A crystal clear ultra high-altitude video of what appears to be two Lockheed U2s on a training flight over California is in circulation. It is more than two minutes of edge of seat viewing, especially for the clues it gives as to how hard and knife edged this aircraft is to control at a cruise speed barely five knots above stalling speed at 21,000 metres or around 70,000 feet altitude.
Earlier this year Plane Talking picked up on previously unknown and undoubtedly once top secret images of U2 operations in 1957.
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These were followed by a contemporary report about the wingmen who race down the runway in exported Holden ‘Pontiacs‘ behind landing U2s, helping the pilot at the end of a mission make a touch down which because of ground effect on the wide thin wing, can only be achieved by completely stalling the wing.
In this latest video there is a sequence taken from such a chase car which shows just how delicate the landing process is, and why, for long time, they were done on dry lake beds offering a vast amount of space in which to achieve a damage free touch down.
The video is also remarkable in that a single pilot U2 is the platform for filming a much rarer twin seat training version of the famous ‘spy plane’.
As both U2s draw close to the threshold of the landing field you can also see the shape of a more conventional chase plane sweeping across the ground.