U.S. Air Force TU-2S crashes in California. Two pilots aboard eject.

A two seater variant of the U-2 Dragon Lady from Beale Air Force Base has just crashed in Sutter County, California.

A TU-2S assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, from Beale AFB, crashed about 9.05 AM LT near West Butte and Pass roads.

The aircraft, a two seater variant of the famous U-2 Dragon Lady spyplane was involved in a training mission. According to witnesses, both pilots ejected from the aircraft: one died while the other was injured.

The U.S. Air Force is believed to operate just 5 TU-2S jets (including the one lost today).

The Dragon Lady is one of the most difficult plane to land requiring some special landing assistance by chase cars driven by experienced pilots who talk their colleagues aboard the U-2s during (take off or) landing: in fact, since the pilot’s view on a Dragon Lady is obstructed by the airframe, chase cars drivers provide additional information about distance to touchdown and altitude in order to make landings less risky.

The two-seat variant is particularly useful for training since the second cockpit is located well above the front one allowing an unobstructed forward view.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. One pilot dead, a second injured in U-2 spy plane crash in rural Northern California

    “One pilot was killed, and another injured when a U-2 spy plane crashed in Northern California shortly after takeoff Tuesday morning, according to a U.S. Air Force official.

    The pilots ejected shortly after takeoff from Beale Air Force Base and moments before the aircraft crashed into a rural area north of Sacramento, according to the Air Force.”


    I’ve been to Beale many times. The base is very spread out and surrounded by lots of beautiful rolling hillside and small mountains. Gold country. Nothing around the base for miles, so not surprising that there were no fatalities on the ground. Sympathies go out to the deceased pilot’s family. Thankfully you don’t hear about U-2 crashes very much. It is still a beautiful plane, and one heck of a sight to see on take-off. It just wants to fly! But again, a sad day for the Beale and AF community.

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