Taking a Ride in a U-2 Spy Plane – Awesome

My blogging-buddy artist friend, David Lemon, sent this video with the comment “gob-smacked, I be.”  You’ll hear it in the video as well. The following information came with the video, and I assume it came via the Brit taking the ride. Lemon says it is “one of the guys from Top Gear on BBC American and UK:” 1950’s technology still being used today, and the long-hair Brit flies 70,000 miles above the earth.

U-2 Spy Plane

In 1960 Francis Gary Powers was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over the Soviet Union during a reconnaisance mission. He activated the self-destruct mechanism for the craft and parachuted out, however, the crash site gave the Soviets almost everything they wanted. Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to ten years in prison, seven of them at hard labor. He was released in 1962 in a spy-swap deal.

Powers died in 1977 in the crash of a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter where he was covering brush fires in Santa Barbara county for N4TV. Ironically, the helicopter ran out of fuel a few miles short of the Burbank, California airport. Fascinating history, and more so because the U-2 is still used today.

The following is the information that accompanied the video:

“You can see why the U-2 is considered the most difficult plane in the world to fly. Each pilot has a co-pilot, who chases the plane on the runway in a sports car. Most of the cars are either Pontiac GTOs or Chevrolet Cameros – the Air Force buys American.

The chase cars talk the pilot down as he lands on bicycle-style landing gear.

In that spacesuit, the pilot in the plane simply cannot get a good view of the runway.

Upon takeoff, the wings on this plane, which extend 103 feet from tip to tip, literally flap.

To stabilize the wings on the runway, two pogo sticks on wheels prop up the ends of the wings. As the plane flies away, the pogo sticks drop off.

The plane climbs at an amazing rate of nearly 10,000 feet a minute.  Within about four minutes, I was at 40,000 feet, higher than any commercial airplane.

We kept going up to 13 miles above Earth’s surface.

You get an incredible sensation up there. As you look out the windows,it feels like you’re floating, it feels like you’re not moving, but you’re actually going 500 mph..

The U-2 was built to go higher than any other aircraft. In fact today,more than 50 years since it went into production, the U-2 flies higher than any aircraft in the world

with the exception of the space shuttle. It is flying more missions and longer missions than ever before -nearly 70 missions a month over Iraq and Afghanistan, an operational tempo that is unequaled in history.

The pilots fly for 11 hours at a time, sometimes more than 11 hours up there alone.  By flying so high, the U-2 has the capability of doing reconnaissance over a country without actually violating its airspace. It can look off to the side, peering 300 miles or more inside a country without actually flying over it

It can “see” in the dark and through clouds.

It can also “hear,” intercepting conversations 14 miles below.

The U-2, an incredible piece of history and also a current piece of high technology, is at the center of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Enjoy the ride! Lockheed U-2″

Thanks to master sculptor, David Lemon.

Awesome Ride in a U-2

  • Yet another thanks for the memories… In 1964 I used to watch the U2’s come and go…not that they were that frequent but whenever I was lucky enought to witness their then secret take-off and landings from Eielson AFB, Alaska. At that time the U2’s were one-seaters. I used to joke with one of the pilots about his flights over the Soviet Union whereas he would be in denial (secret stuff ya know) as he would say he was only flying to Turkey. It doesn’t take any imagination to figure out his flight plan if you’re just outside Fairbanks, Alaska and you know a little geography…


    ps: In those days it was a station wagon used as a chase car and then a guy would jump out before the plane came to rest and attach the wing-tip wheels (referred to as pogo sticks in the video). Also, the U2 would always fly almost straight up at take-off.