comscore 1 Air Force pilot dead, 1 hurt after ejecting in California | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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1 Air Force pilot dead, 1 hurt after ejecting in California

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A U.S. Air Force Hazmat team inspected the wreckage of a U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane that crashed in the Sutter Butte mountains today near Yuba City, Calif.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Colonel Larry Broadwell, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and Beale Air Force base, near Marysville, Calif., discussed the crash of a U-2 spy plane today.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The wreckage of a U-2 spy plane that crashed after taking off from Beale Air Force Base on a training mission in Northern California, is seen Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016.

SUTTER, Calif. >> One American pilot was killed and another injured when they ejected from a U-2 spy plane shortly before it crashed in Northern California this morning, the U.S. Air Force said.

The plane crashed shortly after taking off from Beale Air Force Base on a training mission around 9 a.m., military officials said. They did not release the pilots’ names or any information about the condition of the surviving airman.

The aircraft, assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, crashed in the Sutter Buttes, a mountain range about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Sacramento.

Col. Larry Broadwell, the base commander, said the flight, including its flight path was routine before the crash. He pledged to support the family of the deceased pilot and said surveillance pilots will mourn the loss.

“These incidents, while extremely tragic and hard for us to overcome, they’re incidents that we do overcome,” Broadwell said. “I am confident that the U-2 squadrons here and the U-2 squadrons around the world are going to come off the mat stronger than they were before.”

The U-2 “Dragon Lady” is a surveillance and reconnaissance plane capable of flying above 70,000 feet (21,336 meters), an extremely high altitude that’s twice as high as a typical commercial airliner flies. The U-2 is known as one of the most difficult aircraft to fly at low altitudes due to the characteristics that allow it to travel near space, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

Beale Air Force Base is home to the Air Force’s fleet of single-seat U-2s and a double-seat variant used for training pilots to fly the specialized aircraft. It also is the base for the T-38 Talon, a training aircraft, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned surveillance drone. It houses 4,500 military personnel.

“We are saddened by our Airman’s death & offer condolences to the family & all who are mourning this tremendous loss,” Gen. Dave Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said on Twitter.

Ejection seats allow military pilots to get out of a stricken plane and parachute safely to the ground. After the death in this instance, military investigators will look into whether the chute properly deployed and whether the pilot hit debris after ejecting, said Michael Barr, an aviation safety instructor at University of Southern California who flew fighter missions in Vietnam.

“If the chute didn’t properly deploy, that would be fatal,” Barr said.

The U-2 is slated for retirement in 2019 as the military relies increasingly on unmanned aircraft for intelligence gathering, though senior U.S. lawmakers from California are pressuring the Air Force to delay the retirement.

A U-2 based at Beale crashed in 1996 and slammed into the parking lot of a newspaper in Oroville, California. The pilot and a woman who had just renewed her newspaper subscription were killed.

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  • Ok, I’m willing to grant that there may be missions where a manned platform is appropriate but I would ask “Why is that platform one that was state-of-the-art when I was in second grade?
    (and don’t say “Obama” you morons.)

    • I was definitely not in second grade, but I was an AF pilot and flew into Stavanger, Norway to pick up the personal effects of Gary Power–that was–I don’t recall about 1959 or so???? I agree, they should have better up to date systems than that–and I also agree — manned, sometimes!!!!! For me–the longer it has been since I flew the better I was.

  • “The U-2 flies to 70,000 feet — higher than any U.S. military aircraft.”

    The Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird flies at 85k feet and holds the current altitude record. It’s highly likely, though, that it can actually exceed 100k feet altitude.

    I saw a U-2 fly East over Honolulu in 1996 after it departed Hickam. Calls to Hickam and the FAA drew very noncommittal responses, but the roar of those Gen-1 jet turbines combined with the cruciform, long-winged shape and slow climbing speed made it an easy ID.

  • Our military is suffering from a complete lack of leadership at the very top. Obama hates the military, and this Country is the furthest thing from “Fit to Fight” in several decades. We need a CIC who believes in supporting our Military generously and smartly. The second part clearly leaves Hiliery out of this equation. Trump 2016

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