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USA 2015


In October 2015, 4 of the restoration team, Gaz, Emma, Neil and Oliver visited the USA to see close up the sole remaining Super Guppy (N941AS) flying in service for NASA.
The trip centred on El Paso where the Super Guppy was operating and Tuscon for a visit to the Pima Air Museum to see the preserved example N940NS
Here is the story of the trip as told by Gaz.....

Wednesday 21st October 2015:
We’d had a busy couple of days, driving the almost 700 mile round trip to Tucson and back to El Paso, so we’d had a fairly lazy morning. No alarms were set and the four of us rolled out of bed when we felt like it. After all, Stuart, my contact at NASA and a good friend to boot, had told us that the Guppy wasn’t due in until 14:00-15:00. We also knew that bad weather was around and that was due to change, so, despite the lazy start, we were all fed and watered and were pottering around our lovely rented house.
Shortly after 10:30 I received a text from Stu:
      “Guppy is airborne and headed this way. ETA 12:56MDT. I would suggest you get here at least an hour before hand.”
We were, roughly, 45 minutes from the airport and traffic on the I-10 could be unpredictable at best….

We gathered our gear and headed for the car. Well, three of us did! Oliver decided that now was a good time to start pratting around with something or other. I was in the car with Neil and Emma, engine running, inventing new swear words for describing what I’d do to Oli if we missed the flight. At 10:58 I said to Neil and Emma “He’s got til 11”. I meant it as well, I would have left him to his makeup, or whatever it was he was doing. He rocked up with seconds to spare, saying something about preparing stuff for dinner, I think! By this time I wasn’t really listening.
We headed for El Paso International.   
The drive down was fairly uneventful. The I-10 was kind to us and the satnav behaved itself. We were outside NASA Forward Operating Location El Paso, within 45 minutes.
Stuart greeted us at the door (we’d, completely by accident, already met Stu at El Paso International when we landed. He was on the aircraft that landed immediately after ours and we met in the arrivals hall!), gave us a quick tour of their office and told us that Pierre (Guppy #2 Toulouse) and his wife, Anne, were already here. He then led us into their hangar and the first sight of a NASA branded aircraft was right on the other side of the door:

A stunning T-38 receiving some TLC!     
Stu gave us a quick walking tour of the hangar, pointing out all of the Guppy spares, including prop sets, NLG, MLG and engines as well as some of the various pallet components for their payloads.

Stuart received notice that 941 was only 20 miles out, so it was time to move. We piled into a Dodge Grand Caravan and were driven to the corner of Boeing Drive/Airport Road. We took up position with cameras poised.

All of a sudden, I heard a Texan accent shout “There she is!” I looked round and, indeed, there she was! The next five minutes, or so, were something of a blur. I was completely spellbound, like a rabbit in the headlights. I’d waited a long old time to see a Guppy in flight and I was enjoying every second of it. The 7D was working flat out, machine gun photography at its finest. I took, around 400 photos of the approach:

Stuart wanted us to be able to photograph her taxiing to her ramp so he bundled us back in to the van and performed some, frankly, heroic driving manoeuvres to get us back to base ahead of the aircraft. We hurried through the office, out through the hangar and out on to the pan. Absolute perfect timing!
I was beside myself! There she was, right in front of me, props turning!

on the left is a slideshow of the Super Guppy taxiing in!

roll your mouse over the image  to show the toolbar and then you can click on the left hand button to start/stop the slideshow or use the left & right arrows to navigate manually, the slideshow pauses each image for about 10 seconds

Over the next 36 hours we witnessed the unloading/loading of pallets, I got to handle the controls on the dolly wheel that moves the cargo door, we got to be on board as the aircraft was towed and the cargo door opened and we had an extensive tour of the T-38 facility.

on the right is a slideshow sequence of the door opening use the left hand button to start / stop the slideshow or use the arrows to navigate manually

LEFT: If Gaz's grin gets any wider his face will split!
RIGHT: For Emma it was all a bit too much

BELOW: 2 photos, the cockpit ot N941AS followed by
the cockpit of F-BTGV at Bruntingthorpe for comparison
please select the images from the thumbnails
BELOW RIGHT - a gallery of photos of the interior,
select which image you want to view from the thumbnails below

we had dinner with a few of the NASA guys at our house, we also went for some authentic Texas BBQ with them

Right:  N941AS wasn't the only Guppy we saw, we made the trip to Pima to see N940AS which is preserved / mothballed there, it's a slideshow so click the left hand button to start it or selcet the pics manually

Left - all safely locked up

Feeling on top of the world- or at least the Super Guppy!
from left to right,
Anne Cogneville, Pierre Cogneville (from Guppy No.2 team preserved at Toulouse), Oliver Williams, Gareth Lander, Neil Lanwarne and Emma Mullins.
Photographer was, Program Manager and Discovery Channel megastar, Dave Elliott.

a photo to remember!  

and finally below, a moment of reflection

At some point, I can’t remember exactly when, myself, Neil, Emma and Oliver, were standing together.
I said “After this and after seeing the original Super Guppy at Pima (Which we’d done earlier in the week), that’s it!
seen every last one of them!”
We shook hands, hugged and back slapped.


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