Over 50 years ago on the first of August 1955 a radically different aircraft took flight on Groom Lake (Area 51) and - although supposed to be only a high-speed taxi test - leaped into the air at 70 knots!
The Aircraft? The Legendary Lockheed U2!
The unique design of the aircraft gives the U-2 its remarkable performance while at the same time one of the most difficult aircraft in the world to fly. This is because the design called for minimum airframe weight resulting in an aircraft with little margin for error. The aircraft was designed by Kelly Johnson of the legendary "Skunk Works", and because of the intended use of the aircraft was flown by pilots employed by the CIA. The first overflight of the Soviet Union occurred on the 4th of July 1956. The pilots were military pilots who had to resign their air force commissions and become employees of the CIA in order to make these flights.
Gary Power U2 Flight Shot Down Over The Soviet Union
On May 1st 1960 U2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union creating an international firestorm. Later, on October 27th 1962 was shot down over Cuba on a photography mission during the Cuban missile crisis. The U2 remains in service with the USAF with an anticipated retirement sometime in 2012; however, who knows if this will actually occur.
BBC Correspondant James May Takes A U2 Flight
Imagine climbing at in incredible 10,000 feet per minute and reaching 40,000 feet in just 4 minutes! A few minutes later you level off at 70,000 feet looking down at airliners some 40,000 feet below you!
Today U2 pilots fly for some 11 hours at a time conducting reconnaissance of a country without actually violating its airspace. This is because at that altitude it can easily see some 300 miles or more into a country off of its side. Today the U2 flies nearly 70 missions a month over Iraq and Afghanistan. That's what I call "Flying High"! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7
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