To showcase the unique NASA Super Guppy Transport (SGT) aircraft, maintained by DynCorp International mechanics, the Discovery Channel Canada followed the Super Guppy on a recent cross-country mission from El Paso, Texas, to Long Beach, Calif., to load valuable and futuristic aerospace hardware for final delivery to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The mission will be featured on an episode of “Mighty Planes” to be aired in late 2015.
As part of DynCorp International’s NASA Aircraft Maintenance and Operational Support (AMOS) contract, DI team members based with the SGT in El Paso, Texas, maintain the uniquely shaped cargo aircraft. The Super Guppy is based in the dry desert climate to help prevent corrosion and decay of vital aircraft parts. DI’s part of the Super Guppy team includes the maintenance manager, four dedicated mechanics, numerous additional mechanics with extensive experience on the aircraft, an aircraft specialist and a flight engineer. Many of these employees discussed on camera how they each play a part in keeping the specialized aircraft in flight and mission ready.
The Super Guppy measures more than 48 feet to the top of its tail and has a wingspan of more than 156 feet with a 25-foot diameter cargo bay. Due to fewer handling fixtures and minimal ground support equipment, the SGT is designed for efficient oversized cargo transport. Its hinged nose opens to 110 degrees to allow for easy cargo loading and offloading. The SGT is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 48,000 Pounds with its four powerful Rolls Royce Turbo Jet Engines.
The SGT was acquired by NASA from the European Space Agency (ESA) under an International Space Station barter agreement. It is the last of its kind still in operation. Manufactured by Airbus Industries, the aircraft was initially intended to carry ESA experiment equipment to the station as part of two future Space Shuttle flights. Guppy aircraft have been used in several space programs including Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab, to transport spacecraft components.
In April 2012, DI was awarded a contract with NASA to provide aircraft maintenance and operational support services at various locations including Ellington Field at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., NASA facilities in El Paso, Texas, and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and other locations worldwide as required.
Services include support for eight different types of NASA aircraft to perform flight operations, maintenance, repairs and alterations to aircraft, component parts and support equipment and engineering services. Additional services include support for spaceflight readiness training, airborne research and development, and flight tests.