140 mph car chasing a U-2


#1

This is a military page with an article about the U-2. When it lands, they have another pilot in a car chasing it down the runway at 100 mph to tell him the distance of his wing tips above the runway.

The page says its a 140 mph car. I have more questions than answers.

First what kind of car is that?

Second, how do they coordinate things so the plane can land over a speeding car, or can that car accelerate so fast it can catch up? That doesn’t sound likely to me. Any ideas?


#2

Here’s an article with more about the chase cars and some more videos.


#3

It is a Pontiac G8. V8 RWD and fast.


#4

Seems to me it would be safer to have a passenger in the car communicate with the pilot so the driver can use both hands on the wheel and concentrate on driving.


#5

Circuit, I have a feeling that that’s how it’s normally done. Paradoxically to its mission to fight wars and destroy enemies, the AF takes safety very seriously.


#6

Safety is paramount.
Like Patton said - let the other poor bastard die for his country.


#7

Yup. A perfect man for the job that needed to be done.


#8

Second, how do they coordinate things so the plane can land over a speeding car, or can that car accelerate so fast it can catch up? That doesn’t sound likely to me. Any ideas?

You can see in Bugmenot’s link, the car is more or less perpendicular to the runway and starts going as the plane approaches. He accelerates to match speed as he curves toward and merges in behind the plane.


#9

The car doesn’t need to catch up or even get real close. Just stay close enough to see the wing tips. The car is accelerating as the plane is decelerating.


#10

Great article, bugmenot. In fact, fantastic.

All my questions answered and then some.

As far as having two people in the car, maybe they do. But, the driver is allegedly a trained pilot. I have written on the Distracted threads that when I was young, I could handle three tasks at the same time. Reading; talking; and watching TV. Now in my 70’s I can only handle around 1.5 tasks which means in heavy traffic I ask people not to talk to me at length.

A trained military pilot normally handles coordinates X; Y; and Z. Plus velocity and bank and roll and navigation; and a lot of other tasks all day flying. And, talking on the radio. Those who can’t do that probably do not even get into flight school. That may well be more than three tasks at the same time.

The pilot driving that car has X and Y, velocity; and talking on the radio no bank; no roll, no navigation issues. Though it’s just my personal opinion, i can’t imagine a trained pilot needing a car co-pilot.


#11

Great video. I was unaware that we still had U2s in service. It’s good to see.


#12

I’m kind of surprised, as well

Improving satellite surveillance technology and high maintenance costs . . . from what I understand . . . is what led to the SR-71 no longer being in service

I suppose the U-2 might be cheaper to operate and maintain . . . ?!


#13

Remember at Sac base f15 flying over at 450 mph, pulling a 180 putting on full afterburners and landing on the runway, what do we need a car for?


#14

Much. But the SR-71 is the most beautiful piece of machinery I’ve ever seen in my life, or likely ever will. To watch one of those birds take off is downright thrilling. Just seeing one parked on the flightline sends chills down my spine.

But, we should get back to cars.


#15

For anybody in southern California . . .

There’s an SR-71 at March air reserve base, as a “museum piece”

At least there was one, a few years back

You have to spend a few bucks, if you want to sit in the cockpit and have a picture taken


#16

Jeeze. To think I was just in that area in August and was unaware of this. But you can bet I’ll keep it in the back of my mind for the next trip.

And now, back to cars.


#17

They also have a nice “Planes of fame” airshow


#18

If you are really interested, read Operation Overflight written by Francis Gary Powers.

One interesting tidbit, the plane that Powers was flying was U-215. It had crashed at NAS Atsugi, Japan earlier. In the control tower at the time was a young Marine Air Traffic Controller named Lee Harvey Oswald.


#19

There’s an SR-71 on display at Hill AFB. What’s amazing is the plane’s large size and the cockpit would make a person of small stature feel claustrophobic.
I was tempted to sit in it but figured I would embarass myself by getting stuck and not being able to get out.

To keep it car related, they had the starting cart on display also. Two Buick 401 Nailhead V-8s nose to tail. I think the later variants may have used a pair of big block Chevys.


#20

Actually, I’m more interested in climbing into the plane itself. I’m already intimately familiar with Gary Powers’ story.

I’d also LOVE the opportunity to climb into a BUFF again, just for the memories, but have been unable in many years to find an opportunity. I know Grand Forks has one on display as a “gate guard” along with a KC-135, but haven’t had reason to go there for many years. I wouldn’t go that far just to that alone.