F E A T U R E
But the beautiful Stratocruiser was too slow and too expensive to operate profitably – it took 14 hours to fly from New York to Paris, was plagued by mechanical problems and it guzzled gas. Along came DC-7 and Boeing 707 jets and the world that created the Stratocruiser was gone in less than a decade.
» Inventing on the fly Jack planned to use two of his Stratocruisers to make one Guppy: one to enlarge and one to cannibalize for parts and metal. The greatly enlarged Stratocruiser that eventually flew as the Pregnant Guppy started as Boeing Stratocruiser prototype #3, and flew for the first time in October, 1948. The additional five meter section added behind the wing came from an ex-BOAC aircraft; and the entire thing was put together by Mark Engineering in Van Nuys. To create the distinctive Guppy “volumetric” shape, Jack would add length to the aft section behind the wing, height with a new fuselage, make the entire rear section removable, so delicate cargo could be loaded directly into the gut of the aircraft. The wings, tail, engines, nose and Stratocruiser cockpit with the distinctive wraparound windows were retained. The new fuselage would grow to 19’ in diameter and measure 127’ from nose to tail. Jack, the master salesman, planned to fly the new aircraft to
“The big question then was whether it was aerodynamically feasible to fly such a big craft. We could build the configuration to hold the missile parts, but we didn’t know if we could fly it.” Jack Conroy Huntsville himself, and through sheer force of personality, sell the idea on the spot to von Braun and his NASA rocket scientists. One airplane for one customer. That was the plan. Easy? Oh sure. Of course, as Jack recalled years later, there were a few hurdles… “The Guppy was built strictly on speculation. We recognized the need and had many meetings with NASA. We felt if we flew the Guppy we would get a contract. Once we flew it, we thought that financing from that point forward would be relatively simple, but NASA wouldn’t give us a contract until we had the plane ready.”
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