U2 Spy plane Crashes into Sutter Buttes – pilots eject


Image of crash site via Action news now -Chico

First responders have been called to a site where an aircraft reportedly flew into the Sutter Buttes. Smoke was visible from the west side of the buttes.

Mutual aid calls were made; a Type 3 engine (capable of fighting wildland fires) was requested. Air ambulance was also called.

A Sutter County sheriff’s deputy reported the plane that crashed was a U-2 training plane, and that the two pilots aboard ejected.

A Beale Air Base spokesman said they could not comment yet whether a military aircraft was involved, but that they are sending a response team and would issue a news release later today.

Warnings were being issued for personnel to stay clear until hazardous materials team arrives, for fear of possible explosions.

UPDATE (via ActionNewsNow): Sources from within Beale Airforce Base told Action News Now that the plane crashed in the Sutter Butte Mountains was the training version of a U2 spy plane.

There is still no word on the condition of the pilots, however, there were two parachutes seen in the sky around the time of the mayday call at 9:10 a.m. however there is no word on their condition.


UPDATE3: Sad news…

Beale AFB Spokesperson: “One pilot confirmed dead in Sutter Butte U-2 crash”

One pilot is dead following a military plane crash near the Sutter Butte mountain range in Sutter County. There is no word on the condition of the other pilot at this time. The unidentified pilot died sometime after ejecting from the U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance plane, which sent a mayday call around 9 a.m.


Via social media Marysville Appeal-Democrat/ChicoER.

Details will be added as they emerge

For those who are not familiar with Northern California, the Sutter Buttes is the smallest contiguous mountain range in the world that sits in the center of the Sacramento valley.

137 thoughts on “U2 Spy plane Crashes into Sutter Buttes – pilots eject

    • Learn something new every day.
      Who knew those rock piles were called the Sutter Buttes. I bet they were named after that gold bug guy way back.
      So Anthony; that smallest mountain range, must explain why the hell you can’t see the Pacific Ocean.
      Those are always on my radar screen, when I am driving up that way; usually to escape California, and head to Oregon; although they have their own flock of nut jobs up there.
      Sounds like the pilots are OK.

      • Any rescue team must be very careful. There’s lots of rattle snakes and black widow spiders there and this is still the warm active season.
        I grew up about 15 miles from there and visited them often. Almost stepped on a snake once… stepping over the rocks is the risky part… foot comes down where you can’t see… especially if it is the sunny warm side where the snakes bask.

    • Yes. They were replaced in CIA and strategic recce roles but the USAF still flies U-2S & TU-2S as tactical reconnaissance platforms. Its 9th Reconnaissance Wing is based at Beale AFB, CA (near Marysville), with squadrons located overseas. So no surprise that a practice flight would crash close to our host’s area of operation.

      • I love that way that this aircraft was so cutting edge in the 1960s, and now carries the most sophisticated of sensors. But it still has a piece of string fluttering around on the nose of the aircraft, to act as a yaw indicator – just as you would get on any glider. Yes, the U2 is simply a large powered glider, but it is rather funny to see that they could not find a better yaw indicator than a small length of string.

      • Well RW, that’s because the wing tips are scraping along the ground when those suckers take off.
        You oughta hear what a whole squadron of Hawker Typhoons sounds like on take off.

      • @ george e. smith
        No, they have wheels on sticks that fit into recesses in the wings for take off. They fall away when it gets in the air.
        When they land a titanium skid on one or other of the wing-tips scrapes on the ground.

    • They still have quite a few. The LMCO “Skunk Works” in Palmdale performs maintenance and re-configuration of existing airframes for evolving missions on a continuous basis.

    • Some would make the case that linking to an Alex Jones website within the commentary at WUWT is an abomination which sullies these pages, regardless of topic.

