Aero Spacelines 377SGT Super Guppy Turbine
(Guppy 201)


This 3-view drawing shows that although this Super Guppy is very close in dimensions to the original Super Guppy, the shape of the fuselage and engine nacelles are completely different. The fuselage has a smoother flow more remenisent of the Pregnant Guppy.
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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 beneath the cargo floor. Automatic hydraulic lock pins in the rail secure the pallet for flight.

The Guppy can carry up to three 24 ft. Guppy pallets or sections, making the usable maximum pallet length 72 ft. and a floor load limit of 125 lbs/running inch (cargo rail). The cargo floor is 11 ft. above ground level and 13 ft. wide. The cargo hold has a maximum inside diameter of 25 ft. and overall length of just over 111 ft. with a constant 25 ft. diameter section 32 ft. long. The 377SGT's absolute volume is 49,750 cubic ft. and a usable volume of 39,000 cubic ft. making this the largest of the Guppys.
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When Tracor Aviation (formerly Aero Spacelines, Inc.) was promoting the new Super Guppy's virtues for transporting outsized cargo, this is one of the drawings they used. Almost all of the examples used in this artwork are still in use today. Notice the ease at which the cargo hold of the Guppy swallows the 15 ft. cargo which in some cases such as the DC-8 or L-100 Super Hercules, is as big around as their fuselages.
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The first 377SGT Super Guppy Turbine, N211AS (c/n 0001) flew on August 24, 1970. After success with the first of the 377SGTs, Aero Spacelines built a second 377SGT, N212AS (c/n 0002) and it flew exactly two years later on August 24, 1972.
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ASI originally planned to build and operate the MGT and SGT aircraft as they had the PG, SG, and MG previously. It was only after the company got into serious financial trouble that the decision was made to sell the SGT to Airbus Industrie. This photo shows the first 377SGT with a revised Aero Spacelines paint scheme taking off from Edward AFB, California for continued flight testing.
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As a part of the certification, one of the in-flight tests was both side and forward slips. To see exactly how the air flows over the fuselage and flying surfaces, tufts are commonly attached. Seen in the first picture, the air flows smoothly around the nose, with a slight deflection around the wing, as one would expect. The second and third, and fourth and fifth pictures show the difference in airflow in both forward flight and a nose right forward slip. In the last picture of the vertical stabalizer and the rudder during the slip, notice the amount of distortion on the skin. A moderate amount of flexing I would say.
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Building the SGT
Airbus committed to buy one aircraft in 1970 (delivery in 1971) with a contractural commitment for ASI to build a second SGT that would be available as back up to the first. In 1973 Airbus optioned to buy No.2. In 1978 Airbus approached ASI about building a Super Guppys No.3 and 4, with the agreement being finalized in 1979.
(Click on the thumbnail to go to "Building the SGT")

