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B377SGT Super Guppy Turbine

The B-377SGT Super Guppy Turbine evolved from the 1960s-vintage Pregnant Guppy, Mini Guppy and Super Guppy, used for transporting sections of the Saturn rocket used for the Apollo program moon launches and other outsized cargo. The various Guppies were modified from 1940's and 50's-vintage Boeing Model 377 and C-97 Stratocruiser airframes by Aero Spacelines, Inc., which operated the aircraft for NASA. NASA's Flight Research Center assisted in certification testing of the first Pregnant Guppy in 1962. One of the turboprop-powered Super Guppies, built up from a YC-97J airframe, last appeared at Dryden in May, 1976 when it was used to transport the HL-10 and X-24B lifting bodies from Dryden to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The 377SGT is equipped with Allison T-56-501-D22C turboprop engines that give the Super Guppy an airspeed of around 200 knots at low altitudes. At higher altitudes the aircraft is limited to 185 knots. ASI took engine cowlings of the type used on Lockheed Electra/P-3 Orion airplanes, but used propellers and spinners from a C-130 Hercules. The P-3's propellers are built for speed, whereas the C-130's are built for high loads. The upper nacelles were constructed using parts from a P-3 and adapting the Lockheed cowls to the existing lower nacelles and landing gear housing.

The airplane's nose is hinged on the left side of the fuselage. The 377SGT is equipped with three built-in jacks, two in front of the wing and one behind. These jacks support and steady the airplane before the fuselage joint is unlocked, and the nose opened and wheeled out of the way. A system of rails in the cargo compartment is used with either pallets or fixtures designed for specific cargo. An electric winch beneath the cargo bay floor moves pallets or fixtures on rail-mounted rollers. Automatic hydraulic lock pins in the rail secure the pallet for flight.

The cargo hold has a maximum interior diameter of 25 feet and overall length of just over 111 feet, with a constant 25-foot-diameter section 32 feet long. The 377SGT's absolute volume is 49,750 cubic feet with a usable volume of 39,000 cubic feet.

The first 377SGT Super Guppy (N211AS) made its maiden flight on 24 August 1970. ASI's board of directors decided to sell the 377SGT to France's Airbus Industrie. Airbus committed to purchase of one aircraft in 1970, with a contractual commitment for ASI to build a second. After the second was delivered Airbus ordered two more Super Guppy models. Super Guppy No. 3 flew in 1979 and No. 4 in 1980. The four turbine-powered Super Guppy aircraft became a vital part of Airbus Industrie's production process, operating a regularly scheduled route five days a week. The No. 4 aircraft was later used by the European Space Agency to transport space hardware.

In 1997, NASA acquired Super Guppy No. 4 (French registration F-GEAI) from ESA under an International Space Station barter agreement. The ESA supplied the Guppy to offset the cost to NASA of carrying ESA experimental equipment to the International Space Station as part of two future Space Shuttle flights. NASA's newest Super Guppy crew spent four weeks in France getting checked out on flight procedures.

On October 23, 1997, the airplane (now registered as N941NA) landed at Ellington Field, near Houston. It replaced NASA's 377SG (N940NA), an older model of the Super Guppy, which was retired and is currently on display at Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Ariz. N941NA is the only Guppy still flying.

To create the 377SGT, ASI technicians built an entirely new fuselage to connect parts taken from a Stratocruiser, including the nose section and pressurized cockpit, wings, lower sections of engine nacelles, parts of the tail surfaces and the main landing gear. The nose wheel came from a Boeing 707, but it was rotated 180 degrees prior to installation. A 23-foot center section was inserted into the wing to give additional clearance between the propeller tips and the fuselage. The air-conditioned forward cabin features seating for three crew and four passengers.

While building the fourth 377SGT for Airbus, ASI found that there were no B377 or C-97 airframes left to cannibalize. They had all been scrapped. In desperation, ASI bought lower fuselage parts from the disassembled Pregnant Guppy and shipped them to France where they were incorporated into the 377SGT. Hence, the last Guppy built contains parts of the first Guppy, which included parts of one of the first Stratocruisers.

When International Space Station elements are launched into orbit, it won't be the first time they have taken flight. As elements are completed they will be transported to the launch site on the Super Guppy cargo airplane. The Super Guppy's 25' diameter fuselage is designed to handle oversized loads. The 377SGT-F Super Guppy has the lift, speed, and size to meet all the requirements of the International Space Station.

Loading the Guppy is easy because of the unique "fold-away" nose of the aircraft. The aircraft has an unobstructed loading area when the nose is retracted. The Super Guppy's hinged nose opens 110 degrees for cargo loading. A control lock and disconnect system at the fuselage break allows the nose to be opened and closed without disrupting the flight or engine control rigging.

Cargo loading is simple and efficient. A system of rails in the cargo compartment is used with either Guppy pallets or fixtures designed for specific cargo. Rollers mounted in the rails allow pallets or fixtures to be moved by an electric winch mounted beneath the cargo floor. Automatic hydraulic lock pins in each rail secure the pallet for flight.

The maximum payload for the Super Guppy is 52,500 pounds, with a maximum range at maximum payload at 564 miles. The Cruise Speed at 25,000 feet is 290 miles per hour. The maximum range with a payload of 16,000 pounds is 2,000 miles. The Super Guppy's cargo compartment has a usable volume of 39,000 cubic feet. The Super Guppy has a unique hinged nose that opens 110 degrees, permitting full frontal cargo loading. A control lock and disconnect system at the fuselage break allows the nose to be opened and closed without disrupting the flight or engine control rigging.

The Guppy pallet system requires few handling and shipping fixtures and a minimum of ground support equipment. A system of rails in the cargo compartment is used with either Guppy pallets or fixtures designed for specific cargo. Rollers mounted in the rail allow pallets or fixtures to be moved by an electric winch mounted below the cargo floor. Automatic hydraulic lock pins in the rail secure the pallet for flight.

Although it now operates as a Public Aircraft, the Super Guppy is a FAA certified design. This design has millions of miles of service, providing fast, economical transport for outsize cargo. The Super Guppy provides flexibility in transportation planning, virtually removing constraints such as railroad and highway overpasses, long time legs, such as barge or sea transport, and transport to or from remote regions.



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