pregnant guppy plane
The name stuck. During the early years, the transportation of outsize cargo has always been a dilemma for government and private logistics planners. Because of the restrictions of land travel, passing ov… Pregnant Guppy The Aero Spacelines B-377PG Pregnant Guppy, seen here, was flown to Dryden for tests and evaluation by pilots … It's a Plane: One man's obsession, it helped get us to the moon Tripp, Robert S. Spring 2002, American Heritage of Invention and Technology "Boeing 377 Pregnant Guppy" by Kenneth W. Shanaberger. Here are some of the strangest and/or ugliest looking aircrafts from around the …  The design inspired other later designs, such as the jet-powered Airbus Beluga and Boeing Dreamlifter. A friend and I became regulars at the airport. In the summer of 1963, the Pregnant Guppy began flying NASA cargo. The plane is based at Ellington Airport in Houston, near NASA's Johnson Space Center. A bulbous looking whale of an airplane, the Super Guppy was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, an equally goofy looking giant cargo plane. L'Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy era un quadrimotore da trasporto a fusoliera allargata sviluppato dall'azienda statunitense Aero Spacelines nei primi anni sessanta. 1989. Specially designed to be able to carry components for the Gemini Space Program, the aircraft then called the Pregnant Guppy had the largest cargo compartment of any plane that had ever been built.. ... Guppy prop plane download for FSX. The Pregnant Guppy was sold to American Jet Industries and registered N126AJ for scrap and it was finally scrapped at Van Nuys in 1979. Wait, what was that plane I had requested again? Do you have any info on what happened to the company? Letoun Pregnant Guppy byl první z řady letounů Guppy vyrobených společností Aero Spacelines. NASA pilots Joe Vensel and Stan Butchart would work with John Conroy to evaluate the plane at Dryden.Â Photo Credit:Â NASA. Retrieved October 5, 2006. Photo: Unknown Wikipedia Commons. The Pregnant Guppy was constructed using B-377 N1024V and parts of B-377 (c/n 15976). The Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the United States and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA's components of the Apollo program. She and her little sister, the "Pregnant Guppy," have carried a billion dollars worth of space equipment for NASA, and undoubtedly helped to speed up the US timetable for conquest of the moon. By the way, Airbus actually used a fleet of Super Guppies to transport airplane pieces before they developed their Belugas. Unlike the Pregnant Guppy, the Super Guppy is pressurized, making it possible to fly above weather. As the space program increased through the late 1960s, it became clear that this one aircraft could not carry the whole transport load, and so 25 more Stratocruisers and ex-USAF C-9… Studio Editions. Because of the Pregnant Guppy, NASA was … At first the Super Guppy supported NASA’s Gemini Program’s Titan II transportation requirements.Â The plane would position to Baltimore, Maryland, and pick up Titan II rocket stages and fly them to Cape Canaveral.Â Based on the success of the aircraft and his new contracts with NASA to also support the Apollo Program, John Conroy built a larger version of the aircraft with an even larger cargo hold.Â This would be based on a YC-97J, which he called the Super Guppy.Â In the end, he built 25 of the Super Guppy modifications to address the large demand from NASA for heavy lift of high cubic volume equipment and rocket components.Â Each aircraft was customized to the requirements of NASA’s upcoming space flight needs.Â The B377 could transport Apollo S/C and components, while the YC97J was specially built to carry S-IVB stages, instrument units, LEM adapters and F-1 engines.Â After negotiations, Conroy and NASA settled on a price of $16 a mile for flights of the larger Super Guppy. , Conroy presented his plans for an extensively modified Stratocruiser to NASA, where an official commented that the bloated aircraft resembled a pregnant guppy. “ Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Thanks to all of you for your hard work and dedication on the Guppy project and countless others that made this country great. Guppy. 2.9 years ago. Although NASA was lukewarm on the concept, Conroy mortgaged his house and founded Aero Spacelines International to build and operate the concept aircraft.. I serviced N1038V a few times when it stopped over at the base. Did it get bought out? The former Stratocruiser became a B-377 PG: the Pregnant Guppy. My uncle had a plane there and would take me and my Dad flying a couple of times each month. As the plane taxied out toward the runway, the air traffic controllers on duty looked at amazement at the monstrous addition bolted to the top of the fuselage.