U2 Spy plane Crashes into Sutter Buttes – pilots eject

a-u2-crash
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.

UPDATE2:

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.

http://www.actionnewsnow.com/news/beale-afb-spokesperson-one-pilot-confirmed-dead-in-sutter-butte-u-2-crash-/


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.

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Bloke down the pub
September 20, 2016 10:36 am

The Dragon Lady is getting a bit long in the tooth now.

george e. smith
Reply to  Bloke down the pub
September 20, 2016 11:57 am

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.
G

Gabro
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 3:25 pm

That and the Coast Range being in the way, which is why the Central Valley of CA is a valley and not a plain.

Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 8:10 pm

No. One dead. One injured

E.M.Smith
Editor
Reply to  george e. smith
September 22, 2016 12:10 am

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.

Greg
Reply to  Bloke down the pub
September 20, 2016 2:51 pm

Lucky they had the time to eject , otherwise they’d have got their butts suttered.

Reply to  Greg
September 20, 2016 4:44 pm

Latest, one Pilot dead the other injured.

george e. smith
Reply to  Greg
September 20, 2016 5:19 pm

Sadly one pilot is lost.
Ejection from a jet; even one the speed of a U-2 is a serious business. One might call it a near death experience.
It is better than some of the alternatives; but not much.
G

GPHanner
Reply to  Bloke down the pub
September 21, 2016 9:15 am

So is the B-52. And yet, it flies on.

MarkW
September 20, 2016 10:40 am

They are still flying U2s?

Gabro
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 10:56 am

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.

Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 11:06 am

Anthony’s proximity explains the post, thank you. Brain isn’t quite firing on all cylinders yet; I was wondering how I got into a California general news site.

RWturner
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 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.

ralfellis
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 11:51 am

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.
R

george e. smith
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:01 pm

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.
G

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:28 pm

The loudest aircraft in the world is Tu-95 Bear.

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:29 pm

Four huge turboprop engines, each with two contra-rotating four-blade props.

Reply to  Gabro
September 21, 2016 7:28 am

@ 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.

MarkW
Reply to  Gabro
September 21, 2016 10:05 am

Are there fuel tanks in the wings? If so, they wings would be lighter on landing and wouldn’t droop as much.

george e. smith
Reply to  Gabro
September 21, 2016 11:10 am

The fishing has been quite successful so far. I get a few grabs now and then !
g

Bob Newkirk
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 11:05 am

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.

TR
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 11:16 am

yes. every day.

TR
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 11:16 am

Yes. They do everyday.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 11:33 am

check out Tom Hanks.. “Bridge of Spies” the DVD has in the bonus section a ‘new’ U2 used for training.
they filmed some stuff at the AFB where the plane is housed

September 20, 2016 10:41 am

Now this is a timely WUWT moment.

Josh
September 20, 2016 11:09 am
Alan Robertson
Reply to  Josh
September 20, 2016 12:09 pm

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.

Gabro
Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 20, 2016 12:24 pm

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.

Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 20, 2016 4:47 pm

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…comment image

Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 20, 2016 5:06 pm

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.

Gabro
Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 20, 2016 7:02 pm

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.

Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 21, 2016 12:58 pm

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…

E.M.Smith
Editor
Reply to  Alan Robertson
September 22, 2016 12:24 am

@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.
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/silver-stops-tooth-decay-and-cavities/
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.

PiperPaul
September 20, 2016 11:14 am

Did ClimateChange™ cause this? I bet it did. And these types of things will get worse in the future.

commieBob
Reply to  PiperPaul
September 20, 2016 12:33 pm

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.

Michael
Reply to  commieBob
September 20, 2016 9:28 pm

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!!!

Monkeys' Cousin
Reply to  commieBob
September 21, 2016 12:49 pm

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]

Tom in Florida
September 20, 2016 11:14 am

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

Gabro
Reply to  Tom in Florida
September 20, 2016 11:17 am

Plus, it has been a long time since U-2 was classified.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 11:22 am

Unless it was really an SR-71 and the training U-2 was the cover story.

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:16 pm

SR-71 is also not classified. It was publicly announced both when it was retired and when it was brought out of retirement.
There is a classified replacement, but Aviation Leak has blown its cover.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:35 pm

Oh, I thought the performance limits was classified.

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:50 pm

Mach 3.3+, nominally 3.2.
85,000 feet.
According to open sources. Might be more.

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 12:59 pm

Plus, last SR-71 flight was on 9 October 1999.
The survivors are all in museums now, along with the flight simulator from Edwards AFB.

george e. smith
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 5:26 pm

Boeing Museum in Seattle has a YF-12-A
G

MarkW
Reply to  Gabro
September 21, 2016 10:08 am

There’s one outside the space center in Huntsville, AL.

the other Ed Brown
September 20, 2016 11:23 am

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.

September 20, 2016 11:25 am

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?

Adam Gallon
Reply to  probono
September 20, 2016 11:39 am

What’s the freezing point of sea water?

