One of the two aviators who ejected from a U-2 spyplane over California was killed during the egress from his aircraft, according to a spokesman from Beale Air Force Base.
Crashing a little after 9:00 AM in Sutter County on Tuesday, the plane nicknamed the “Dragon Lady” encountered problems and crashed shortly after takeoff, officials said.
The crash created several brush fires in the nearby peaks of the Sutter Buttes and have since been contained.
According to 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs spokesman Senior Airman Benjamin Bugenig, the aircraft was assigned to the 1sr Reconnaissance Squadron based out of Beale AFB and was on a training mission.
Of the two pilots who ejected, one was killed in the egress, while the other sustained injuries.
Local California news sources report that witnesses reported two parachutes, while one crop duster pilot described the crash site.
“As I was coming over the top of it, I looked down and I saw the wings of a plane,” civilian pilot Pete Spyres said. “I just saw a U-2. I just knew exactly what it was.”
9th Reconnaissance Wing Commander Colonel Larry Broadwell reported that up until the crash, everything was “a routine flight.”
Despite the concerns and sadness surrounding the crash, the U-2 has not had an -official- fatal crash in over twenty years, although the flights are often shrouded in secrecy due to the intelligence-gathering nature of the aircraft.
“I would match the safety and maintenance records of the U-2 with any aircraft that the Air Force flies,” Broadwell said. “We are going to continue flying U-2 missions around the world around the clock.”
The pilots’ identities have yet to be released by the US Air Force.
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