Promotional brochures for the 377SGT (Guppy 201) depicted oversized cargo loads being driven through narrow Europeon city streets causing great disruption of traffic, promoting the use of the Guppys transporting Airbus A300/310 sub-assemblies from various sites in Europe for final assembly in France or Germany. In the last image, note the various factory's locations, and the cargo the Guppy carried to the final assembly plant in Toulouse, France.
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Aero Spacelines built an entirely new fuselage to connect the existing C-97 Stratocruiser parts. The only parts taken from the C-97s and used for this generation of Guppy, were the nose section with presurized cockpit, wings using the lower section of nacelles, tail surfaces and main landing gear. The nose wheel is from a Boeing 707, rotated 180 degrees. A 23 ft. center section was inserted into the wing to give additional clearance between the tips of the propellers and the fuselage side.
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All of the third generation of Guppys (Mini Turbine and Super Turbine) used the Allison T-56 (501-D22C) Turboprops rated at 4680 ESHP. Aero Spacelines took the turboprops, cowlings, from the Lockheed Electra/P-3 Orion but used the propellers and spinners from the C-130 Hercules. The P-3's propellers are built for speed, whereas the C-130's are built for load carrying. The upper nacelles were constructed using turboprops from the P-3, with the upper nacelles adapting the Lockheed cowls to the existing lower nacelles and landing gear housing. Note in the photo for scale reference, the top of the door leading to the cockpit is about 5 and a half feet up from the floor and also note the man standing on the ground. The highest point inside the fuselage is 25 ft.
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By comparing the side views of both the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the 377SGT, it's easy to see the "a little of this and a little of that" approach Aero Spacelines used in designing the Super Guppy Turbine. The engineers were smart to adopt this method of design. It ended up being a great time and money saver. When Aero Spacelines was looking at powerplants for the new Guppys, they picked the Allison T-56 Turboprop because of it's relative abundance, and also because Lockheed had already designed a nifty cowl for the P-3. Why redesign a cowling when an abundant supply already existed?
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The T56 is the leading turboprop engine in the world, based on over 17,000 engines sold and more than 150 million accumulated flight hours. Since their initial production in 1954, the T56/501D engines have been installed in a wide variety of propeller-powered aircraft. These aerial platforms include over 2,000 Lockheed C-130 Hercules used by both United States and foreign military and some 100 plus commercial L-382 (L-100) cargo transport aircraft. Another Lockheed application is the 600 plus P-3 Orions used in anti-submarine warfare. Other T56 military platforms include Grumman's E-2 Hawkeye, an early warning aircraft, and the C-2 COD, used for Carrier Onboard Delivery of supplies and personnel to and from ships.
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The loading system for the 377SGT was as unique as the airplane. Airbus fuselage and wing sections are strapped to custom loading dollys, which are loaded onto a custom driveable sissoring jack. The load is driven up to the opened nose of the aircraft, pushed on rollers into place inside the airplane.
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The difference between the two Super Guppys is apparent when comparing these two photos. By constructing a new fuselage, Aero Spacelines was able to increase the width of the floor from 8 ft. on the NASA Super Guppy to 13 ft. for the Super Guppy Turbine. The aluminium skin over bulkhead and stringer method of construction for all Guppys can be seen in the photo of the NASA Guppy. But for Type Certification, the FAA didn't like the way the bare inside of the fuselage looked, so they made Aero Spacelines add a Nomex lining to the inside of the cargo hold.
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The nose locking was also refined with a hydraulic locking pin mechanism replacing the earlier bolting method. Like all Guppys, the 377SGT was equipted with 3 jacks in the fuselage; two in front of the wing as seen in the composite photo on the left and one behind the wing as shown in the picture on the right (note the steel plate used to spread the load of the rear jack). These jacks were deployed to support and steady the airplane before the joint could be unlocked and the nose opened and wheeled out of the way.
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The first 377SGT was sold to Airbus Industrie in 1971. The second was sold in 1973. The sub-assemblies for the third and fourth 377SGT were delivered in 1978 and 1979 respectively, number 3 flew in 1979 and number 4 in 1980. The four Super Guppys became a vital part of the production process for Airbus Industrie, operating a regularly scheduled route five days a week.
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Compare the length of the Airbus fuselage section to the length of the Super Guppy's hold as it swallows the Airbus. With the low angle and the distance the photographer is from the Guppy, it looks almost as if it could be a model. Note the size of the yellow Volkwagen van in front of the loading dolly, and imagine how many of those vans would fit inside of the Guppy's hold.
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Operating a fleet of Super Guppys is not without incident. Loading operations are rated up to a 20 knots crosswind. Airbus Industrie found out the hard way a couple of times to follow published operating procedures when a gust of wind caught the opened nose of a Super Guppy, causing it to act like a giant sail, tearing itself loose from the fuselage. This happened once in Madrid and again in Hamburg.
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Another incident happened early in SGT No.1's career with Airbus in which the SGT ran off the runway. The nosegear, unable to hold up to the rough soft terrain, collapsed. When this happened a crewmember was ejected from the auxilary jumpseat and was seriously injured. The restraint harnesses were redesigned to prevent this type of accident in the future.
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The Type Certificate for the 377MG Mini-Guppy and the 377SGT Super Guppy Turbine was originally issued to Aero Spacelines. Aero Spacelines was then sold to Tracor, Inc. and renamed Tracor Aviation in 1981, who picked up the maintance contracts for the Guppys. Tracor also developed the hush kits for the then Douglas DC-8s and Boeing 707s. Tracor no longer built aircraft but went into the airframe modification business, installing cargo doors on aircraft, and maintaining various commercial jets including McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s, Boeing 747s and smaller business jets.

