There was a tremendous bang and a jolting, violent shudder as the huge cargo aircraft hit 275 miles an hour after starting the dive at 10,000 feet. It felt as if a bomb had exploded in the nose section above our cockpit. The Guppy began to shake violently. Midair collision, I thought the worst of all aviation disasters! The whole sky seemed to open up around us with the sudden illumination of the cockpit. "God, it's coming apart!" someone shouted. The surplus Stratocruiser had been purchased from the Air Force boneyard in Tucson, Ariz. The aircraft had been completely disassembled and then lengthened and modified with a specially fabricated upper fuselage section. The whole new structure took on a mammoth, whale-like silhouette, with a shocking disregard for aerodynamic aesthetics. Four other Stratocruisers contributed sections to increase the length to 141 feet. A cargo compartment of 50,000 cubic feet-five times that of today's standard jet transports was created by enlarging the fuselage from eight feet, ten inches to a cavernous twenty-five foot diameter. Power from four Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines developed 24,000 horsepower and gave us a 300-mph cruising speed. It was no wonder that eyes were turned skyward in awe wherever the Guppy flew. Larry Engle and I, pilots for the Guppy, instinctively reached for the throttles to reduce the power applied for the dive. Flight engineers Alex Analavage and John Kinzer and the systems engineer "Ollie" Oliver were behind us in the cockpit. Instrumentation engineer Sandy Friezner was in the forward belly, below the cockpit floor, monitoring his equipment. At the moment of the gigantic bang, the cockpit door was ripped

Miraculously. the Guppy made it back with a twenty-three-foot hole in her nose. imploded by the force of a test dive.

To make matters worse, the aircraft was ballasted with 30,000 pounds of borate in sacks that burst, blinding the crew.

Reprinted From AIR FORCE Magazine April 1971
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