YUBA CITY, Calif. (AP) — One American pilot was killed and another injured when they ejected from a U-2 spy plane shortly before it crashed in Northern California on Tuesday morning, the U.S. Air Force said.
The plane crashed shortly after taking off from Beale Air Force Base on a training mission around 9 a.m., military officials said. They did not release the pilots’ names or any information about the condition of the surviving airman.
The aircraft, assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, crashed in the Sutter Buttes, a mountain range about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Sacramento.
The U-2 “Dragon Lady” is a surveillance and reconnaissance plane capable of flying above 70,000 feet (21,336 meters), an extremely high altitude that’s twice as high as a typical commercial airliner flies. The U-2 is known as one of the most difficult aircraft to fly at low altitudes due to the characteristics that allow it to travel near space, according to an Air Force fact sheet.
Beale Air Force Base is home to the Air Force’s fleet of single-seat U-2s and a double-seat variant used for training pilots to fly the specialized aircraft. It also is the base for the T-38 Talon, a training aircraft, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned surveillance drone. It houses 4,500 military personnel.