      • Truly.
        Better have gone to the source:

        Jones is widely regarded in the intelligence community as a Putin stooge. At best a dupe. Goes double for Zero Hedge, the co-founder of which is the son of an ex-Bulgarian KGB agent.
        He’s the 21st century answer to KGB agent of influence I. F. Stone, used to spread the Blame America First message via alternative media. Lord Monckton ought to think twice before appearing on his show, although other reputable characters have done so, in search of publicity with a large audience of susceptible, gullible listeners and viewers.

      • Alan & Gabro,
        That article seems to be pretty normal. I’ve clicked on an ‘Info Wars’ link maybe a half dozen times in total, so I may not be up to speed on that site.
        So if either of you would be so kind, please explain the difference in credibility between CNN (for example) and Info Wars. Is one credible, and the other not? Or what?
        And Alan, what would make that site “an abomination which sullies these pages, regardless of topic” ? Is it worse than John Cook dressing up in his neo-Naz! uniform, or not?
        Just wondering…

      • in search of publicity with a large audience of susceptible, gullible listeners and viewers

        Alan, even before the establishment of the cabinet-level US Dept. of Education in 1980, there was a concerted effort to “dumb down” the educational system. We are now seeing the ultimate results in the available choices in the 2016 presidential election. For many the operating definition nowadays of critical thinking is posting illogical and abusive comments in online discussions.
        The people who share the ideologies most responsible for the deterioration of the educational system now find it “deplorable” that many people will not vote for their candidate. The irony is hilarious to those who are capable of noticing it.
        Some of the “susceptible, gullible listeners and viewers” vote too, and they need to be reached. Monckton seems to understand that the situation is what it is.

      • dbstealey
        September 20, 2016 at 4:47 pm
        Alex Jones uncritically regurgitates blatant Russian propaganda, such as that seven million Americans starved to death during the Depression, so that the USA was worse than Stalin’s genocide in the Ukraine. Instead of quoting Pravda, which is where he got this Big Lie, via RT, he cited non-existent “university studies”.
        To take but one example.
        At best, he’s an entertainer. At worst, and usually, he is a disgusting, “Blame America First” tool of Putin. Sometimes his guests are worth listening to, but bear in mind that he’s anti-vaccine, anti-GMO and anti-American and always pro-Russian and pro-Iranian. He peddles dangerous snake oil literally as well as figuratively. One of his “health” products in colloidal silver.

      • Gabro,
        I’ll defer to your expertise, since I’ve rarely looked at the Alex Jones site. I noticed the flogging of various health remedies, but since I’m not into that sort of thing I just ignored it.
        But you didn’t respond to my request: what is the difference in credibility between CNN (for example) and Info Wars? Is one credible, and the other not?
        Infowars might have information that the big media outlets won’t show us. The great thing about the internet is that the public can now see all points of view.
        So enjoy it while it lasts…

      • @Gabro:
        Don’t be too quick to diss silver. It kills bacteria on contact (with a bit of time). My dentist just applied a silver treatment to my teeth (newly approve by California but used for many decades in Japan) as a cavity preventer. What all else does it do? TBD.
        Yeah, I was surprised by it too…
        BTW, copper shows similar effects as does copper rich brass, but stainless steel does not. Some hospitals now changing to brass finishes to reduce bacterial spread.

    • Absolutely it is climate change. Aircraft have less lift in hot air. This is why there is a ban on aircraft flying over Washington DC. The security thing is just an excuse because the truth is too embarrassing.

      • Was there ever any doubt? The U2 flies higher than any other aircraft so of course it would be affected by the warming atmosphere first. This is just the first of many crashes as planes that were designed for our far more gentle climate break down, We need to conduct a study about this so please send me several million dollars to study what happens when planes are heated by two degree’s Celsius at different levels in our atmosphere! If you don’t send me the money then when planes start falling out of the sky it will be your fault! Think of the children!!!
        I may have also heard a rumor that that Exxon is hiding the truth about this from us! Send me the money before more planes are lost to Exxon’s blatant greed!!!

