• it measures 103ft (31.4m) from tip-to-tip.

    The U-2’s enormous wingspan is what helps give it the lift needed to stay afloat miles above the ground – it measures 103ft (31.4m) from tip-to-tip. But when it comes to landing it proves very tricky indeed. The pilot’s job is made trickier in that the aircraft’s design is so honed to keeping it in the air that the plane will only land when the wing is fully stalled, and the lack of electrically-powered controls makes the plane very physically demanding at lower altitudes. The pilot’s cockpit position, also makes it very hard to judge the plane’s distance from the ground, and there’s another problem – the undercarriage. Unlike most planes, the U-2 does not boast three-wheel undercarriage, but instead has two main landing gears located at the front and back of the aircraft, like bicycle wheels. The landing procedure is so precarious that U-2s are accompanied by a fellow pilot following the plane in a chase car, and giving him directions via a radio. The fun doesn’t end there; when the plane comes to rest it’s with one wingtip scraping along the ground. The wingtips are reinforced with special landing skids to take this into account.


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