Â Surely, nothing that weird could fly, they reasoned.Â With a sinking feeling, they realized that the pilot intended to take off.Â What they were looking at seemed a monstrosity — an ex-Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, lengthened at the center point with a 5 meter long extender piece taken off a different B377 (this one ex-BOAC) with a huge, bulbous cargo hold ballooned over the top of the fuselage.Â When the pilot stopped at the hold short line and requested permission to take off for a first test flight, the tower controller first reached for the phone to scramble the crash trucks and fire engines.Â With that accomplished, he intoned, “Aero Spacelines, you’re cleared for take off….”Â As the plane started to roll, all eyes were on it — and not a few bets were placed that it wouldn’t fly. NASA has a long history of developing specialized transportation devices for its rockets and equipment.Â While the Super Guppy was big, it was still far short of the size and load bearing capacity needed to transport the Space Shuttle fleet.Â For that requirement, NASA instead settled on a piggy back design, mounting the Shuttle on a set of pylons above the top of a Boeing 747 that had been modified specifically for that purpose.Â Meanwhile, Airbus and Boeing borrowed from Conroy’s Pregnant Guppy concept and build their own “volumetric” designs.Â These specialty aircraft still fly today all over the world. A Super Guppy, with its nose and cockpit opened for loading, takes in the X-24B and HL-10 lifting bodies for transportation to WPAFB in May 1976. The Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy was a heavy cargo plane used for transporting large and bulky items by air. So Aero Spacelines created the Very Pregnant Guppy, with an inner diameter of 25 feet and a cargo compartment 94Vi feet long. For more photos of the Pregnant Guppy, Super Guppy and Super Guppy Transport, visit: @twv23 thx. However, the NASA management doubted that it could work.Â Several professional aeronautical engineers reviewed the concept and declared it unworkable.Â One NASA official quipped that the contraption looked like a “pregnant guppy”.Â The trip wasn’t entirely a loss, however, as he found some interested and supportive parties — if he could make it work, they told him, a contract would likely follow….Â But of course, no guarantees.Â One of those who expressed support was the famous Wernher von Braun, who liked Conroy’s swashbuckling, can-do attitude. Many of the drawings were done by STRATO, E. Stanly and A.M. Kaplan. ... nose at the front of the huge plane. Designed by Aero Spacelines, an American aircraft manufacturer from 1960 to 1968, the Super Guppy was introduced in 1965. The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft that is used for hauling outsize cargo components. A Super Guppy departs Edwards AFB en route to Johnson Space Center. Taylor, Michael J.H. That was a memorable experience for sure. 628 twv23. The aircraft was named for its striking resemblance to a pregnant guppy … Airbus' Pregnant Guppy The Airbus Guppy livery is now on my website in the repaints section under "military and vintage" - help yourselves. Even though NASA was lukewarm on the project at first, Conroy mortgaged his house and started a company with Mansdorf called Aero Spacelines to pursue the project. John Conroy, inventor of the Pregnant Guppy and Super Guppy. May / June 2010, PILOTMAG Magazine May / June 2010, PILOTMAG Magazine It's a Plane: One man's obsession, it helped get us to the moon Tripp, Robert S. Spring 2002, American Heritage of Invention and Technology At just over 19’ in diameter, this massive cavity was specifically designed to carry the second stage of a Saturn rocket for the Apollo program. Not your average flying fish. The Super Guppy is the descendant of the Pregnant Guppy, the first Guppy aircraft produced by the company.  The design also … Thus, in the Spring of 1963 the plane was readied for its heavy lift test flight at Mojave, California.Â Sandbags and a full fuel load pegged the plane at its projected maximum gross weight.Â The pilot that day was Jacky Pedesky.Â As the plane lumbered down the runway, everything was within operating limits.Â When the pilot pulled back on the control yokes, the plane rotated and slowly rose into the air — too slowly, in fact.Â It seemed only barely able to climb.Â Without sufficient runway ahead to land, they had no choice but to press on.Â The airspeed was pegged at 128 kts — the plane was lumbering along just above the ground.Â Gingerly, they inched upward into slowly rising terrain ahead.