      • Re aircraft-lift in hot air: We once were prevented from taking off in a small plane from a site in California for several hours because of the very high heat that day; confirming CBob’s statement. Never had thought about it before that, being a confirmed earth-hugger.
        [The mods do not recommend earth-huggers attempt the obvious solution to this problem: Do not attempt to climb back aboard the aircraft after it is safely aloft. .mod]

  1. I’m glad they didn’t use the 1948 Roswell explanation to hide a classified aircraft, you know, “it was an alien spacecraft”.

  2. The U2’s photo recon capabilities have long been used for high altitude infrared photography for resource surveys. Given the present catastrophic pine bark beetle epidemic in the Sierra Nevada the plane would be a valuable asset in inventorying pine mortality. My prayers for the crew’s well being.

  3. O/T but can someone explain to me how NSIDC shows an upswing in arctic ice (even today) but yet the DMI shows above normal arctic temps at a time when, historically, the level of arctic ice is typically plateaued?

  4. Since this is a climate, environment and science site, it is worth noting that the U2 was the ultimate in aeronautical recycling. It is a F104 starfighter, with bigger wings attached. So it must be green…!
    BTW, how could you get your very own F104 starfighter during the 50s and 60s? Buy an acre of land in Germany, and wait…

    • I read somewhere that the F104 has a roll rate of 120 RPM.
      I can see it has a suitable moment of inertia for that; but how the hell do you get it to roll at all with no wings ??

      • george e. smith wrote, “I read somewhere that the F104 has a roll rate of 120 RPM.”
        Perhaps he meant 120 degrees per second. Think about the centrifugal force acting on the tip tanks (wingspan slightly greater than 21 feet — Wikipedia) at 120 RPM. The Zivko Edge 540 aerobatic airplane has a maximum roll rate of 420 degrees per second (Wikipedia).

      • The rpm roll rate was a jolly jest, hinting at the complete instability of the F104. Which is why you could collect one for free, if you owned some land in Gemany….

      • The F-104 was fondly (or not) called The Widowmaker by its German pilots. It was just too hot for the airframe, and difficult to control.
        Interesting thing about the German exchange pilots, they were just thrown into USAF electronics courses. But most of them didn’t know more than a few words of English. It was on the princilpe of ‘sink or swim’.
        By the end of the course they were fairly proficient at English. They certainly weren’t like today’s snowflakes…

      • Perhaps I meant 720 degrees per second.
        That would equate to 120 RPM.
        I think that is what I actually said.

      • I don’t think I said it might do that in combat configurations. You don’t have to wear those tip tanks.
        Also acrobatic aeroplanes aren’t built for speed. A plane has to travel forward, in order to do a roll. If it goes forward faster, it can roll faster. The F-104 can go forward fast. At one time it was the fastest.
        If an acrobatic stunt plane can roll 540 deg. per second, I don’t see 720 as out of the question for the F-104.
        A British F-16 pilot at Farnborough air show clocked a Russian SU-27 Flanker doing a 360 degree turn, at 36 degrees per second. He also said they (the Brits) were trying to reach 10 deg. per second.
        I just read these things, I don’t make them up. Actually I have a video of the Flanker doing that turn. Somebody asked the F-16 pilot what he would do if he encountered that Russian pilot in a Flanker, in a combat situation.
        He said ” Eject “. Smart fellow was the reporter’s comment.

      • I did find a reference that says the operations manual sets an operational limit of 360 deg. per second for the F-104. They didn’t say what the max capability was. It evidently is a very quirky plane to fly.
        It was the first plane to simultaneously hold both the speed and the altitude records.
        1400 and some odd mph or maybe knots, and over 95,000 feet. (not on the same flight).
        No thanks; not for me. I’m holding out for a surplus F-22.

      • I think sometimes I must be talking to myself, and nobody reads any more.
        I distinctly remember mentioning a possible ROLL rate for the F-104, and also the owner operator’s manual restriction to 360 deg. per sec ROLL rate.
        Then later I recall I mentioned a Flanker in a fast 360 degree turn (at Farnborough) at a TURN rate of 36 deg. per second.
        But perhaps I’m just imagining I said those things.

