Skip to comments.How To Fly A U-2 Spy Plane (Declassified Flight Manual for Secret Reconnaissance Aircraft)
Posted on 01/08/2013 3:17:20 PM PST by DogByte6RER
How To Fly A U-2 Spy Plane
Got your eye on a sweet used '59 U-2 spy plane you saw on Craigslist? Would you go ahead and take the plunge if you just, you know, knew how to fly it? Then boy, are you in luck.
That's because a couple days ago an entire flight manual for the U-2 from 1959 was declassified and released by the CIA. You can tell it's declassified because on each page where the word "secret" appears, someone has carefully drawn a line through it. We've got a copy here for you.
The U-2 is, of course, one of the most legendary and well-known aircraft of all time. It was one of the first true purpose-built spy planes, created at the height of the Cold War to fly over the Soviets and snap photos at high enough altitudes to prevent them from finding out or shooting it down. Of course, the U-2 may best be known for the time that both the finding out and shooting down part actually happened in 1960 over the Soviet Union.
Even after the Powers incident, the U-2 kept going, undaunted, and is still in active service to this day. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that today's version is so wildly updated and advanced from the late '50s model described in this guide, and that's one of the reasons this manual was declassified. Still, it's fascinating reading even if it likely won't help much if you find yourself in the cockpit of a brand-new U2.
You'll also need a Camaro help you land, but if you've sourced a U-2 then we're going to assume you're resourceful enough to find a muscle car.
The U-2 itself is, by all accounts, a very tricky plane to fly. To achieve the 70,000 + feet of altitude it flies at, the plane must be very very light. It's designed, in many ways, like a large glider that just happens to have a huge turbojet engine inside. Luckily for you, this manual has all of the warnings, specifics, diagrams, and procedures you'll want to follow to the letter to make sure you get the most out of your U-2 purchase.
For me, the most surprising thing in this manual is the amount of New Yorker-ish cartoons involving a very flexible, anthrpomorphized U-2 plane. They're pretty great, and I love that in planning this very no-nonsense flight manual for a top-secret, wildly expensive plane, some government official made the decision that some little cartoons would really perk this thing up, and had a cartoonist hired, and possibly given security clearance.
Even if you're not just about to purchase a U-2 plane, this still makes for a fascinating read, and is full of great diagrams. Plus, all sorts of engaging details are revealed, like how pilots shouldn't really worry about smoke in the cockpit so much and the mention of a "relief canister" which I think I may implement at my desk for less embarrassing desk-urinating.
There's detailed instructions about how to land the very tricky U-2, which was so light and had such a large wing area it could turn into a sort of ground-effect plane when landing, hovering above the runway on a cushion of air.
Oh, and I should mention this: apparently, all acrobatic maneuvers are prohibited. Sorry.
The Air Force's U-2 spy plane first took flight in August 1955 and has been in commission ever since.
For direct reference to the U-2 Flight Manual ...
Utility Flight Hb 1 Mar 1959
My dad designed the hanger for the U2. He had no idea what plane he was doing it for at the time.
Heard a rumor once from a well-placed source that Powers in fact was NOT shot-down; the plane had a BOMB aboard —some human asset the bad guys had aquired, and that person had access to the plane.
Looks like a modern one they’ve covered with radar-reflective coating, maybe?
I think the a/c feature is the TR-1...?
TR-1 = U-2R.
Updated, upgraded, but still the curmudgeonly jet powered sailplane the original model was.
Ping to LucyT
U-2 flight to Cortez: http://www.hmhfp.info/SG_09E.html
Darn roadhogs they are.
My cousin is flying these.
I knew a U2 pilot who is now deceased.
They were based in Del Rio, Texas. He said they would go into Mexico where a Mexican general would treat them to great meals.
One thing he mentioned which I noticed on this article was how tricky they were to land. He said they had so much lift that any breeze would throw it around.
"world headquarters for U2s was DM.....then to Beale when the SR71 program shut down...from an old pogo chaser
No rocket from the old USSR.
The rotten bad luck of a custom built/tuned engine having a compressor failure at the worst possible time.
(I tell this story over & over) Some years back I ordered a bunch of souvenirs from the L-M Skunk Works Gift Shoppe down in Palmdale, CA. Makers of the baddest-assed, highest-tech, stealthiest planes on the planet.
When they arrived the box was sealed with gaily-colored tape with smiley faces on it.
It was the darndest thing, doncha know!
For my 3 years stationed at U-Tapao Royal Thai naval Air Field, for a plane that was to be so secret, precisely at 7a.m., every morning that engine would roar, and off it would go on its mission du jour. You could set your watch by that! For all of us who lived ‘off-base’, if you heard that, and on ‘day shift’, you had better be on your way towards the gate, or on the road to your duty station.
Would I, as a private citizen, wish to acquire and fly one, today? It’s a cool aircraft. It is not meant to be terribly fast, as it a powered sailplane. But, also, as a powered sailplane, the plus/minus operational speed was very narrow, too. Since the ‘removed equipment, dials, and gadgetry’ would affect the balance, even if compartment-formed dead weights were in place, because it is a powered sailplane. The engine, originally, was an engine from a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, which has a misnomer as ‘a piloted missile with landing gear’. So, you have a V-12, to do straight line flying! As I recall, optimal airspeed, before the airframe fragility became a factor, was in the 400 mph range. What fun is that? A powered sailpane, (a Chevette of sorts), with a supersonic jet fighter engine installed, (a V-12 of sorts), with a narrow speed before heel-breaks-loose fragility in the 400 mph range, ( a speed governor on that V-12 engine).
I think I would err on safety’s side, and pass.
I am sure you are right about their headquarters but I am also sure what Colonel Cartwright said. He said they flew out of Del Rio, Texas.
I remember the day.
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