Â For every foot they climbed, the terrain rose underneath the plane equally. Might answer some questions. The stairs were down so we parked our bikes and went inside. The idea for this ridiculous looking plane was originally NASA’s, for carrying bits of … The aircraft first flew on September 19, 1962, piloted by Conroy and co-pilot Clay Lacy. Give me a call 570-836-4800. Photo Credit: NASA. 3.1 years ago. We got caught but the one who caught us gave us a complete tour and I got to sit in the captains seat — it was the ‘Pregnant Guppie’. Pregnant Guppy : THE PLANE THAT WON THE SPACE RACE Bloom, Margy. 628 twv23. Retrieved … Thanks Charlie, “My favorite thing about the Guppy is that it is unique. NASA's Flight Research Center assisted in certification testing of the first Pregnant Guppy in 1962. The head of the drafting group was Eugene “Gene” Stanley, a former pilot in WW2. The Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the United States and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA's components of the Apollo moon program. Anything you can provide would be greatly appreciated. The entire rear section (including tail surfaces) was detachable to allow cargo to be loaded directly into the fuselage. It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, the first of the Guppy aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines.Five were built in two variants, both of which were colloquially referred to as the "Super Guppy". A better solution than sea lift had to be found. The owner of Strato was a man named Abraham Moses Kaplan. This monster, designed for Apollo rocket stages, could easily swallow a … I was in the USAF stationed at DMAFB from 1964 to 1968 and was an aircraft refueler. Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy byl velký nákladní letoun s objemným trupem postavený ve Spojených státech amerických pro leteckou přepravu rozměrných nákladů, a to hlavně komponentů lunárního programu Apollo pro NASA. Conroy returned to California and mortgaged his house, used his personal savings and borrowed everything he could to build the plane on his own.Â Â He even sold his car to fund the project.Â It still wasn’t enough and he was able to find venture capital funding from William Ballon.Â Lacking funds to “do it right”, he coined an operating phrase that would carry him through the project, “Built to suit, draw to match, and paint to cover.”Â In essence, Aero Spacelines cut years off of the development time by just doing it, cobbling the parts together with 2×4 braces, hope and baling wire.Â What worked they drew into engineering plans after the fact.Â While risky, Conroy just had to hope that his prototype would fly. In August 1962 I was a draftsman at Strato Engineering, a Burbank firm subcontracted to AeroSpace and charged with making drawings for the conversion process on the Pregnant Guppy. Data from Jane's All The Worlds Aircraft 1965–66, Jane's All The Worlds Aircraft 1971–72, Outsize cargo conversion of the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. In the end, John Conroy’s Super Guppy was the key aircraft that got America to the Moon.Â Wernher von Braun gave Conroy and his company the ultimate compliment when he summed it up succinctly, “The Guppy was the single most important piece of equipment to put a man on the moon in the decade of the 1960s.”Â Against all odds and based on just his own faith in his idea, his own funds and his hopes, John Conroy had made history. Aero Spacelines fabricated a large dome that was mated to the top of the fuselage, which resulted in the iconic Pregnant Guppy. Its predecessor, which looked very similar and carried components of the Apollo moon program, was appropriately named Pregnant Guppy. It was a version of the Boeing Stratocruiser airliner, on which the first two thirds of the fuselage had been blown up like a balloon to create a cavernous cargo space. Ricavato sulla base del precedente Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, modificato per trasportare carichi eccezionali, il Pregnant Guppy è stato il primo aereo prodotto … It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, the first of the Guppy aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines, which in turn was named for its resemblance to a pregnant guppy.Five were built in two variants, both of which were colloquially referred to as the "Super Guppy". I was raised in Van Nuys, near Balboa Boulevard and a few miles from the Van Nuys Airport. I’d like to talk to you sometime if you did any work on the Stinson project for Wardlow. ui_manufacturer=Boeing ui_type=377 "Pregnant Guppy" ui_variation="NASA" ui_typerole="Four Engine Prop" ui_createdby="A2A … Sadly, Gene is no longer with us, but the success of the Guppy project he and so many of you participated in lives on. The Pregnant Guppy in early flights during 1963. The wing, engines, tail, nose, and cockpit were unchanged, but a new upper fuselage of 6 m diameter was added, giving the aircraft a "triple-bubble" appearance in front view. All of us in my family watched later when the plane