    • I read somewhere that the when cruising at altitude, the difference between the stall speed and the speed at which you run the risk of tearing the wings off for the U2 was only about 10 knots.

      • And the throttle, for the ultrafine corrections needed, had micrometer adjustment. I had the good fortune many years ago to sit in a USAF U2 on the ground in Cyprus. The detachment commander was Col Gary Powers – no, not that one!

      • This is true for every airplane, not just the U-2. As the plane flies higher, the air density lessens. But the airframe needs to keep dynamic pressure constant in order to sustain lift, so the throttle needs to increase in order to increase the speed. Eventually, you reach an altitude where the speed required to stay aloft is equal to the speed (Mach number) at which buffeting begins, which is a speed limit. So, that is your maximum altitude.
        Airliners do not operate near their maximum altitude, so they have some speed range between the stall and buffet conditions.
        Operating near maximum altitude is also not tolerant of maneuvers, such as turns. In order to turn, you have to bank and direct some of your lift into centripetal acceleration. This deducts from the lift holding you aloft, and your turn is a downward spiral, until you can straighten out and climb back to max altitude.

      • Two Canberra bombers came in first and second in the 1960 air race from England to New Zealand. A Vickers Valiant Bomber was also in the race; one of the three British Vee bombers along with the Handley Page Victor, with its Scimitar wings, and the very successful Avro Vulcan Delta. The Valiant had some problems. (No the Victor and the Vulcan were not in the race). Victors eventually became aerial tankers.
        Two odd entries in the race were no shows. A De Havilland Hornet (son of Mosquito), and a P-82 twin Mustang.

        • The P82 looked odd but was a very successful long range fighter. Two pilots, one in each fusilage could share the long range flying with the other resting and actual fighter performance was also great. It fought in the initial stages of the Korean War as well in the later parts of the Pacific war . My dad (ww2 airforce engineer , Pacific) was impressed with them.

          • teamtimtiger
            The P82 looked odd but was a very successful long range fighter. Two pilots, one in each fusilage could share the long range flying with the other resting and actual fighter performance was also great. It fought in the initial stages of the Korean War as well in the later parts of the Pacific war . My dad (ww2 airforce engineer , Pacific) was impressed with them.

            Their failure was the Pentagon’s insistence of denying license funds for a Rolls-Royce (WWII style Mustang) supercharged engine, but going back to the US-built/US-heavy and under-powered Allison engine.

          • Yes. The Merlin design was brilliant and made the single Mustang the great fighter it was. But best if they were Packard built. More power (better build tolerances) greater reliability and none of that great British engine special feature, the incessant oil leak. All that hydro carbon leaking clearly added to global warming.

      • Mister Roberts, I’m going to politely disagree with you there: This from NASA’s technical (not operational history of the U-2 ).
        Appears the Canberra design was approved (and funded too for several aircraft), but Lockheed did a typical Skunk Works end-around to get the long-term production and design contract past the three approved companies. And this back in the stone ages when an aircraft COULD GET to flight testing in less than a year!
        Designing for High Flight
        Air Force officials had been pursuing the idea of high-altitude reconnaissance
        since January 1953, when Bill Lamar and engine specialist Maj. John Seaberg
        of the Wright Air Development Center (WADC) in Ohio drafted a request for
        a design study to develop a highly specialized aircraft that would be produced
        in small numbers. Surprisingly, they recommended bypassing such prominent
        aircraft manufacturers as Lockheed, Boeing, and Convair and instead focusing
        on Bell Aircraft Corporation and Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation.
        Their superiors at Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) head-
        quarters agreed that because a relatively small production run was envisioned,
        these smaller companies would likely give the project a higher priority. In order
        to provide an interim, near-term option, they also asked officials at the Martin
        Company to study the possibility of modifying the manufacturer’s B-57 light
        jet bomber with a longer wingspan and improved engines. The three compa

