“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the
inside of a man.”
–Sir Winston Churchill
I was sitting the weather observation tower at RAF Alconbury one night in 1982 when I got a call. There was a U-2 coming in with total hydraulic failure, and we were the only base with weather above minimums in western Europe.We had four hours' warning. The pilot finished the mission first, because the U-2 only needs hydraulics to operate the brakes on landing. When he finally arrived, he aborted four landings, each time setting down closer and closer to the absolute beginning of the runway.The fifth time he set it down about ten feet past the overrun, and rolled, and rolled, and rolled. I was on the touchdown end and lost sight of the matte black craft as he passed the centerpoint. I knew something had gone wrong when the tower called me and told me to take a local (a weather observation not sent out on the teletype; the tower was telling me the plane had not stopped on the runway, and thus was a mishap. The local observation records the weather at the instant for the mishap investigation).The plane had used every inch of the 8000-foot runway, all of the 1000-foot overrun and about 300 yards of grass and mud after that. No one was hurt. Judging from the video, that sort of landing wasn't uncommon!
I had the opportunity to ride along with the chase crew a few times during their landings. What a ride! Luckily, all the ones I saw were uneventful landings. A buddy of mine who flew the U2 said landing and roll out was like trying to control a 10 ton bicycle with no steering. Great vid!
The biggest problem landing these things is that the wings create so much lift that the plane wants to stay in the air. While trying to slow down enough to lose lift, the rudder loses effectiveness so it's very easy to lose yaw control immediately prior to touchdown.Gotta give the U2 drivers their props; takes a lot of skill and guts to fly them day after day.
So what exactly is the chase crew trying to accomplish? I could never figure that out.
The chase crew drives behind the plane and talks to the pilot giving him his (or her) altitude. You cant see how high you are off the ground so the chase team basically talks the pilot down to the ground.
ah. Thanks, Rude1.
I agree Rude1. Kudos to the pilots who drive these things. Glad to hear that the landings are smooth most of the time, although with the design of the wing it's easy to see how it can get out of hand quickly.Thanks for the personal perspective.On a side note, I got my first spammed comment. Maybe I'm getting closer to being a real blogger.
Post a Comment