made its takeoff as George Putnam reported on the historical flight. Being a bit of a plane nerd at the time, I knew all about the Pregnant Guppy. "Model 377 Stratocruiser Commercial Transport", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Aero_Spacelines_Pregnant_Guppy&oldid=990907994, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles with unsourced statements from January 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 27 November 2020, at 05:26. The NASA ocean-going tug, Apollo, loaded with an S1C rocket stage. Returning to California with the promise of a contract Conroy was able to hold his creditors at bay while the team at Aero Spacelines did the work to turn the mock-up into a real cargo carrier.Â They cut away the “inner” fuselage and rewired the plane and control systems to allow the huge cargo bay to be used.Â The plane flew perfectly.Â Soon they had put over 50 hours of test flying.Â The last remaining challenge was to prove that the plane could carry the heavy loads required. The Super Guppy's most precious cargo was the lunar-excursion module Eagle and the command ship Columbia flown by Apollo … Photo Credit: NASA. I own some of the old Wardlow STC’s for the conversions to the Stinson SR-10F. As the space program grew through the late 1960s, this one aircraft clearly could not handle the whole transport load, so 25 more Stratocruisers and ex-USAF C-97s were purchased to construct four Super Guppy aircraft, which were even longer and larger than the original. The Pregnant Guppy loads a Saturn booster. The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy was first created in 1962 as a successor to the aptly-named Pregnant Guppy cargo aircraft. 5,246 DJ123. The Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the United States and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA's components of the Apollo program. Apparently, Jack Conroy had GREAT confidence that his design would work! The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft that is used for hauling outsize cargo components. He had a storied aircraft career from his time as a Thunderbolt pilot in WW2 through many commercial and military aviation projects all the way into the 1990s, including his time at Strato. Super Guppy is the ideal successor to its erstwhile avatar called Pregnant Guppy.. Aero Spacelines manufactured their first flight Pregnant Guppy in August 1965. Otherwise, the procedures and characteristics are the same as the standard Stratocruiser. Photo Credit: NASA. Conroy presented his plan for the modified plane to NASA, where an official said it looked like a pregnant guppy. This was done by adding a 16 ft. 8 in. B377PG Pregnant Guppy. 3.0 years ago. The coastal plain gave way to the hills and straight ahead was the town of Boron, California.Â They were still skimming the tops of bushes and hills as they neared the town.Â As an awkward silence filled the cockpit.Â Nothing seemed to work, even as the pilots gingerly tried to climb the plane.Â If they turned, they would fall off their altitude and hit the ground.  When Van Nuys traffic control realized that Conroy intended to take off, they notified police and fire departments to be on alert. . The construction was done in three main phases. By eagleworks4u in forum FSX Replies: 3 Last Post: 12-24-2009, 02:50 PM. Among its early duties was transporting the first and second stages of the Gemini program's Titan II from the Martin Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, to Cape Canaveral. The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is a mammoth and commodious cargo transport aircraft that is used to haul oversized cargo components. Aero Spacelines B377PG Pregnant Guppy on ramp in preparation for flight tests and pilot evaluation The various Guppies were modified from 1940's and 50's-vintage Boeing Model 377 and C-97 Stratocruiser airframes by Aero Spacelines, Inc., which operated the aircraft for NASA. In honor of the earlier NASA officials off-handed comment, he named the plane the “Pregnant Guppy.” The name Aero Spacelines selected for its unique plane was a natural. If so by what company? On September 19, 1962, they logged the first test flight. Digging Deeper As stated above, the Super Guppy had been developed from the Pregnant Guppy which in turn was based on the C-97 military cargo plane, itself based on the … Once on the ground, the engineers lightened the aircraft by 8,000 pounds before the next test flight.Â After a demonstration flight for NASA with a mock-up of the rocket booster on board, the airline signed a contract to fly on revenue runs — Conroy and Aero Spacelines were in business. Historic Wings is pleased to present our daily story celebrating what happened today in aviation history.  