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Many more – and even larger – Guppies were to be built by Aero Spacelines, partly because Conroy, always looking ahead, had the foresight to buy up all the scrapped Stratocruisers available, a move that put him in front of any competition in the development of additional jumbo transports.

“The Guppy was the single most important piece of equipment to put a man on the moon in the decade of the 1960’s.”

Jack’s Guppies would continuously ferry one-of-a-kind, multimillion dollar cargoes between space program facilities and the launch site at Cape Kennedy for the next decade. He would carry NASA freight including launch vehicles for the Gemini program, Apollo command and service modules, hardware for the Pegasus meteoroid detection satellite, F-1 engines, the instrument unit for Saturn I and other outsized NASA cargo. Jack and Clay Lacy flew many of those flights themselves.

On May 26, 1968, Jack was awarded the City of Paris Medal at the International Aeronautics and Space Show. The medal is awarded bi-annually ‘to one person from each country in recognition of their contribution to the advancements in the field of aerospace.’

Even after Conroy and Aero Spacelines parted ways, more Guppies would continue flying, logging over 2,000,000 miles in support of NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. In his comprehensive book, “Stages to Saturn,” author Roger Bilstein says of the Guppies:

“Without the availability of these unique planes, NASA might have been forced to scrub some of the schedule launches, incurring horrendous costs in money and time.”

» A sketch on a napkin writ large for history Before the word “entrepreneur” was used very often, the down-to-earth vision of one man made it possible to put the first man on the moon. Jack went on to invent many more planes, all pragmatic responses to changing market conditions, but it was the Guppy that made him a star. To commemorate the contributions of the Guppies, Werner von Braun gave Jack a letter that stated:


M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 0

Werner von Braun

Jack Conroy would continue to invent airplanes until 1979 when he died of cancer at the age of 59. All four of his wives and all seven children attended the funeral, which was a fly-by at Camarillo Airport in Southern California, featuring every airplane Jack had ever invented or flown. Jack’s Guppy was the star. As Clay Lacy said, Jack had one big idea. And as Jack Conroy said, it was a lulu.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Margy Bloom is a Los Angeles-based writer specializing in aviation and aviation history. She is currently writing a book about the life of Jack Conroy. FOR FURTHER READING Stages to Saturn by Roger E. Bilstein, c. 2003 University Press of Florida Global Aviation Visionary: “Smilin’ Jack” Conroy by Robert R. Kirby & George M. Warner; Foreword by Clay Lacy, c. 2008 BAC Publishers The CL44 Association: Goleta Air and Space Museum:

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PilotMag-May/June 2010  

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