Super Guppy, a cargo aircraft five-story tall touched down at the Grand Junction Regional Airport, Colorado on Tuesday as a part of its routine transport. The giant aircraft is 150 feet long and 50 feet tall with an interior diameter of 25-foot with a cargo carrying capacity of massive 40,000lbs. According to the reports, the Super Guppy flew in from the Colorado Springs towards the Grand Junction to pick up a T-38 military jet. In fact, it had another T-38 military jet inside its fuselage when it arrived.
The aircraft will now land at El Paso, Texas, where one of the military jets will be handed over to the officials to carry out needed maintenance work. Super Guppy is one of the five humongous aircraft commissioned by NASA which flew on its maiden flight in 1965. It was built in two variants with each having its specific prowess over other. The aircraft can carry cargo weighing 40,000lbs while its own weight is around 100,000lbs. It can fly with a maximum speed of 250 mph at higher altitudes, however, due to the heavyweight and cargo it carries, the speed drops to 120 mph at lower altitudes. To put things into perspective, passenger flights fly at an average speed of 450 to 550 mph.
Manufactured by Airbus and Aero Spacelines, the Super Guppy is operated by NASA and used by Aeromaritime, Airbus, Aero Spacelines, and NASA itself. All the five aircrafts built are either on display, mothballed, or in service. The Super Guppy in question is an SGT N941NA which is based at the El Paso International Airport. According to its performance data, it can cruise at a speed of 220 knots and has a range of 1,734 nm depending upon the cargo it has been loaded with. Currently, SGT N941NA remains the only Super Guppy active as a transport aircraft with NASA which has carried cargo for years.
On Tuesday when it landed at the Grand Junction Regional Airport, Colorado, the authorities had to inspect and clear any debris on the runway as well as plan out an adequate parking space at the facility. Along with the two jets, the Super Guppy carried a heat shield for NASA’s Orion spacecraft which is under development. It has carried cargo for the International Space Station towards Cape Canaveral in Florida. Another cargo that it is carrying now is the hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) which is under construction as well.
The aircraft is operated manually as it doesn’t have any auto-pilot functionality. It will take off from G.J. on Wednesday morning and it will soon land at the El Paso Forward Operating Location at El Paso International Airport as per the reports.