In 1962, a unique transport aircraft was built from the parts of 27 Boeing B-377 airliners to provide NASA a means of transporting rocket boosters. With an interior the size of a gymnasium, “The Pregnant Guppy” was the first of six enormous cargo planes built by Aero Spacelines and two built by Union de Transport Aeriens. More than half a century later, the last Super Guppy is still in active service with NASA and the design concept has been applied to next-generation transports.
This comprehensive history of expanded fuselage aircraft begins in the 1940s with the military’s need for a long-range transport. The author examines the development of competing designs by Boeing, Convair and Douglas, and the many challenges and catastrophic failures. Behind-the-scenes maneuvers of financiers, corporate raiders, mobsters and other nefarious characters provide an inside look at aviation development from the drawing board to the scrap yard.