of the Boeing 377. 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 upgraded Pratt & Whitney T-34P7 turboprops for increased power and range, and modified wing and tail surfaces. It could carry a load of 40,000 pounds (18,000 kg) and cruise at 300 mph (480 km/h).
Super Guppy F-BPPA was operated for Airbus
The second version was officially known as the Super Guppy Turbine (SGT) because the original 377 engines had been replaced with high-performance Allison 501-D22C turboprops. Unlike previous Guppies, the 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 m). The overall cargo compartment length was increased to 111 ft (33.8 m), and the improved fuselage and engines allowed for a maximum load of 54,500 pounds (24,700 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 nosegear was taken from the Boeing 707 -- and reversed 180 degrees. This dropped the front of the aircraft slightly, leveling the cargo bay floor and simplifying loading operations.
Super Guppy being loaded.
In the early 1970s, four Super Guppies were used by Airbus Industrie to transport aeroplane parts from decentralised production facilities to the final assembly plant in Toulouse. The running joke was "Every Airbus is delivered on the wings of a Boeing". The super Guppies have since been replaced by the Airbus Beluga, capable of carrying twice as much cargo.
Only one Super Guppy remains in service: an SGT flown by NASA. The other four are mothballed; the SG at Pima Air and Space Museum, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, the first SGT at Bruntingthorpe, UK, the second outside Airbus' factories at Blagnac Airport, Toulouse, France, and the third at Finkenwerder, Germany.
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