U-2 Plane Crashes in Sutter County, One Pilot Killed

SUTTER COUNTY -- One Air Force pilot is dead and another is recovering in the hospital after the U-2 spy plane they were in crashed near the town of Sutter.

The training mission took off from nearby Beale Air Force Base. The Air Force confirms that both pilots on board were able to eject.

"I will confirm with you that one of the pilots is deceased and the other is injured. That pilot that is injured is currently receiving medical treatment," said Col. Larry Broadwell, Beale AFB's Installation Commander.

Broadwell addressed the media after the accident, but could give few details about what went wrong or who the pilots are.

"One is a student pilot, relatively (new) to the U-2 and the other is an instructor pilot. It is a two seat U-2," Broadwell told reporters Tuesday.

The Air Force will not confirm which pilot survived and which one died. While an investigation is underway, Broadwell said the training mission followed a common flight path for the U-2s.

"Everything about the flight today was a routine flight, nothing out of the ordinary as far as I've been told," Broadwell said.

"Very rare to have a U-2 accident," said Sacramento City College Professor of Aeronautics Scott Miller.

Miller said the U-2s are designed for high-altitude reconnaissance missions and have one of the best safety records out of any aircraft in the military.

"That kind of tells me there may have been a mechanical problem. If there is a draw back to this airplane, it has one engine, and so if that one engine was to fail, that aircraft is coming down, there's no two ways around it," Miller told FOX40 Tuesday.

Although they first came into service in the 1950s, Miller said the U-2s haven't been replaced by modern technology.

"It's really difficult to change the orbit of a satellite, to perhaps move it to where you need to gather the intelligence, and the drones don't have the range and endurance that the U-2 has," Miller said.

Meanwhile Broadwell said the tragedy has his base very emotional.

"I personally spoke with the squadron commander, who has discussed this matter with the deceased's family. And it's as you would expect, very challenging," Broadwell said.

But he also said U-2s will be flying at Beale again soon.

"I'll share with you what I shared with the pilots, these incidents which are tragic and hard for us to overcome, they are incidents that we do overcome," he said.

The last time the U-2s were built was in the early 1980s, but there's no word from the Air Force on how old the aircraft that went down was. Since this was a two seat U-2, Miller tells us it's likely this plane was built in the 1960s.