Tracor Aviation was then sold to Lucas Aerospace and renamed Lucas Aviation. Lucas Aviation continued technical support for the Guppys until the late 1990s, when Airbus Industrie unveiled the replacement for aging fleet of Super Guppys, the A300-600ST Beluga. A "Super" Super Guppy, based on the A310 Airbus airframe. Seen in this picture is SGT No.2 with the special graphics commemerating Tracor's 25th anniversary.
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As this nose to nose comparison shows, although the A300-600ST is longer, and carries more weight, the Super Guppy is still a sizable airplane in anybody's book. The 377SGTs are not being retired because they've out-lived their usefulness, on the contrary, they're being retired because of age and high service hours.
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Super Guppy No.1 was retired to the British Aviation Heritage in Bruntingthorpe, England in 1996. No.2 is preserved at Airbus Industrie's final assembly plant in Toulouse, France also in 1996. No.3 as of November, 1997 is on diplay at the Airbus assembly plant in Finkenwerder, near Hamburg, Germany.
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SGT No. 1
In this picture, Super Guppy No.1 is seen at it's final home at the British Aviation Heritage in Bruntingthorpe, England. SGT No.1 is currently undergoing restoration as time and money permits. The engines have been permanently removed. Notice the propellers lying in the grass below the wings waiting to re-mounted to the cowlings.
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SGT No.1 is seen in this picture taken March 1998 with it's propellers reattached and looking much more dignified. While the Guppy isn't yet open to the public, the airfield is open every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. There are plans to turn the SGT into a museum and house smaller exibits inside, but it's not clear at this time if this will ever come to fruitation.
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SGT No. 2
Super Guppy No.2 is seen here on display at the Airbus final assembly plant in Toulouse, France. No.2 is now owned and cared for by Ailes Anciennes Toulouse (Toulouse old wings), a not for profit group of aviation enthusists in France. Ailes Anciennes Toulouse has been perserving historical aircraft for 15 years. Although they have many aircraft in their collection, they haven't been able to secure a building to house all of these wonderful bits of aviation history. Notice that Airbus kept the "Super Guppy" portion of the earlier Tracor Aviation 25th Anniversary special paint job.
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This picture of No.2 was taken at the "Bikini" engine test area in Toulouse, France. After Airbus decided to keep one of each of the Super Guppys in each of the main Airbus countries, the museum in Bourget was first offered No.2, which they declined. Possibly because of space considerations.

One of Ailes Anciennes Toulouse's members was the Chief Engineer for SGT spare parts. This gentleman was able to secure No.2 for Ailes Anciennes Toulouse. When Airbus retired the Guppys, they sold all of the Allison turboprops and spare parts used to support the Guppys. This Guppy like the other three that Airbus retired, has had the engines removed and the propellers remounted for static display. A Guppy without propellers isn't nice.
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SGT No. 3
This article appeared in the December 24, 1997-January 6, 1998 issue of Flight International. Author Allan Winn went along on Super Guppy No.3's last flight to Finkenwerder, Germany. He wrote a fitting tribute to the aircraft that did so much for Airbus Industrie. Be warned, these images are kind of big, but well worth the reading. Enjoy!
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Over the December 14, 1997 weekend Super Guppy No.3 received a new paint job in preparation for long-term outdoor display. All polished aluminium surfaces are now painted silver for better weather protection. Without the paint the skin would have to be polished about once a year. The stripes and lettering have also been repainted and are generally the same as before.
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On the weekend of December 21, 1997 SGT No.3 was moved to it's final destination proudly parked in front of the main entrance of the DASA factory in Finkenwerder, Germany. Getting Super Guppy into place required the permanant removal of two trees and the temporary removal of about 8 street lights. Also on display is a HFB 320 Hansa Jet and a Noratlas transport, seen here.
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SGT No. 4
On October 23, 1997 SGT No.4, now registered as N941NA, landed at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas to a hero's welcome. 941 as the Super Guppy is called in order to ease confusion over which of NASA's Super Guppys one is referring to, will be based out of Johnson Space Center. 941's mission is to ferry outsize components from around the globe back to the United States in preparation for launch into orbit.

