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The veteran spyplane too valuable to replace

Satellites – and drones – were intended to replace it. But the 65-year-old Lockheed U-2 is still at the top of its game, flying missions in an environment no other aircraft can operate in. ( More...

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Douglas McFall 13
The U2, SR71 and British Harrier. So advanced in the 1950’s, I can hardly believe they were able to develop such sophisticated aircraft without the advanced computers we have today. Hats off to the great aerospace engineers of that decade.
a mentor 6
Hats off to Kelly Johnson and his team at Lockheed Skunk Works
mchutto 12
Several years ago a friend of mine, who was an F-4 driver at the time, related the story about being somewhere over Kansas when another pilot reported his engine had flamed out and would not restart. He was requesting a straight in approach to Del Rio, TX. Since that was several hundred miles away, Frank asked him what he was flying. Of course, you should already know the answer, U-2.
James Simms 5
August 1959, a Taiwanese pilot in the States for training on the U2 lost his engine & was able to glide to a landing in Cortez, night. He made it safely.
Ken Hardy 6
There is a story about a test flight on the first U2 where the pilot reported a vibration problem due to flutter, when he landed, Kelly Johnson went out on the ramp with a pair of tin snips and cut off some of the trailing edge and told him to go back up and try it. not sure if this is a true story but sounds like something Kelly would do, he and his crew were genius
ADXbear 5
Amazing to watch them takeoff from Palmdale Ca.

She's like the A10 of close air support roll, just to good at her job!
JohnDilley 5
I had the pleasure of watching a U-2 perform touch-and-go at Truckee, CA airport. It's about 6,000 ft elevation, the local chatter was this was an opportunity for pilot training at high altitude. That baby sure was loud when she took back off! And interesting to look at, flying right over head a few times.
CDBrozovich 8
The name itself is so cool... I think will name my band U2!

..oh wait
Dale Pirc 4
At an airport some years ago in Virginia, I was walking to the luggage pickup area. I walked past a man in coveralls talking to his wife/GF (?) and noticed a patch on his coveralls that said "Dragon Lady" I was hesitant to interrupt him, but I had to do so. "Excuse me sir, but do you.." He cut me off mid-sentence and said "Yes, I do." That started one of the most interesting 5 minute conversations in my life. All I asked was "Can you tell me what you can divulge?" And he did. Fascinating! Too bad his luggage came down the chute and he had to run.
Duane Mader 3
Thanks for posting, some new interesting facts. Coffin corner is the fine line between Mach over speed (not airframe breakup) and Mach induced stall at high altitude for non-supersonic planes but that might have been a bit to technical for the article.
My Uncle qualified in "The Dragon Lady" in 1967. Of course I had no idea until I was Googling his history in the Air Force after he passed away.
Mike Boote 3
I used to live in Chico, CA and the U-2 was a familiar sight since they are based at Beale AFB in Marysville.
paul gilpin 4
before that they flew out of Burpelson AFB.
General Ripper told me so.
Have there been any other incidences such as when Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 plane over the Soviet Union in 1960? That was the year I graduated from HS, and I remember reading all the news about it. I caused quite a stir in the relations with the USSR, which at that time were precarious. Or have there been any crashes for mechanical reasons? It is an incredible plane, that’s for sure!
Dan Marotta 2
One of my fellow pilots at Braniff had to bail out of his U-2 somewhere over eastern Europe due to an autopilot malfunction which caused full nose down pitch. The plane over sped and broke up. He wouldn't tell me any more.
John Gerty 2
To the best of my knowledge this is a factual history of U-2 losses.
Norm Beasley 1
Thank you for the URL. Very interesting read. Cheers, Norm
Fazal Khan 3
Truely hats off to those designers. engineers, builders who did so much more with so little. Can you imagine the price tag if they were being developed today, e.g. the F-35 ...
patrick baker 7
from the get-go, this splendid aircraft has been designed to accept the newest plug-in sensors to complete the current requirements. It has its own quirks, but those tell us the aircraft is designed to the highest useful limits , yielding the highest return of data. Imagine flying a cessna 172 with the stall-horn blaring the entire flight, and we get the sense of the tiny edge of cruise/stall speed this plane deals with. Our grandchildren ought to be able to see this plane flying regular missions.
linbb 5
Oh yes and one civilian person who was allowed to fly in the two place one an author Ernest K. Gann told about his experience in it. Quite a ride great author of aviation books.
WhiteKnight77 1
Adam Savage from the Mythbusters was also allowed to fly in the second seat, and it was video taped for broadcast, including the training that they had to do in order to do such.
Frank Lewis 4
I spent from 1962 to 1966 in the 4080 SRW in Texas and then Davis-Monthan AFB doing photo recon analysis of the film. It is a great airplane and the pilots were the best. I should have stayed longer because then we went to Beale AFB and the SR-71 came into being.
Bob Kamman 4
"carry 700lb (212kg) of equipment" ... Well, the BBC may not have to worry about converting imperial to metric, after the first of the year.
Heh, 700lbs = 317.5kg.
"But the 65-year-old Lockheed U-2 is still at the top of its game, flying missions in an environment no other aircraft can operate in." Not even the SR71?
In the 1960’s watched them take off and land at Patrick AFB in support of the Eastern Test Range ... although we always wondered whether that was all they did. They would point that baby up and just disappear. Beautiful to watch.
sparkie624 2
I always loved that plane.... They just cannot get anything better, even in a Satelite!
pagheca 2
"in an environment no other aircraft can operate in"