Reply to  Adam Gallon
September 20, 2016 11:47 am

how does sea ice increase at a rate above its seasonal average when temps, according to DMI, have been above their average for the past month. Something doesn’t gel.

Reply to  Adam Gallon
September 20, 2016 11:52 am

what’s the freezing point of sea water with a 5 knot wind?

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Adam Gallon
September 20, 2016 12:36 pm

Same as the melting point.

Billy Liar
Reply to  probono
September 21, 2016 12:55 pm

See section 83 page 204 of the link for a comprehensive discussion of ice thickness as a function of air temperature:
http://ia801408.us.archive.org/34/items/arcticice00zubo/arcticice00zubo.pdf

Myron Mesecke
September 20, 2016 11:34 am

In the movie Iron Eagle, Doug Masters plays Queen when he is flying.
Do the U2 pilots play U2?

September 20, 2016 11:36 am

So the U2 meets the Joshua Tree. Now that’s Karma.

Gabro
Reply to  Scott Frasier
September 20, 2016 1:02 pm

Sutter Buttes in northern CA are a long way from the nearest Joshua tree:comment image

george e. smith
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 5:28 pm

Was going to say, I don’t think any yuccas can grow that far north.
g

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 6:56 pm

George.
They don’t, but I’ve seen the most northerly yucca in Nevada. It’s surprisingly far north of Vegas. Must be all that global warming we’ve been reading about.
Oh, wait. It’s probably hundreds of years old.
Never mind.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Scott Frasier
September 20, 2016 1:37 pm

The Sutter Buttes are north of Sacramento, Joshua Tree is well south.

E.M.Smith
Editor
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
September 22, 2016 12:31 am

Yet I have one in my yard in silicon valley….
I think you mean the natural historic range is well south…
I don’t remeber seeing one when I was growing up there, but the climate doesn’t prevent it. I think I’ve seen them in some Sacramento yard… They make nice flowers…

ralfellis
September 20, 2016 11:37 am

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…
R

george e. smith
Reply to  ralfellis
September 20, 2016 12:10 pm

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 ??
G

Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 12:48 pm

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).

ralfellis
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 1:09 pm

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….

Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 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.
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…

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 5:41 pm

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

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 6:16 pm

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.
G

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 6:25 pm

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).
G
No thanks; not for me. I’m holding out for a surplus F-22.

Gabro
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 6:54 pm

Very few F-22s.

Gabro
Reply to  george e. smith
September 20, 2016 6:55 pm

Plus DC-area real estate is pricey.

David Chappell
Reply to  george e. smith
September 21, 2016 8:38 am

Are you talking about rate of roll or rate of turn? Two very different concepts.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
September 21, 2016 11:18 am

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.
G

MarkW
Reply to  ralfellis
September 20, 2016 1:30 pm

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.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 2:52 pm

True. It’s a function of the thin air at the altitude at which the U2 operates.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2016 6:50 pm

Yes, termed ‘Coffin Corner’, a lot of the time the U2 was operated just 5mph above stall speed.

David Chappell
Reply to  MarkW
September 21, 2016 8:35 am

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!

Michael J. Dunn
Reply to  MarkW
September 21, 2016 12:52 pm

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.

Michael C. Roberts
Reply to  ralfellis
September 21, 2016 10:09 am

Ralfellis – The U2 airframe is actually based on the old British B-57 Canberra:
http://www.tailsthroughtime.com/2010/08/u-2s-antecedent-martin-rb-57d-canberra.html
And George E. Smith is correct up above, the test aircraft for the SR-71 was the YF-12-A.
Regards from an old aircraft buff,
Michael C. Roberts

george e. smith
Reply to  Michael C. Roberts
September 21, 2016 11:33 am

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.
G

Reply to  george e. smith
September 21, 2016 2:26 pm

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.

RACookPE1978
Editor
Reply to  teamtimtiger
September 21, 2016 6:27 pm

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.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
September 22, 2016 4:27 am

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.

RACookPE1978
Editor
Reply to  Michael C. Roberts
September 21, 2016 7:23 pm

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!
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/unlimited-horizons.pdf
1
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.
1
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).
1.
Chris Pocock,
50 Years of the U-2
(Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2005), pp. 10–11.
2.
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.
3
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.

Marcus
September 20, 2016 12:38 pm

Sadly, some people on Beale’s Air Force Base Facebook page are claiming that one pilot is deceased…

Marcus
Reply to  Marcus
September 20, 2016 1:36 pm

Unfortunately it is now confirmed, one of our brave pilots has died..
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-u2-spy-plane-down-northern-california-20160920-snap-story.html
My condolences to the family and friends..

Gabro
Reply to  Marcus
September 20, 2016 3:27 pm

Thanks.
My condolences as well.
Doesn’t say if the pilot killed were the trainer or the trainee.

Bubba Cow
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 3:46 pm

“Air Force Times has learned that the pilot killed was a lieutenant colonel”.
https://www.airforcetimes.com/articles/u-2-crashes

Gabro
Reply to  Gabro
September 20, 2016 6:53 pm

Then the IP died. I hope his student doesn’t blame himself and get eaten up by guilt.

