by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
9/21/2015 - 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
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
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."