        nies were asked to submit results by the end of the year. The study project,
        dubbed Bald Eagle, called for a subsonic aircraft with an operational radius of
        1,500 nautical miles that would be capable of attaining an altitude of 70,000
        feet and carrying a single crewmember and a payload of between 100 and 700
        pounds. It was to be equipped with available production engines (modified, if
        necessary) and have as low a gross weight as possible.
        All three companies had submitted their respective studies by January 1954.
        Martin’s modified B-57 (designated Model 294) featured lengthened wings,
        accommodations for cameras and sensors, and uprated twin engines. Fairchild’s
        M-195 design was powered by a single engine and featured an over-the-fuselage
        intake and stub-boom mounting for the vertical and horizontal tail surfaces.
        Bell offered a delicate-looking, lightweight, twin-engine airplane called the
        Model 67.
        (References, page 1).
        Chris Pocock,
        50 Years of the U-2
        (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2005), pp. 10–11.
        Jay Miller,
        The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45
        (Hinckley, U.K.: Midland Publishing, 2001), pp. 207–208.
        (next pdf page follows)
        In order to expedite construction and testing of an interim reconnaissance
        platform, the Model 294 was built using the standard Martin B-57 light,
        twin-engine bomber as a starting point. Under project Black Knight, designers
        at Martin replaced the stock J65-W-5 engines with two 10,000-pound-thrust
        Pratt & Whitney J57-P-9 turbojets. The airplane’s wingspan was extended
        from 64 feet to 106 feet, expanding the gross wing area to 1,500 square feet.
        By April 1955, the Model 294 had been officially designated the RB-57D and
        an initial order for six airframes had been increased to 20. Three versions were
        built, including the first 13 airframes as a single-seat model equipped with
        several cameras and additional sensor gear located in a bay behind the pilot’s
        station. Martin also built a single RB-57D-1 capable of carrying the AN/
        APQ-56 high-resolution, side-looking radar for both daylight and nighttime
        radar-mapping reconnaissance. The final six airframes, designated RB-57D-2,
        carried a second crewmember to operate sensors for gathering electronic
        intelligence (ELINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) data.
        Martin engineers designed an innovative aluminum honeycomb wing structure
        that was both strong and lightweight. Unfortunately, it proved vulnerable
        to water seepage and wing stress. An accelerated flight-test program in 1955
        and 1956 revealed that the wing spar and some of the skin panels were prone
        to cracking and needed strengthening. The spar was not designed for long
        service life of high dynamic loads, and engineers initially estimated the fatigue
        life of the RB-57D to be fewer than 1,000 flight hours. In fact, several aircraft
        were retired after their wings separated following landing. Fortunately, no such
        incident occurred in flight.

  5. Even when you are not in a warzone, the military can be a dangerous profession. Those who serve deserve our respect and gratitude.

    • From WUWT “About”:
      News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news.

    • ..Anthony lives nearby to Sutter Buttes, and it is his web page . So anything he finds relevant or informative is …relevant !

  6. The 104 without wing tip sidewinders did have a high rate of roll, not so good for the pilot which is why they would only do one or two. The U2 early on flew over the UK and as a courtesy the UK Government was asked for permission which was given, the government also asked the US if they minded the RAF sending up a plane to have a look. Permission was given (with a laugh given the high altitude immunity of the plane). There was more than a little surprise later when 2 English Electric Lightnings formated on the U2 wingtips. It was a zoom climb and they soon fell away to atmosphere their engines and wings would handle but the point was made.
    I have also seen U2 parts at the Russian space museum in St Petersberg and also in the Russian Airforce museum in Monina outside Moscow. A powerful point was made when that U2 was shot down (note pun).

