The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is a large and wide-bodied cargo aircraft that is used for hauling outsize cargo components. The aircraft is powered by 4x Allison 501-D22C turbo-prop engines. The plane has a very strange design, almost resembling a pregnant whale. It’s actually derived from another aircraft called “pregnant guppy” due to the shape of it’s fuselage.
The super guppy is based on the military version of the Boeing 377 stratocrusier 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 cargo hold was unpressurized, but the passenger compartment and flight decks were pressurized allowing the air craft to achieve high altitudes (max 25,000 ft).
The aircraft was mainly used by NASA and it’s contractors in the 1960’s to transport rocket segments from the west coast to the east coast of the US where the launch sites were, and it helped NASA achieve the deadlines set for landing men on the moon by 1969.
Shown above is the unique way that cargo got loaded in the super guppy, where the fuselage split in half to allow loading and unloading of cargo; this allowed the giant rocket sections to fit perfectly in the aircraft.
Newer guppys however used a more conventional nose cone slider to load cargo.
Currently the only super guppy still active is tail# N941NA used by NASA, based in El Paso TX. It is the last operational Boeing 377 Stratocruiser in the world.
But 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 The four Super Guppies have since been replaced by the Airbus Beluga, capable of carrying twice as much cargo by weight.