Actually there is another aircraft that may operate in the same environment, the russian Myasishchev M-55.
John Fahey 3
So let me try to understand this. Retire the SR-71 for whatever reasons you dreamed up, but keep the U-2. As I recall, the SR-71 holds many speed, distance and altitude records, and I'll bet the U-2 is second to or lower in a lot of categories. Could it be that the powers that be realized that they still had intelligence requirements and would not admit that what I call the premature retirement of the SR-71 was a mistake. The identities of both planes are well known. It was probably cheaper to operate the U-2, which you can show a need for, while you build the replacement for the SR-71 in secret.
jcw1953 1
I think you hit it right on the head-/ Groom Lake Area 51 has something cooking..,
jcw1953 1
Why was the SR-71 retired and the U2 not?
Assume if either flew over enemy airspace- they would be shot down— unless the ECM is so secret and working.???
A U2 came out of nowhere and flew directly over me, gliding just barely above the jungle tops, as it headed for a landing at a nearby Air Force base. The U2 was whisper quiet like a ghost except for a quiet engine whine. It was rumored that the Air Force parked the U2s out of sight at a very remote part of the base.
WhiteKnight77 1
Back during the Cuban Missle Crisis, as a photo interpreter at Plattsburgh AFB where B-52s were on alert status, my Pops saw film obtained by the U-2, of the missles sites to plan for strike packages. I swear while watching show about it, I see pics with him in it.
Rick Hoffman 1
yah I am sorry the comment was intended for another article. My fingers screwed up.
Did 71's go the route of the 58's, or ...
Don Bock 1
Interesting, nicely written article. Love the cover photo!!
SkyAware123 0
nobody can breathe 100% oxygen... yeah yeah I know what he's trying to say....
100% O2 is fine at 1 atm pressure (sea level) or less. It's when the pressure of 100% O2 is in the 1.5 atm range and above that it becomes toxic.
D Chambers 3
Apollo 1 was 100% O2. Quite breathable. That's why they burned up. (Not to mention hatch design.)
James Simms 0
We had another incident soon after Apollo 1: From Apollo 1 Wiki: “ On January 31, 1967, four days after the Apollo 1 fire, United States Air Force airmen William F. Bartley Jr. and Richard G. Harmon were killed in a flash fire while tending laboratory rabbits in the Two Man Space Environment Simulator, a pure oxygen chamber at the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base. Like the Apollo 1 fire, the School fire was caused by an electrical spark in a pure oxygen environment. The widows of the Apollo 1 crew sent condolence letters to Bartley and Harmon's families.”

Also, the Soviets had an incident before the Apollo 1 incident & had we known what had happened, probability the Apollo 1 accident may not have happened. As it was, the Soviets were super secret, especially abt their failures. Again Apollo 1 Wiki: “ Incidents had also occurred in the Soviet space program, but due to the Soviet government's policy of secrecy, these were not disclosed until well after the Apollo 1 fire. Cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko died on March 23, 1961, from burns sustained in a fire while participating in a 15-day endurance experiment in a high-oxygen isolation chamber, less than three weeks before the first Vostok crewed space flight; this was disclosed on January 28, 1986.”
themold 2
Sure they can. Not a problem at all.
John Gerty 1
Going in the other direction, namely underwater, there are some tri-mix blends where the O2 proportion of the breathing gas is 10%.

Apollo had a cabin pressure of 5 psia O2. This was reputedly done as a weight saving measure. The ISS is pressurized to 14.7 psi air. Here is a discussion of this on Wikipedia:
Rick Hoffman -1


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