Military Aviation

For the first time in USAF history reserve pilot qualifies to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady

For the first time in US Air Force and 9th Reconnaissance Wing history, a reservist, Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

For the first time in US Air Force (USAF) and 9th Reconnaissance Wing history, a reservist, Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron (RS) pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

The U-2 is known as the hardest aircraft to fly in the world. It has been a host to less than 1,500 pilots since the first flight in 1955, and 65 years later the first reserve pilot makes history.

“I applied for the U-2 program while in active duty, and then switched to the reserves,” Anderson said to Senior Airman Colville McFee, 9th Reconnaissance Wing in the article Making history, reserve pilot flies U-2 Dragon Lady. “The last two years I’ve been flying for Delta Air Lines and then I took a two-year break, and now I’m back flying the U-2 as a Reservist.”

Coming back to active duty from the Reserves is no easy task. Anderson was able to come back to fly the U-2 through a commander-directed requalification program.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, prepares to taxi at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020.

“It’s really exciting to have the first qualified reserve pilot in U-2 and Air Force history pave the way for other Reservists to fly,” said Lt. Col. Chris Mundy, 99th RS commander.

The average training program takes months to complete the U-2 and T-38 Talon flights, various simulators, survival training and other operations.

“I have been activated for 183 days, and my qualifications and training allow me to support the mission,” Anderson said. “In order to make sure I was able to come back, I had to do rigorous training (to) make sure I was able to fly.”

By having a Reservist that’s qualified in the aircraft, 99th RS gains more flexibility for the U-2 program for the future. It allows for more experience when there is a manning crisis for the pilots in the Air Force.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, taxis to the runway in a U-2 Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020.

“A lot of pilots in the U-2 community got out and continued flying careers and what we have here is a chance to get the experience from those Reserve pilots down range,” Mundy said.

The U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft which delivers critical imagery and signals intelligence to decision makers throughout all phases of conflict, including peacetime indications and warnings, low-intensity conflict and large-scale hostilities. “Two and a half years ago when I flew my last mission, it was sad,” Anderson said.

“I’ve flown so long and reflected back on my time flying. It was the right decision for my family to commit to the Reserves and didn’t have a slight thought of being back here. Now, I get the chance to support this impressive mission and this is truly amazing.”

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. U-2S Dragon Lady “Senior Span”, 9th RW, 99th RS, 80-329

Photo credit: Senior Airman Colville McFee / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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