US spy plane crashes; pilot killed
An American U-2 Dragon Lay spy aircraft has crashed near Sacramento, California, killing one of its two pilots.
The 1950s era aircraft went down during a training flight in Sutter County, 48 miles from Sacramento, on Tuesday.
Beale Air Force Base officials said that a seasoned instructor and a “fairly junior” pilot were on board the single-jet engine plane that belonged to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing stationed at the base.
According to initial reports, one of the airmen died and the other one was injured upon using the aircraft’s ejection mechanism.
No further details were revealed about the cause of the crash and the condition of the surviving airman.
Although the incident sparked fresh concerns about the aging spy aircraft’s safety, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s commander said the reconnaissance flight will continue unharmed.
“I would match the safety record of a U-2 with any other aircraft the Air Force flies. In fact, we are going to continue flying U-2 missions around the world and around the clock,” said Colonel Larry Broadwell.
An eyewitness video has captured the aircraft’s fatal plunge but stops short of showing the moment of impact. A huge grass fire broke out at the scene of the crash.
The Lockheed U-2 is a high-altitude spy plane which is capable of take photos and intercepting communication and is operated by pilots who wear a specially pressurized flight suit similar to the ones used by astronauts.
In a similar incident in 1996, another U-2 pilot from Beale died after trying to eject his plane. The plane crashed to a parking lot and killed another person.
Between October 2014 and April 2016, the US Navy has sustained a total loss of over $1 billion in damages caused by accidents, according to data by the Naval Safety Center.
The entire US military has witnessed a 48-percent hike in aviation crashes in 2014 and 2015 compared with the two previous years, a Fox News study shows.