U-2 Spy Planes Still Flying Despite Deadly Crash in California

An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady flies a training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds)
An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady flies a training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds)

Despite an ongoing investigation into the U-2 crash in California on Tuesday, the U.S. military is still flying the high-altitude spy plane in missions, officials said.

"Flying operations worldwide for the U-2 Dragon Lady have not been impacted as a result of a recent crash here on September 20, 2016," Beale Air Force Base posted on its official Facebook page.

"As a result of the crash, Beale put a hold on flying training missions locally in order to respond to the incident," it added. "The 9th Reconnaissance Wing intends to return to normal flying operations locally this week."

The plane, assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, went down at 9:05 a.m. Tuesday near the Sutter Buttes mountain range.

One U.S. Air Force pilot was killed, and another was injured. The installation on Wednesday identified the deceased pilot as Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron.

The second pilot, who remains unidentified, was injured in the accident, but sustained non-life-threatening injuries, according to the statement.

"Our ability to fly missions in support of commanders has not been impacted by the recent crash," Col. Larry Broadwell, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, said in a statement. "We continue to carry out our mission of providing high altitude [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and delivering that decision advantage to combatant commanders."

The U-2 Dragon Lady is a Cold War-era surveillance plane based at Beale. The single-engine jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp. flies as high as 70,000 feet, has a range of 7,000 miles and dates to the 1950s. The Air Force as of this year had 33 of the aircraft in inventory, including five trainers, according to a fact sheet. Trainer models of the aircraft hold two crew members.

The last fatal U-2 crash occurred in 2005 in the United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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