When ‘Dragon Lady’ invaded Cortez

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When ‘Dragon Lady’ invaded Cortez

Anniversary of U-2 plane’s 1959 landing is Saturday
On Aug. 4, 1959, the U-2 that made an emergency landing in Cortez late the previous night rests on its belly after sliding off the runway while an Air Force team from Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas begin investigating what caused the engine flame out that forced the landing.
Maj. Hsichan “Mike” Hua is still in his special pressurized suit at the Cortez Airport after making an emergency landing in a high-altitude U-2 on Aug. 3, 1959. The suit, meant to keep pilots’ blood from vaporizing at 70,000 feet, was the precursor to the suits NASA uses for astronauts.
Hsichan Mike Hua, who made an emergency landing with a U-2 in Cortez on Aug. 3, 1959, retired from the Republic of China Air Force as a four-star general. Among his medals is the Distinguished Flying Cross from the U.S. Air Force for his feat.
Gerald Vincent, the president of the Cortez Aviation Heritage Society, shows off the display of the U-2 emergency landing there in August 1959 and other memorable moments in Cortez’s aviation history.
Gen. Hua, who made a miraculous landing with a U-2 in Cortez in 1959, also documented the story of two of his fellow Taiwanese aviators flying U-2s who went down over mainland China and were held prisoner for two decades in his book Lost Black Cats.
The U-2 that made an emergency landing in Cortez on the night of Aug. 3, 1959, came to rest off the runway on its belly. The Air Force brought in a cargo plane, removed the U-2’s wings and took the plane back to Edwards Air Force Base. It was back in the air by December 1959.
About the U-2 spy plane

The Cold War was escalating when the U-2 spy plane was developed.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in his autobiography about the decision to build the U-2: “In the middle ’50s, the United States, an open society, was faced by a closed communist empire, which had lost none of its ambitions for world conquest, but which now possessed, in airplanes and guided missiles armed with nuclear weapons, an ever-growing capacity for launching a surprise attack against the United States,”
The U.S. needed a way to find out what was happening, and wanted it quickly. After requests for proposals, government officials commissioned the U-2 from Lockheed, and it went from drawing board to runway in just eight months. According to Lt. Col. Charles Wilson, who has written about what it’s like to fly a U-2, it is still considered the most difficult plane to land because “it wants to keep flying, even at a stall.”
The U-2 has been upgraded and modified several times since it first flew in 1955. Since 1994, $1.7 billion has been spent to modernize the airframe, sensors and engine. Its current designation is U-2S.
The U-2 has a wingspan of 105 feet and is 63 feet long, according to the Air Force’s fact sheet on the aircraft. It typically flies at about 70,000 feet (more than 13 miles above the Earth), but crews have gone as high as 87,000 feet. It cannot go into space because the engines require oxygen to burn fuel. The recommended top speed is Mach 3.2 – about 2,435 mph.
The Air Force currently has 33 U-2s in its inventory, including five two-seat trainers and two operated by NASA.
The plane has been considered a valuable asset in Korea, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as providing peacetime reconnaissance during natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina.
In 2011, The New York Times reported the U-2 would be phased out by 2015. But budget cuts and military realities have changed those plans.
“It’s still flying and still useful to the Air Force,” said Kelly Sanders, Air Combat Command spokeswoman. “The odds are, it will still be flying in the 2030s and 2040s.”
To learn more, visit the U-2 Dragon Lady Association at www.U2dla.org or www.blackbirds.net, including “Flying the U-2.”

When ‘Dragon Lady’ invaded Cortez

On Aug. 4, 1959, the U-2 that made an emergency landing in Cortez late the previous night rests on its belly after sliding off the runway while an Air Force team from Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas begin investigating what caused the engine flame out that forced the landing.
Maj. Hsichan “Mike” Hua is still in his special pressurized suit at the Cortez Airport after making an emergency landing in a high-altitude U-2 on Aug. 3, 1959. The suit, meant to keep pilots’ blood from vaporizing at 70,000 feet, was the precursor to the suits NASA uses for astronauts.
Hsichan Mike Hua, who made an emergency landing with a U-2 in Cortez on Aug. 3, 1959, retired from the Republic of China Air Force as a four-star general. Among his medals is the Distinguished Flying Cross from the U.S. Air Force for his feat.
Gerald Vincent, the president of the Cortez Aviation Heritage Society, shows off the display of the U-2 emergency landing there in August 1959 and other memorable moments in Cortez’s aviation history.
Gen. Hua, who made a miraculous landing with a U-2 in Cortez in 1959, also documented the story of two of his fellow Taiwanese aviators flying U-2s who went down over mainland China and were held prisoner for two decades in his book Lost Black Cats.
The U-2 that made an emergency landing in Cortez on the night of Aug. 3, 1959, came to rest off the runway on its belly. The Air Force brought in a cargo plane, removed the U-2’s wings and took the plane back to Edwards Air Force Base. It was back in the air by December 1959.
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