Interesting Aircraft — The Super Guppy


Straight-On View

Straight-On View

The Desert Southwest is home to many intriguing aircraft.  The primary reason is corrosion.  Things don’t rust in dry climates.  El Paso, for instance, receives on average a little over eight inches of precipitation a year.  Tucson, home of the Pima Air & Space Museum, get just over twelve inches.  Not coincidentally,  Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson (where I worked as an air traffic controller in the late ’70s and early ’80s) hosts the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, commonly referred to by all branches of the military as “The Boneyard.”

At El Paso International Airport you’ll an interesting aircraft or two hanging about.  Indeed, up until just a very few years ago, El Paso had sitting on the ramp the world’s last remaining flyable Convair 990 (which, unfortunately, was cut up and sold for scrap).  Another aircraft — the sole one-of-a-kind example — will be featured here next week in a rather unique aircraft identification contest.  You’ll also find at El Paso International a flying F-100 Super Sabre (the world’s first production aircraft capable of reaching supersonic speeds in level flight) and, currently undergoing restoration to flying status, an F-106 Delta Dart.

You’ll find one other very unique aerial vehicle residing in El Paso’s dry climate — NASA’s last remaining operational Super Guppy.  NASA’s Super Guppy fleet were critical to the Apollo program and the race to the Moon.  No other aircraft in the world was at that time capable of flying the oversize rocket modules and other hardware to the Kennedy Space Center.  Indeed, the Super Guppy still to this day carries payloads far too bulky for even the C-5 or the newer C-17 giant cargo aircraft.

Guppy in Dawn's Early LIght

Guppy in Dawn’s Early LIght

The Super Guppy was based upon the Boeing C-97 (military version of the civilian Boeing 377), which in turn was based upon the airframe used by the Boeing B-29 and B-50 series of aircraft.

I managed to finagle entry into this unique piece of aviation history.  Today, you get the benefit.  Here is a visual tour of for you to enjoy:

Four Allison 501-D22C Turboprops

Four Allison 501-D22C Turboprops

Cockpit Closeup

Cockpit Closeup

The cockpit remains much the same from the KC-97 days

The cockpit remains much the same from the KC-97 days

Soccer, anyone?

Soccer, anyone?

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Interesting Aircraft — The Super Guppy

  1. Easy to see where Airbus got the idea for the Beluga.

    • As Cora notes below, not only did Airbus get the idea for the Beluga from the Guppy, Airbus had their own fleet of Guppies at one time, which led to Boeing being able to brag (see my reply to Cora below) . . .

  2. I live approx. five kilometres from an Airbus plant and I remember the SuperGuppies landing at Bremen airport, transporting assembled Airbus wings to the Airbus plants in Hamburg or Toulouse. Sometimes you could even see them flying over our house.

    Airbus eventually replaced the SuperGuppies with the Beluga, which makes sense, considering they don’t want to use their competitor’s plane. But I still have a soft spot for those big round Guppies.

  3. Hence the Boeing brag from years ago that, “Every Airbus begins its life riding on the wings of a Boeing.

    Boeing has since come out with their own replacement, the 747 Large Cargo Freighter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747_LCF

    Thanks again for dropping by and leaving us with more of your very interesting and enteraining recollections, Cora. You’re really a gem to keep adding such great information to my blogs.

    • Just lucky to live near an EADS/Airbus plant which has been manufacturing planes (under changing managements) and helicopters since 1924.