Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy
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Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy
Pregnant Guppy
Pregnant Guppy NASA.jpg
The Pregnant Guppy at the Dryden Flight Research Center for testing and evaluation (October 1962)
Role Outsize cargo freight aircraft
Manufacturer Aero Spacelines
First flight September 19, 1962[1]
Retired 1979
Status Scrapped at Van Nuys in 1979
Primary users Aero Spacelines
Produced 1
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
Aero Spacelines Super Guppy

The Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the United States and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA's components of the Apollo program.[1] The Pregnant Guppy was the first of the Guppy line of aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines.[1] The design inspired other later designs, such as the jet-powered Airbus Beluga and Boeing Dreamlifter.


In 1960, U.S. airlines were disposing of their obsolete piston-engined Boeing 377 Stratocruisers in favor 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.[1]

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 to build and operate the concept aircraft.[1]

Conversion work was undertaken by On Mark Engineering. The Pregnant Guppy (registered N1024V)[2] was built from an ex-Pan Am airframe with a five-m section from an ex-British Overseas Airways Corporation aircraft (G-AKGJ) added immediately behind the wing. The wing, engines, tail, nose, and cockpit were unchanged, but a new upper fuselage of 6 m 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 September 19, 1962, piloted by Conroy and co-pilot Clay Lacy.[3] When Van Nuys traffic control realized that Conroy intended to take off, they notified 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.

Carrying the S-IV Saturn I rocket stage, the Guppy saved three weeks' transit time versus barge,[4] for a cost of $16.00 (equivalent to $131.9 today) per mile (1.6 km).[5]

Operational history

The Pregnant Guppy, with its tail removed, is loaded with a S-IV stage (1965)

In the summer of 1963, the Pregnant Guppy began flying NASA cargo. Among its early duties was transporting the first and second stages of the Gemini program's Titan II from the Martin Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, to Cape Canaveral. As the space program grew through the late 1960s, this one aircraft clearly could not handle the whole transport load, 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 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, initially transporting space components, and later, as NASA scaled down its operations after the success of the Apollo program, transporting airliner sections.[1]

The Pregnant Guppy was sold to American Jet Industries and registered N126AJ for scrap and it was finally scrapped at Van Nuys in 1979.

Specifications (B337PG Pregnant Guppy)

Data from Jane's All The Worlds Aircraft 1965-66,[6]Jane's All The Worlds Aircraft 1971-72[7]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Capacity: 34,000 lb (15,422 kg) +
  • Length: 127 ft 0 in (38.71 m)
  • Wingspan: 141 ft 3 in (43.05 m)
  • Diameter: 20 ft 4 in (6.20 m) cabin height
  • Height: 31 ft 3 in (9.53 m) to top of fuselage; 38 ft 3 in (12 m) overall
  • Wing area: 1,769 sq ft (164.3 m2)[]
  • Cargo compartment : volume: 29,187 cu ft (826 m3)
  • Cargo compartment : total length: 80 ft (24 m)
  • Cargo compartment : constant-section length: 30 ft (9 m)
  • Cargo compartment : max height: 19 ft 9 in (6 m)
  • Cargo compartment : max width: 19 ft 9 in (6 m)
  • Cargo compartment : max width: 8 ft 7 in (3 m)
  • Airfoil: root: Boeing 117 (22%); tip: Boeing 117 (9%)[8]
  • Empty weight: 91,000 lb (41,277 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 133,000 lb (60,328 kg) (later increased)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360-B6 Wasp Major 28-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 3,500 hp (2,600 kW) each
  • Powerplant: 4 × Aerojet-General 15KS-1000-A1 solid-fuel assisted take-off rocket engines, 1,000 lbf (4.4 kN) thrust each for 15 seconds
  • Propellers: 4-bladed Hamilton-Standard Model 34E60-387 constant-speed fully-feathering propellers


  • Maximum speed: 320 kn (370 mph, 590 km/h)[]
  • Cruise speed: 195 kn (224 mph, 361 km/h) normal operating speed

See also

Related development


  1. ^ a b c d e f Taylor, Michael J.H. . " Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Studio Editions. London. 1989. ISBN 0-517-69186-8
  2. ^ B-377 PREGNANT GUPPY AIRPLANE, NASA/Glenn Research Center, 1965-09-15, retrieved
  3. ^
  4. ^ Bilstein, Roger E. (1996). Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles. The NASA History Series. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Office. pp. 313-319. SP-4206. Archived from the original on 2004-10-15. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Saturn Transportation Equipment". Stages to Saturn. NASA. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Taylor, John W. R., ed. (1965). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1965-66. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd.
  7. ^ Taylor, John W. R., ed. (1971). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1971-72 (62nd ed.). London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company. p. 218. ISBN 9780354000949.
  8. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 2019.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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