One pilot has been killed and another injured following a U-2 spy plane crash in Northern California this morning.
An Air Force spokesman (via the LA Times) confirmed this afternoon that the crash occurred around 9 a.m. PST during a routine training mission. The aircraft — a single-engine U-2 from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing stationed at nearby Beale Air Force Base located in Sutter County — began to experience troubles shortly after takeoff, leading both pilots to eject from the vessel, which then crashed into a rural area approximately 48 miles north of Sacramento. You can see a photo of the crash site here.
While it was initially reported that both crew members had safely ejected from the U-2, air combat command officials later tweeted that, “There is no official confirmation of status of U-2 pilots.” Shortly thereafter (around 1 p.m.), Sgt. Charity Barrett confirmed the disheartening news that one pilot had passed and that the extent of the second pilot’s injuries were unclear, as is the cause of the plane’s crash.
This marks for the first crash of this nature in over 20 years.
The last time a U-2 Dragon Lady crashed in the area was on Aug. 7, 1996, in Oroville.
The spy plane crashed into a parking lot outside the offices of the Oroville Mercury Register, killing the pilot and a woman on the ground. Capt. Randy Roby, an instructor assigned to Beale Air Force Base, was piloting the plane over the city on a routine mission when it burst into flames, then crashed. Jerri Vering, of Oroville, was leaving the newspaper’s office, and the plane’s wreckage hit and killed her.
According to Fox News, the U-2 is “a high-altitude spy plane which routinely flies at 70,000 feet to take photos and intercept communications…[with] pilots typically wearing pressurized flight suits similar to astronauts.” Both the highest flying and one of the oldest military aircraft currently in operation, the U-2 (nicknamed “The Dragon Lady”) was originally introduced in 1957 as a way of surpassing Russia’s infamous “Iron Curtain” and made headlines in the 1960s when one was shot down by the Soviet Union. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was subsequently captured by Russian forces but exchanged in a prisoner swap nearly two years later.
(Via Fox News)