The Pregnant Guppy was the first of the Guppy line of aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines. "The Plane That Won The Space Race" by Margy Bloom. Photo Credit: NASA. • "Model 377 Stratocruiser Commercial Transport" by Boeing. The new plane had cost over $1,000,000. In case you were wondering how the Guppy … The Pregnant Guppy on the ramp in preparation for NASA test flights and pilot evaluation in October 1962. Carrying the S-IV Saturn I rocket stage, the Guppy saved three weeks' transit time versus barge, for a cost of $16.00 (equivalent to $131.9 today) per mile (1.6 km).. Air shipment seemed reasonable enough.Â The rocket components were extremely lightweight, though the problem was that they were simply huge.Â No aircraft had a cargo hold large enough as just one stage of the rocket was 40 feet long and 18 feet in diameter.Â Conroy started working the problem, literally on the back of a napkin with Mansdorf.Â Together, they thought that it might be possible to modify a B377 by adding a larger cargo bay atop the fuselage.Â He prepared a rough design series with some drawings and presented the idea to NASA in person, hoping for funding. First, Aero Spacelines had to lengthen the fuselage enough fit the 40 ft. long Saturn S-IV stage. After filing with the FAA for approval to fly the non-certified plane to Alabama (it was approved, but only for a route that was entirely over countryside from end to end), he borrowed the fuel and made the flight.Â Once in Alabama, the Pregnant Guppy was greeted with awe.Â It flew — somehow — and if Conroy could be believed, it was the answer to their dreams.Â Wernher von Braun, himself a rated pilot, asked to personally check it out as copilot for a test flight.Â Conroy agreed and made the best in flight sales pitch of his life, even shutting down two of the engines quietly while von Braun was flying.Â At that point, when von Braun realized that there was no question about the viability of the project.Â After landing Conroy had two challenges — one, getting a letter of intent; and the other begging NASA for enough fuel to take his plane back to California. Np bro. I can personally attest to the fact that many times I had to drive to the Van Nuys Airport, climb up the scaffolding surrounding the plane and find a specific location of modification, make drawings on a yellow tablet, take some tiny black and white photos and return to Strato to make the drawings match what was already built. I was 19 years old the first time I saw it land and takeoff and I thought it was amazing something that big could actually fly! The design also inspired similar … Semedian Boeing Pregnant Guppy. Even before the Pregnant Guppy made its first flight, however, both NASA and Conroy knew they needed a roomier plane. However, the huge aircraft performed flawlessly, the only difference in handling being a slight decrease in speed caused by extra drag of the larger fuselage. I am working on a project which started with the stress analysis provided by Strato. Everywhere we go there is a crowd waiting for us and I love to talk about the aircraft, its incredible history, and our mission.”. In 1960, U.S. airlines were disposing of their obsolete piston-engined Boeing 377 Stratocruisers in favor of the newer jet-engined airliners. What cargo aircraft can lift the greatest load (in weight, not cube) in the world today? Photo credit: NASA/MSFC/Janet Sudnik The Super Guppy also benefited from upgraded engines, which are the same as those in Lockheed's P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft, though its cruising speed of 250 … London. Conversion work was undertaken by On Mark Engineering. One Saturday we went to the airport and stumbled on the biggest airplane we had ever seen. With the beginning of the 1960s, Kennedy had declared that America was on the way to the Moon.Â NASA found it had a problem shipping newly constructed rockets from its west coast contractors to Cape Canaveral in Florida.Â The original plan, putting them on ocean-going barges through the Panama Canal, proved unworkable.Â The trip took two to three week and, on arrival, the fragile rocket boosters were dented, dinged and corroded from the salt spray.Â On hearing of NASA’s quandary, John Conroy had looked across the field at Van Nuys where his friend, aircraft broker Leo Mansdorf, had been storing B377 Stratocruisers that he had acquired, uncertain if they had any resale value.Â Surely, the big planes could be used, he thought, and it just might solve two problems — NASA’s and Mansdorf’s. np. My background was flying in Navy P-3 Orions, so Gene and I had plenty of great flying stories to share. The Pregnant Guppy (registered N1024V) was built from an ex-Pan Am airframe with a five-m section from an ex-British Overseas Airways Corporation aircraft (G-AKGJ) added immediately behind the wing. While, planes’ performances are somewhat shape dependant, but aesthetics really aren’t anything to simply ignore and overdoing them is perhaps even more awful. The plane flew much as a normal Boeing 377, with the exception of some additional drag. He would have to borrow fuel for the cross country flight.Â Conroy had over $1 million invested in the project — he was flat broke and had a long line of creditors hounding him. I am attempting to find out what happened to Strato Engineering. Thanks for your great site! The various Guppies were modified from 1940's and 50's-vintage Boeing Model 377 and C-97 Stratocruiser airframes by Aero Spacelines, Inc., which operated the aircraft for NASA.  The Pregnant Guppy was the first of the Guppy line of aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines. section of fuselage from a second Stratocruiser … The plane flew perfectly and when they landed, the tower controllers recalled the crash trucks and fire engines. Then the flight engineer reported that their number 3 engine was overheating and starting to run rough.Â What should I do, should I reduce power?Â Â Jacky Pedesky replied, don’t touch it, let it burn up if that’s what it is going to do.Â Somehow, as the plane reached the town, it began to climb.Â Maybe enough fuel burned off to lighten the load.Â Bit by bit it clawed upward.Â Somehow, they passed over the town, barely clearing the trees and buildings.Â Once beyond, they gained sufficient altitude to turn back for a return to Mojave and made a smooth, safe landing. I personally made many of those drawings including the bulkhead at the back of the cockpit as well as the installation of airflow ducts for ventilation into the tail section, and many other routine drawings involving the modification — so many I don’t even remember any of them specifically. My wife tells the story about how her dad pulled her out of school one day and took the family to the Van Nuys airport to watch the first Guppy test flight referenced in this article. There will be a copy on Avsim soon too. There were a few others in the past but this is the last operating Guppy in the world. The Super Guppy … Among its early duties was transporting the first and second stages of the Gemini program's Titan II from the Martin Co. in Baltimore, Maryland to Cape Canaveral. Retrieved October 5, 2006. cool 3.1 years ago. Updated August 31, 2004. To test the project, first the team added the ex-BOAC lengthening section and test flew it.Â It worked fine, though it was a minor modification.Â Then, they had to do the real work of adding the huge “volumetric” cargo hold atop the fuselage.Â Conroy had the skin bolted on, leaving the regular fuselage in place for strength and to reduce the number of modifications needed.Â On September 19, 1962, they logged the first test flight.Â The plane flew perfectly and when they landed, the tower controllers recalled the crash trucks and fire engines.Â In honor of the earlier NASA officials off-handed comment, he named the plane the “Pregnant Guppy.”Â He had to take it to NASA’s offices in Alabama to show them that the concept worked, yet he had no money left. The Super Guppy was built using a Boeing C-97 cargo plane. Aircraft broker Leo Mansdorf was stockpiling surplus Stratocruisers at Van Nuys prior to resale, and ex-USAF pilot John M. Conroy realized the potential of these aircraft to transport the large but relatively light rocket components. [See more photos of NASA's Super Guppy swallowing jets] The first Guppy aircraft, called the Pregnant Guppy, was built from a heavily modified KC-97 Stratotanker in 1962 by the California-based company Aero Spacelines. Those were the days when you could ride your bike into the airport and ride around looking at some really cool planes. Built from a heavily modified KC-97 Stratotanker, the Pregnant Guppy featured the largest cargo compartment of any aircraft ever built. NASA was finding that barge transport of their increasingly large space program components from manufacturers on the West Coast to test and launch sites on the East Coast was slow and expensive. On this date in aviation history, on September 19, 1962, one of the most bizarre aircraft modifications ever accomplished made its first test flight taking off from Van Nuys Airport in California.Â The plane rolled down the runway into the unknown world beyond the limits of aeronautical engineering theory and into the air.Â Nobody knew whether the aircraft would actually fly — in fact, many suspected that it couldn’t, including several aeronautical engineers.Â At the controls was John M. Conroy, a former USAAF B-17 pilot — he had personally funded the effort out of his own pocket.Â The copilot on this first test flight was Clay Lacy, a former United Airlines pilot and former California ANG C-97 Stratofreighter pilot.Â The aircraft was built with one primary purpose and customer in mind — NASA.