“A Beautiful Plane”: The First Flight of the Super Guppy

August 31, 1965

The maiden flight of the cargo plane “Super Guppy,” which was given that nickname due to both its extra-large size and fish-like appearance, took place in southern California between the Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles and the Kern County Airport at the southern end of the Central Valley. At the time of its first flight, the wide-bodied, hump-backed Super Guppy was the world’s largest aircraft. (As a bigger version of a similar plane which had been introduced three years earlier and likewise manufactured by Aero Spacelines, the Super Guppy was specifically designed to accommodate heavier loads than that original model.)

Those on board the Super Guppy for its maiden flight were Jack Pedesky, pilot; Ercel O. Oliver, systems engineer; P.G. Smith, co-pilot; and Galen G. Hull, flight engineer. At a press conference following the flight, they expressed great enthusiasm for the performance of the Super Guppy. Pedesky proclaimed, “We have a beautiful plane.”

This inaugural version of the Super Guppy, measuring 141 feet (43 meters) and three inches (7.6 centimeters) in length, was built to hold at least 42,000 feet (12,801.6 meters) of cargo. In addition, the plane could fly as fast as 320 miles (515 kilometers) per hour while carrying loads that weighed as much as 87.5 tons (79.4 metric tons) altogether. The Super Guppy was developed for use by NASA in hauling rockets and other space-exploration equipment between California and Florida a lot more quickly and smoothly than transport via highways, rail, or ships would allow.

The Super Guppy played a pivotal role in those expedited delivery efforts during the remainder of the decade and helped make it possible for the first spaceflight transporting humans to the Moon to take place as soon as it did in 1969. For more than three decades after undertaking its initial flight, the original Super Guppy logged in more than three million miles (4.8 million kilometers) on behalf of NASA’s Apollo, Gemini, Skylab, and International Space Station programs.​

Photo Credit: Josh Hallett (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

For more information on the history of the Super Guppy, please check out https://jsc-aircraft-ops.jsc.nasa.gov/guppy.html#aircrafthistory



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