The day after landing in Houston, the Guppy was out for crew familiarization. The 941 crew put the youngest of the Super Guppys through it's paces shooting approx. six touch and goes. During one flight a T-38 gave chase for an in-flight photo session. All reference to 941's Airbus past has been removed, with the exception of the number 4 on the fuselage above the cockpit. Also seen in this picture is NASA's high-altitude research vehicle, the Martin RB-57 with it's lengthened outer wing panels.
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Inside 941
In keeping with past tradition, NASA has again looked to the Super Guppy to help insure the success of one of it's biggest projects to date; the International Space Station. Super Guppy No.4 was acquired by NASA from the European Space Agency under an International Space Station barter agreement. ESA supplied the Guppy to offset the cost to NASA of carrying ESA experiment equipment to the station as part of two future Space Shuttle flights. NASA's newest Guppy crew spent four weeks in France getting checked out on the Super Guppy.
(Click on the thumbnail to look "Inside 941")

The de-icer system for the outer wing sections consists of a fuel heater in the rear of the outer engine nacelles. The inner de-icers use engine bleed air for heat. The 377SGT uses constant speed engines which run at 98-103% power ratings. Airspeed is around 200 kts at low altitudes. At higher altitudes 941 is limited to Mach 185 KIAS. Of note, the rudder and elevator surfaces are fabric covered, a technology from a bygone era. The rudder has been replaced or at least re-covered at some time during 941's life.
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One feature that suprised many connected with 941 was the method of construction used on the fuselage, similar to the Mini Guppy seen in this picture taken during 377MG's construction in Santa Barbara, California. The fuselage sheeting was overlapped, shingle fashion with standard or round head rivets used to attach the sheets to the bulkheads and stringers. The C-97 cockpit section and P-3 cowls still retain the flush rivets originally used. Some of the rivets have been replaced with hex head bolts at some point, though it's not clear by whom or why.
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Some of the senior Johnson Space Center engineers who helped launch Apollo remember the original Super Guppy. Some of the improvements include a pressurized cockpit with seating for three crew and four passengers, a better air-conditioner that works down to and on the ground instead of the original's limitation of not working below 5000 ft. The 377SG's all manual fuselage latches were replaced with upper hydraulic latches on the 377SGTs. 941's cockpit layout has been improved and has a better radio system. JSC engineers are seen here inspecting the drive wheel for the swing nose.
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One final note about 941 not mentioned on this page about a part, or should I say a section of the aircraft's history. It is the 46 section of the fuselage - the aft lower part of the fuselage. In building Guppy No. 4 for Airbus Industrie, ASI found that there were no remaining B377 fuselages to cannibalize, so ASI bought the 46 section from the disassembled Pregnant Guppy and shipped it to France where it was incorporated into SGT No.4. Seen in these pictures, the section has been placed in a custom jig for a partial reskining, also note in the left picture, the workman inside the 46 section.
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Seen in the picture on the left is actually the 45 and 46 sections still joined before being prepared for shipping to Airbus. The 46 section is the part of the fuselage that incorporates the mount for the horizontal tail surfaces as pictured in the right photo. How ironic that the last Guppy built contains a part of the first Guppy built using one of the first Stratocruisers built.
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New Look for 941!
NASA Super Guppy N941NA is sporting a shiny new look to carry her crew into the next millenium! In early in December Leading Edge, a commercial aircraft painter at the old Eaker AFB at Blytheville, Arkansas tackled the challenging job of polishing and repainting NASA's Super Guppy! Thanks to Dave Shank, we're able to bring you this first look including the first take-off and in flight photos.
(Click on the thumbnail to see the "New Look for 941!")

The Crew of 941
We have added this new page to give everyone an opportunity to meet the guys who fly and maintain NASA's Super Guppy. This page will be updated as different crew members come out, and are willing to have their pictures taken.
(Click on the thumbnail to "Meet the crew of 941")

The Loadmasters of 941
The Loadmasters of N941NA are responsible for the correct loading of the Super Guppy and that the cargo arrives safely at it's destinations. Pictured above are the seven Loadmasters assigned to the Super Guppy in support of the International Space Station. They are employees of Airlift Technologies International Inc., which is on contract to NASA.
(Click on the thumbnail to "Meet the Loadmasters of 941")

