BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) — For the first time in Air Force and 9th Reconnaissance Wing history, a reservist, Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron 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. “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.
“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.
“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 article was originally published on May 14, 2020, by the U.S. Air Force.