    • F-104: The far more common wingtip devices were tip tanks, as the Silver Sliver was a thirsty beast. Incidentally, the tip tanks or Sidewinders acted as aerodynamic “end plates” and improved the wing’s efficiency in turns.
      If the tip tanks’ fore / aft compartments were not filled correctly, a flutter could be induced which would diverge and tear the wings off.
      The aileron performance with flaps up and a clean wing was such that ailerons were limited to about 2/3 travel to limit roll rate.
      U-2: It looks like a powered glider, and would seem docile. But the U-2 is one of the most difficult aircraft in the inventory to fly, and only the best pilots are selected for it.

  7. I developed a microwave radiometer that flew on NASAs U2, called the ER2. Integrated at skunk works, deployed in FL, Australia, and elsewhere. Pilot had to wear pressurized suit. Stood at the end of the runway while it launched. Even got to lie underneath it to calibrate our payload. Good memories of those years.

    • Roy: We had two ER2s at Ames while I was there in the 70’s. We launched every Thursday morning at 10am, they shook the whole hangar on takeoff. It was amazing watching them because they didn’t use that much runway. They’d use less than maximum thrust to start and when they got about halfway down the runway the nose would go up to probably 60 degrees and they hit the gas. It was a lot like watching a rocket launch.

      • E.M.: At the time I was with MAMB (Medium Altitude Missions Branch) assigned to the KAO and Galileo II platforms, we were ceiling limited to 48,000′ on the KAO (heavily modified C-141 Starlifter). I never asked if the ER2s were under MAMB supervision but my understanding is they had a ceiling of 78,000′, which I would call “High Altitude” myself 🙂 We had to be certified for high altitude flight to crew the 141 but we didn’t wear pressure suits, just oxygen over 42,000′.

  8. Condolences to the Pilot that passed away in service to the USA. Thanks for your service, we are grateful.
    And best wishes for his Family of course.
    Dangerous profession piloting is.

  9. @ RWturner
    September 20, 2016 at 11:24 am
    “Loudest noise I’ve ever heard is a U2 taking off. It’s no secret when they fly one out of Kadena.”
    U-2 or SR-71? I know that SR-71s used to be based at Kadena, and they must have had vastly more powerful engines than a U-2…..

      • Really? The ones I’ve seen taking off from Moffet AFB were loud enough to shake your fillings loose. They would go up at a very steep angle, until they were just a dot in the sky… then nothing but a distant roar.

      • Are you sure they were U2’s, their wings are basically glider wings so I wouldn’t expect them to climb at a steep angle. Also I understood that they operated out of Beale not Moffet.

      • DB is correct, we had two at Moffet (Ames Research). And they did shake your fillings. Technically they were ER2s, which were U2s converted for NASA’s purposes.

      • Phil.
        September 20, 2016 at 6:35 pm
        The USAF’s U-2s are based at Beale. NASA’s flew from Moffett, and probably elsewhere.
        After roll, TO is steep:

        A lot of lift.

      • Phil,
        NASA still operates a few weird planes out of Moffet. They come and they go. I’m sure the U2s were doing some sort of high altitude research. Sometimes see a NASA F-5 fly in and out of there, unless it’s a T-38.

      • Phil.
        Are you sure they were U2’s, their wings are basically glider wings so I wouldn’t expect them to climb at a steep angle. Also I understood that they operated out of Beale not Moffet.

        Even the original U-2 are world record holders in climbing! (In several weight classes). The U-2/TR2 also holds highest altitude records in its class.
        From NASA’s pdf files:
        Unlimited Horizons
        The second NASA U-2C—that last of the original U-2 models still flying—was retired in the spring of 1989, but not until Lockheed secured permission to attempt two last recordbreaking flights. Jerry Hoyt took off from Edwards on April 17, 1989, with only 395 gallons of fuel on board. Reaching 9,842 feet in 52 seconds, and eventually attaining 49,212 feet within 6 minutes 15 seconds, the U-2C easily broke previous world time-to-climb records and sustained altitude records for its weight category. This was three times faster than a previous record set with a Learjet that had ultimately topped out at 54,370 feet. Hoyt passed through 65,617 feet in a little over 12 minutes. A mere 16 minutes after takeoff, the U-2 reached a maximum altitude of 73,700 feet.
        The following day, Ron Williams broke records in a higher weight category, taking off with the aircraft fueled to a gross weight of 20,900 pounds. Observers from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) verified the records, and the airplane was subsequently returned to Lockheed in Palmdale, where it was painted black for its final role as a museum exhibit.
        Shortly afterward, Doyle Krumrey flew the final sortie in an original U-2 while delivering the aircraft to Robins Air Force Base, GA, for permanent display.

