Super Guppy is so big air traffic controllers didn’t think it would make it off the ground

To this day, it still takes to the skies, carrying (massively) important cargo.

by | Published on 20th Jun 2023

Airbus Beluga, Boeing Dreamlifter, Antonov AN-225: these are some of the biggest aircraft in the world designed to carry extremely large cargo.

Because of their rarity and extraordinary appearance, they’re a planespotters dream.

But these aircraft wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for a lesser-known plane called the Super Guppy.

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Back in 1962, the bizarre new aircraft took to the skies near Los Angeles.

Air traffic controllers were so doubtful that the plane would make it off the ground, they notified police and fire departments to be on alert.

Thankfully, the Super Guppy proved them wrong.

Former Air Force pilot Jack Conroy took off and safely landed this specially modified hulk of a plane without a hitch.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

But the truth is, the Super Guppy, then known as the Pregnant Guppy, inaugurated a new age of airborne transport.

Today, despite being 60 years old, this frankpenplane still takes to the skies, transporting monstrous cargo.

It even transports important cargo for NASA.

Its nickname “Frankenplane” is a literal one, as the Super Guppy is actually made of elements from other aircraft.

It uses the same engines as those in Lockheed’s P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft, though its cruising speed of 250 mph (402 km/h) is sluggish by modern standards.

The Super Guppy’s propellers come from Lockheed’s C-130 Hercules, and the nosewheel is from a Boeing 707.

It loads in the front with a nose section that swings open 110 degrees.

Opening the nose section is easier said than done, though, as it requires a series of cables and locks to be disengaged in the proper sequence.

While the C-5 Galaxy can carry four times more weight at over 200,000 lbs, the Super Guppy wins by volume, with a payload bay that’s 25-feet high, 25-feet wide, and 111-feet long.

That gives the Super Guppy a whopping 39,000 cubic feet of usable space compared to the C-5’s 35,000.

Even the Antonov-225, the world’s largest cargo aircraft, cannot take some of the laods which the Supper Guppy can haul, as its cargo bay is “only” 15-feet high.



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Adam Gray is an experienced motoring journalist and content creator based in the United Kingdom. Using his media accreditation with motor manufacturers’ press offices, Adam test drives the latest cars and attends new vehicle press launches, producing written reviews and news pieces for Before joining the Supercar Blondie team, Adam was Motoring Editor for Portfolio North magazine, North East Motoring Editor at Reach plc, and provided motoring content on a freelance basis to several lifestyle and business publications in the North of England. When he’s not behind the wheel of the latest car, Adam can be found at his local rink playing ice hockey or supporting his beloved Middlesbrough FC.

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