MOAA members learn about the U-2 Dragon Lady

Colonel Rett Benedict

The MOAA Catalina Mountains Satellite Chapter met April 16, 2016, at the MountainView Club in SaddleBrooke. Brigadier General (USAF retired) David Patton spoke about the U-2 High Altitude Reconnaissance program and his experiences flying the Dragon Lady. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 until 1984 and was a command pilot with over 6,000 flying hours. As a U-2 pilot from 1966 to 1971, he flew missions over both North and South Vietnam, as well as a variety of atmospheric sampling missions. Brigadier General Patton was the operating location commander with the 349th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB from July 1971 to July 1972.

Brigadier General Patton told us that 2015 marked the 60th birthday of this high flying reconnaissance bird. The Lockheed Skunk Works, under Kelly Johnson, designed and built the U2. The Dragon Lady was placed into operation in 1956 for both the CIA and U.S. Air Force and later, other air forces. It now flies up to 75,000 feet with a range of 7,000 miles and a flying duration of up to 19 hours.

The mission of the U-2 has evolved over the years from optical and infrared reconnaissance to the collection of air samples for nuclear monitoring missions and a variety of rf collectors. Perhaps the Dragon Lady’s most well-known mission was the one flown by Frank Powers over the U.S.S.R. It is still flown today by U.S.A.F. pilots for military and NASA for civilian (ozone measurements) missions.

Brigadier General Patton’s description of what it was like to fly the early U-2s was enlightening. The pressure suit was extremely confining, the cockpit cramped and no two seat version available for training until much later in the program. The first time a new pilot flew the Dragon Lady it was solo!

The U-2 was capable of landing and taking off from the deck of a naval carrier. With the speed of the carrier providing lift, the plane seemed to just float into the sky. It did not need the catapult, but did use a landing hook. This naval capability was not an operational mode, but was demonstrated multiple times. The U-2 was also capable of aerial refueling.

In summary, Brigadier General Patton gave a very interesting talk about the U-2 Dragon Lady, a plane that has contributed much to our country over the past 60 years.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, October 15, 2016, at 11:30 a.m. in the East Room, MountainView Country Club. Spouses are welcome and invited.

For additional information contact Colonel Rett Benedict, president, 825-7424, [email protected] or Colonel Tom Owens, MOAA Tucson President, 760-3476, [email protected] Check website: for information.

The Catalina Mountains satellite is part of the Tucson Chapter and encompasses northwest Tucson to include Catalina, Oracle, parts of Oro Valley and Marana, SaddleBrooke and Sun City.

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is a nonprofit veterans’ service association dedicated to maintaining a strong national defense and to preserve the earned entitlements of members of the uniformed services and their families and survivors.