Ride with a U2 pilot as he skims across the earth at altitudes beyond normal comprehension to get to the “terminator line”, the position on earth that separates day from night.
The “Dragon Lady” has been flying for more than 50 years. It is amazing to think that such an airplane has existed since Elvis was shaking his hips and the Beatles had not even made it to America yet. Upgrades such as new engines, electronics, and new sensor suites have made the U2 a still viable reconnaissance platform for Combatant Commanders around the world.
When U2 pilots take off, they are heading up into space, not just the sky. There is a point in the atmosphere where night takes over the day. In a sense, nighttime “creeps up on you”. To pilots flying the Dragon Lady, it is a humbling experience to see such a sight.
The advertised altitude ceiling of the U2 is 70,000 feet. That seems a bit low when you see the photos–but who really knows?
There is also the old joke that makes its way around the USAF O’Clubs, especially places like Osan Air Force Base in South Korea–home of the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron detachment.
A Dragon Lady pilot asks the air traffic controller if he can have 60,000 feet as an altitude. The air traffic controller responds with a chuckle, “You can have 60,000 feet if you can get up there”.
The Dragon Lady’s response: “Descending down to 60,000 feet”.
Enjoy the video!
(U.S. Air Force Video by Andrew Arthur Breese)
Top Photo: An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady flies a training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds)