The Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane, nicknamed Dragon Lady, has been a critically important and fairly controversial aircraft during the course of its sixty year history. Its main purpose is reconnaissance, with the aircraft flying at high altitude while collecting data, snapping pictures and conducting other intelligence gathering.
However, as impressive and capable as the multi-million dollar aircraft is, it does have one major issue: it is incredibly difficult to takeoff and land.
Because of this, U-2 pilots often require the assistant of a chase car that follows them down the runway to ensure that the procedures go smoothly.
A new video posted to YouTube shows a few takeoff and landing demonstrations with the chase vehicles in tow. The requirement of a additional assistance is something few other aircraft can claim.
Check out the U-2 taking off and landing in the video below (take note of the vehicles that often slip in and out of frame behind the plane)
The chase car is a necessary element of the U-2’s takeoffs and landings for a number of reasons. For one, the aircraft was specifically designed to fly at incredibly high altitude. Because of this, the U-2 is more difficult to control the lower it flies.
The heavy controls usually require the pilot to apply a huge amount of force which causes jerky and uncontrolled movements which can be dangerous just a few feet off the ground.
Visibility is also a serious issue. Pilots find it incredibly helpful to have an additional crewman behind them who can count down the landing down to the last couple of feet.
Originally introduced in 1957, the U-2 was a revolutionary aircraft that proved to be vital during the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. However, the U-2 was often the subject of scandals.
In 1960, pilot Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 over the Soviet Union by a surface-to-air missile. While Powers ejected safely, he was ultimately captured and imprisoned. While the CIA attempted to cover up the incident, they were forced to acknowledge what had happened. Powers was released from prison after two years in a prisoner exchange.
And in 1962, pilot Rudolf Anderson was shot down in his U-2 plane over Cuba. He was the only person killed by enemy fire during the Cuban Missile Crisis.