International Space Station
We will be posting International Space Station related items on this page. Take a look at the Orange County Register's coverage of 941's last couple of trips to Southern California. The most recent article was published June 9, 1999.
(Click on the thumbnail to learn more about the "International Space Station")

N941 is seen here just after take off on Thursday June 10, 1999 from Los Alamitos Army Airfield carrying the S-0. This is commonly referred to as the heart of the International Space Station. The crew is taking the S-0 to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for testing.
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NASA's Super Guppy makes the cover of the Ocotber, 2000 issue of FLYING magazine! N941 was one of the star attractions at the 2000 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 26 - August 1. In the last image, the Guppy is seen on the tarmac.
(63K, 73K, 65K & 15K JPG images) Click here go to FLYING magazine's website
2003 Dayton Airshow
Thanks guys! We're not sure what the story is on this one, but we've been assure new photos are forthcoming. We will post them once we get them.
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Take a look inside the Super Guppy! The QuickTimeVR on the left is a 360 degree panorama which was created from pictures taken on October 28, 1998 from the cargo deck of the Super Guppy during NASA's loading operation of the second test article for the International Space Station Project at Los Alamitos Army Airfield, California. Among the interesting things to see in the background are the cranes used to load the cargo onto the loading dolley; a couple of "Medfly Bombers", so called because of their mission dropping frozen Medflies throughout California and a C-123 Provider.
(849K QuickTimeVR Panorama)

Then take a walk around the Super Guppy and see the her new paint scheme! These pictures were taken on 941's first trip to Los Alamitos Army Airfield, California after the NASA crew picked up the Guppy from Leading Edge in Blytheville, Arkansas. We met up with the crew when they arrived at Los Al on Friday January 22 and took the pictures used to create this VR movie the next day. As always, the guys on the crew were very helpful and accommodating.
(277K QuickTimeVR SpinObject)

We would like extend a special note of appreciation to the crew of 941 for allowing us the opportunity to take these images we're sharing with you. Thanks guys!

You will need the QuickTime and QuickTimeVR plug-ins to view these movies. Users of Netscape 3.0 or later have the QuickTime plug-in built in to their browsers, but you will still need to get the QTVR plug-in. Get the plug-in for QuickTimeVR by linking here.

Once the Movie is loaded, use your mouse to click and drag either left or right. For the Panorama, use your "Shift" and "Control" keys to zoom in and out also, but not necessarily at the same time. If after loading the Panorama you only see a playbar, you don't have the correct VR plug-in loaded. Go to the above link to Apple and get a copy of QuickTime3 and install it. Then the Movie should play okay.

In this YouTube of the Orange County News (OCN), coverage of the Super Guppy arrival at Los Alamitos Army Airfield bringing an International Space Station component to Boeing in Huntington Beach, California. In this news spot the Guppy is seen sporting a new paint job. Especially interesting is the smooth nose wheel first landing, nose opening and unloading operations.

Listen to this streaming RealAudio interview with NASA pilots Frank Marlow and Triple Nickel as they talk about flying the Super Guppy, courtesy of the Orange County Register.

To enjoy either of these streaming media, you will need to install RealPlayer. To get a free copy of RealPlayer here.

This video was shot on June 10, 1999 at Los Alamitos Army Airfield showing NASA 941 during take off with the S-0. The S-0 is the 44 foot center section of the International Space Station's 356 foot frame or truss.

In this video we see the prototype 377SGT (Guppy 201) N211AS undergoing flight testing at Edwards AFB, California. The success of Aero Spacelines and it's Guppys attracted the attention of other firms. In July 1965 Aero Spacelines was acquired by Unexcelled Chemical Corporation with Aero Spacelines still operating as an independant subsidiary. The new organization not only intended to continue the Super Guppy line of aircraft, it announced it's intention to build a small fleet of outsize transports.

The British Aviation Heritage in Bruntingthorpe, England is the final home for Super Guppy No.1. It was retired in 1996 when the first of the A300-600ST Belugas became available to replace the valued but aging Guppys.

Note in this video clip the skill of the pilot landing the airplane, there must be a stiff cross wind judging from the amount of side-slip needed to hold the airplane on course. But considering the generous side area of these aircraft, it wouldn't take too high of a crosswind to be a handfull.

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Copyright © 2006 Daren Savage
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