U-2 Dragon Lady takes center stage during Air Force celebrations
By Senior Airman Bobby Cummings, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 21, 2015
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland --
For 60 years the U-2 "Dragon Lady" has been providing high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for national decision-makers enabling them to make educated decisions regarding the security and safety of the United States. Throughout 2015, the U.S. Air Force has been celebrating the aircrafts 60th anniversary.
On Sep. 19, 2015, the U-2 was celebrated during two major U.S. Air Force events. In the early morning hours on Sep. 19th, a U-2 "Dragon Lady" piloted by Capt. Travis, a U-2 pilot with the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, California, took flight from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Travis flew the aircraft west, where he would perform a flyover at the start of the 19th annual U.S. Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, the birthplace of aviation. Thousands of spectators witnessed the flyover.
"As I began flying over the marathon I could see a vast crowd, the start line and all of the flashes from the cameras on the ground," Travis said. "The flyover had a specific timeframe. I had to time the aircraft being overhead of the starting line to the second. Due to precise coordination and teamwork we accomplished our goal."
After completing the flyover, Travis turned the U-2 east for his return flight to Joint Base Andrews where another U.S. Air Force event was occurring. JBA was hosting an air show with thousands of attendees, including U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.
"I've never had the opportunity to fly by a significant amount of people or land in front of thousands of spectators. It was truly a unique experience," Travis said. "This was my first time executing a fly by during an air show. I'm happy we were able to do this and create more exposure for the U-2 and our mission."
Although the pilot plays a vital role during any flight, there are many individuals behind the scenes who make every flight possible. Nearly 30 personnel from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, also attended the air show including Airmen from the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Airmen from the 9th Physiological Support Squadron.
"The whole team here has functioned seamlessly through every phase of our trip," said Lt. Col. Andrew McVicker, 9th Operations Group deputy commander, Beale Air Force Base. "A temporary deployment is similar to an expeditionary operation because we're operating outside of our normal framework, but we train and prepare for a reason. I'm reluctant to say anything ever goes flawlessly but this has truly been a perfect evolution, all because we've been working together."
The U-2 "Dragon Lady" has been soaring at the edge of space since 1955. During that time, Frank Sinatra was topping the music industry charts, and Mickey Mantle was in the early stages of his career playing outfield for the New York Yankees. The aircraft was developed by the Skunk Works program for Lockheed Martin led by aircraft designer Kelly Johnson.
"The legacy of the U-2 is immense. What is more impressive is how relevant its legacy remains today," McVicker said. "There are principles in the aircraft's design that are enduring. Kelly Johnson did a spectacular job designing the U-2. Through all these generations of conflict and people who operate and support the aircraft we've adapted the aircraft to the demands of modern day. That's a story of generations of teamwork."
The culmination of teamwork throughout the generations was on display throughout the weekend for thousands of people to witness.
"The most rewarding part of this trip for me is the opportunity to connect with the community," McVicker said. "In many cases the U-2 mission is not fully understood, and this has been a tremendous opportunity to interact with people and share our story."