      • I was thinking in terms of fighter aircraft in reference to steep climbs, the most impressive I saw was the F-15 at Farnborough Air Show trade day basically stand on its tail and climb vertically (record 98,000′ in 205 secs).
        Regarding noise, working in a lab on an RAF base when the V-bombers on standby warmed up their engines was rather impressive!

    • Surfing at 2nd Light right off the runway at Patrick, I can confirm that the U2 is about the loudest thing ever made. They are past 500 feet when they go over and you cover your ears.

  10. My heart goes out to the families of the pilots and my admiration to all those who risk death to serve their country in any capacity.

    • I’m not sure that an isolated, eroded volcanic caldera counts as a mountain range.
      But, hey, geological definitions aren’t always hard, fast and bright line. For that matter, astronomy. Is Pluto a Trans-Neptunian Object, dwarf planet or both? Or a big comet with comet moons?

  11. @dbstealey September 20, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    The F-104 was fondly (or not) called The Widowmaker by its German pilots. It was just too hot for the airframe, and difficult to control.

    There was an often-fatal difference between European and American fighters. German fighter aircraft ejection seats shoot DOWN, versus up as done by US planes. So when a German pilot gets into trouble, their training is to roll to an upside-down position, and eject out of the bottom of the plane, which sends them upwards. Do that in an American fighter, and you can get fatally slammed into the ground by the ejection seat.
    The other problem is that the F-104 had no business being used as a low-level tactical support fighter. Its small wings were designed for aerial dogfighting. At that level, being 50 or 100 feet too low is not a problem. But if you’re flying low-level tactical support in an unstable aircraft, a hundred foot elevation anomaly means a dead pilot.

    • Dear Walter,
      I think you are mingling separate subjects. The original F-104 was produced with a downward-ejecting seat in order to avoid the risk of clearing the vertical stabilizer. This was later replaced by an upward-ejecting seat, and in some cases by the Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat. Ejection seats were not the problem of German accidents. In short, the German habit of harsh flying was not supported by appropriate training. When the training deficiencies were remedied, the accident rate was restored to normal for F-104s around the world. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Air_Force#Aircraft_inventory

  12. Sutter Buttes is scientifically, the smallest mountain range on earth. Fascinating geologic trivia. The real question is why the hell are we flying 60 plus year old airplanes? Madness, But then the B52s are 60 plus year old designs. More madness We are SO screwed.

    • Renaldo, the moniker U2 might be 60 years old as is the B52’s one , but the airframes, controls engines are constantly upgraded to today’s tech, I may be wrong but I doubt a U2 pilot from the 50-60’s would even recognize the cockpit and the instrumentation they carry these days such as instant communication with the ground crews. Check out the video with the the pilots flying them these days in the article’s comments, great stuff very informing.