TA
September 20, 2016 2:12 pm

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

noaaprogrammer
Reply to  TA
September 20, 2016 9:50 pm

Yes, just a few weeks ago a Swiss Army jet crashed near Susten Pass in the Swiss Alps.

Terry Warner
September 20, 2016 3:00 pm

What has this got to do with climate??

Gabro
Reply to  Terry Warner
September 20, 2016 3:05 pm

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

Marcus
Reply to  Terry Warner
September 20, 2016 3:07 pm

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

Richard from Brooklyn (southern hemisphere)
September 20, 2016 3:05 pm

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).

Brett Keane
Reply to  Richard from Brooklyn (southern hemisphere)
September 20, 2016 8:32 pm

Harriers cruise way past that…..Wingtip nozzles very useful there.

brians356
Reply to  Richard from Brooklyn (southern hemisphere)
September 22, 2016 4:16 pm

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.

Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 3:18 pm

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.

Marcus
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 5:06 pm
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 6:39 pm

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.Smith
Editor
Reply to  Bartleby
September 22, 2016 12:49 am

Got to see that once (brother in law worked at Ames) and it is exactly as described. Just a bit of runway then straight up and gone at altitude…

Reply to  Bartleby
September 22, 2016 2:16 pm

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′.

KevinK
September 20, 2016 3:54 pm

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.
KevinK.

Ian L. McQueen
September 20, 2016 4:21 pm

@ 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…..
Ian

Roy Spencer
Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
September 20, 2016 4:24 pm

Standing directly behind the U2 taking off at the end of the runway, we literally could not hear it.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 5:18 pm

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.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 6:35 pm

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.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 6:43 pm

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.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 6:45 pm

And yes, they did take off at a very step angle.

Gabro
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 6:52 pm

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.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 7:03 pm

OK those are U-2R which are a substantially bigger plane than the U-2 that I’m familiar with.

Gabro
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 7:10 pm

Phil,
We’re up to S-model now.

Gabro
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 20, 2016 7:14 pm

http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/Display/tabid/224/Article/104560/u-2stu-2s.aspx
Improved engine over power plant of the R-model, which, as you note, was 40% bigger than previous variants.
Still, basic design in use for going on 60 years.
Just like B-52, for which fewer, more powerful turbofan engines have been proposed as a late life upgrade.

george e. smith
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 21, 2016 11:38 am

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.
G

RACookPE1978
Editor
Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 21, 2016 8:33 pm

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:
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/unlimited-horizons.pdf
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.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 22, 2016 3:00 pm

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!

G3Ellis
Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
September 21, 2016 8:26 am

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.

Pop Piasa
September 20, 2016 6:16 pm

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.

September 20, 2016 7:08 pm

I pray for the families of the pilots. I hope the other one survived.
I had my doubts about the “smallest mountain range” in the world, But:
http://unofficialnetworks.com/2013/04/smallest-mountain-range-world-sutter-buttes
That is my style now after hiking around Colorado 14,000 ft peaks in my youth. I should visit. I guess you have to get to know one of the ranchers to hike around there – all private land…

Gabro
Reply to  J. Philip Peterson
September 20, 2016 7:19 pm

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?

Pop Piasa
September 20, 2016 7:45 pm

At the risk of sounding flippant, I would remind all pilots to not leave any smoking buttes.

Editor
September 20, 2016 8:11 pm

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.

Gabro
Reply to  Walter Dnes
September 20, 2016 8:15 pm

True. Its selection by the GAF in that role was scandalous. Literally.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Walter Dnes
September 20, 2016 11:43 pm

true, its being sold by Lockheed in that role, aided by generous ‘consultancy fees’ was a scandal…

Michael J. Dunn
Reply to  Walter Dnes
September 21, 2016 2:24 pm

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

Renaldo
September 20, 2016 10:45 pm

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.

MarkW
Reply to  Renaldo
September 21, 2016 10:18 am

Doesn’t matter how old the design is, as long as it can do the job and is aeronautically sound.

Reply to  Renaldo
September 21, 2016 12:20 pm

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.

Renaldo
Reply to  asybot
September 21, 2016 5:58 pm

Right you are but the basic air frame is from the 19
50’s. Seems we could do better. Just saying.

E.M.Smith
Editor
Reply to  asybot
September 22, 2016 1:25 am

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.

William
September 20, 2016 11:42 pm

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?

E.M.Smith
Editor
Reply to  William
September 22, 2016 1:38 am

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.

William
Reply to  E.M.Smith
September 22, 2016 4:16 am

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.

Reply to  William
September 25, 2016 5:23 am

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.

Griff
September 21, 2016 12:21 am

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

markl
Reply to  Griff
September 21, 2016 9:51 am

One of the two on board died.

Michael J. Dunn
Reply to  Griff
September 21, 2016 2:27 pm

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.

RACookPE1978
Editor
September 21, 2016 8:08 pm

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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