Top 10 Reasons Why Being A U-2 Pilot Is Cool


The U-2 program is celebrating 60 years of operational excellence as the world's premier intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. From the pilots’ perspective, they fly knowing that they ultimately contribute to the safety of our troops on the ground and our nation. Here are the top 10 reasons why being a U-2 pilot is cool. U-2 pilots:

1. Save lives.

The U-2 serves as our eyes in the sky, protecting our nation and advancing global security. And as the highest flying ISR platform, the U-2 looks deep across hostile borders to collect intelligence essential to keeping national security decision-makers and combatant commands informed.

2. Share a name with a great band.

3. Don't have to get up to use the bathroom.

Enough said.

4. Go from take-off to 63,000 feet in a mere 45 minutes.

The U-2’s sleek design and powerful engine allow it to climb to 63,000 feet in under 45 minutes. At altitude, the U-2 can fly higher than 70,000 feet. To put this in perspective, the average passenger airliner might take around 30 to 40 minutes to reach a cruising altitude of only 35,000 feet.

5. Wear a space suit.

Flying near space at over 70,000 feet, U-2 pilots wear a full-pressure space suit to protect against the very low air pressure in the event of cabin depressurization or ejection.

6. Drive a fast car at speeds over 100 mph every day...legally!

A pilot driving a mobile, usually a Pontiac GTO, follows the U-2 as it lands to assist the pilot, providing him or her situational awareness. Perhaps a lesser known fact is that U-2 pilots can land the aircraft without the assistance of a mobile.

7. Eat space food out of tubes, everything from peaches to beef stoganoff.  

When pilots fly short or long missions, they need to stay hydrated and nourished. Bottles of water or Gatorade assist with the hydration while tubes of food keep pilots nourished. Food is pureed so that it can easily go through a tube that fits through the food port in the pilot’s helmet. The menu varies and includes such items as peaches, pears, caffeinated chocolate pudding, cinnamon applesauce, hash browns with bacon, chicken a la king and more!

8. Have great forearms.  

Pilots get a bit of a workout when they fly, particularly during landing, and after a long mission, these folks don’t need to hit the gym.

9. Experience the ultimate job satisfaction.  

Given that the U-2 flies in peacetime and in wartime, U-2 pilots spend most of their careers flying missions that bring immediate results and information to help keep decision-makers informed. U-2 pilots also fly in support of the Camp David Peace Accords as well as natural disasters.

10. Fly at the edge of space, going places most people can only dream of.  

Let’s face it. If given the opportunity, most people would take a flight to see Earth from the U-2 pilot’s perspective. At 70,000 feet, pilots are at the point that they see the curvature of the Earth, and depending on sunrise or sunset, the ocean and Earth are illuminated by bold colors, nearly unimaginable.

Learn More About the U-2