By Lt. Col. P.G. Smith, USAF (Ret.)
Illustration by Gordon Phillips

AYDAY! Mayday! Mayday! This is 1038 Victor, the Super Guppy, in flight test over the Mojave Desert. We have had a major structural failure of the upper nose section in a maximum dive and are preparing for bailout!" "1038 Victor, this is Los Angeles Center. May we help you?" "Stand by, Los Angeles, we have a large hole in the nose, and the aircraft is disintegrating and buffeting severely-Thirty-eight Victor will advise intentions." Only seconds before, we had been safely completing flight tests for the huge Guppy-confident that the converted Boeing Stratocruiser would regain from Russia the United States claim to the "world's largest airplane." Certification tests started with the Guppy's maiden flight on August 31, 1965. We had completed all the tests except the most hazardous maneuvers-the high-speed dives that are required of all aircraft for airworthiness certification. This portion of the flight tests was saved for the last phase and is called VD, for Velocity Dive. But now, twenty-five days later, on September 25, in clear, blue skies over the Mojave Desert, with only the final VD remaining, disaster struck!

Reprinted From AIR FORCE Magazine April 1971
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