      • And airframe does basic things that just don’t change. It holds the engines and wings together with the pilot and fuel, keeps the landing gear where it belongs, and provides control surfaces.
        What changes are electronics, avionics, to a lesser degree engines, and very slowly, wing airfoil designs. All those can be, and are, replaced over time.
        If I set out today to design a big huge capacity high altitude subsonic bomber with exceptioal range, it would end up like a B-52. If making a super high altitude recon plane, it would look remarkably like a U2. The physics forces it.
        You could maybe make a case for different metals (titanium or superstrong aluminum alloys) but that wouldn’t change the shape that works best. Carbon fibre it light and stong, but a PITA in huge sizes, so mostly good for smaller replaceable parts (nose cones, covers, winglets). Yes, you can make a bomber out of it, but you end up at $ Billions per plane… great as a stealth job, but once the air defenses are taken out, using the aluminum truck is a lot cheaper…
        Change the design goal job it is to do, you might need a redesign, but for a given job, the best shape is pretty much fixed. Take the A-10 Warthog. Looks a lot like a W.W.II Dive Bomber… same design point of ground support… so slow air speed, straight wings, big engines, bigger guns… Even the redundant cable controls… they take getting shot up better so fly when hydraulics are shot. We did add a titanium bathtub around the pilot and bulletproof windscreen… but basically its a 1940 design goal with jet engines… It is also the most lethal thing flying against ground armor and vehicles… It could be used for 50 more years just fine (but we would need to build new ones as the present batch has been shot up a lot).
        Basically, the air doesn’t change and the job rarely does… so the tool design is still good.

  13. Sure, the U2 is a good plane, but the SR71 was magnificent.
    IMHO the most magnificent engineering creation of all time.
    And then they dumped it!
    Absolutely heartbreaking; will we ever see its like again?

    • They only retire a plane like that when something better is in use, but secret.
      Agree with you on the magnificence. I grew up under the flight path from Beale… watching them fly at low altitude was a real treat, even the sonic booms…before that was discouraged. At night, the big blue flames out the back are spectacular. .. about 12 miles away, but at their speeds, that was right under their power out or final in…
      Very expensive to operate though. Special fuel, leaks out through the skin, slowly, until it heats up in flight, must take off barely fueled, then hit the tanker to fuel up for the mission, etc. etc.
      I do wish they had kept a couple flying for air shows instead of gutting them and putting the shell on display…. why museum curators hate engines is beyond me… but they regularly destroy them.

      • Wow!
        Color me green with envy.
        The only one I have seen is the one at the aircraft carrier/museum in NYC. I actually touched it!
        Yes, I have washed that hand since; I am in love with that plane.

    • Kelly Johnson was not only a thinker that imagined the impossible but an engineer that made these wonderful lockheed possible and reliable. Old aircraft engineer then flight engineer in the distant past.

  14. Saw one of these taking off in the UK once…
    The length of the wings seemed incredible…
    (hope the pilots are well!)

    • Saw one making a banked turn over Vancouver, British Columbia, when I was eating at a bistro in the 1986 Exposition. Slow, graceful, and loud. It was later on display the following day at the Abbotsford BC air show. Roped off to a distance of 20 feet. Got some good photos.

  15. Couple of people have brought up U-2 “age” – Remember, these are Air Force and CIA aircraft, often NOT flying in one year as much as commercial airliners do in a week. (U-2 recon a bit different than bombers though.) From the NASA book referenced above:

    The U-2 fleet was produced in several batches. The first production run was built for the CIA with 20 airframes constructed at Burbank, CA, under contract SP-1913. A second batch of 29 airframes was constructed at Oildale, CA, under contract SP-1914. An additional airframe was built as part of this batch, possibly using parts from crash-damaged airframes. Each U-2 airframe was identified by a three-digit Lockheed construction number, called an article number. Air Force serial numbers were assigned in 1956.
    The original prototype (Article 341) never received a U.S. Air Force serial number. Article 390 was allocated a serial number that had been previously assigned to Article 357, which was lost in a nonfatal accident. The Air Force ordered a supplementary batch of five airframes in 1958. In 1967 and 1968, the CIA and Air Force received 12 U-2R airframes, four of which survived to be converted to U-2S configuration.
    Between 1981 and 1989, a total of 37 new airframes were built under the designations TR-1A, TR-1B, U-2R, and ER-2. The TR-1 series aircraft were redesignated U-2R in October 1991 and later converted to U-2S

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