I mean this in the nicest possible way… but if you don’t watch this video, you’re crazy. I know it’s 11 minutes long, but it is sooo worth it.
My interest in the 1950’s era Lockheed U-2 spy plane has been enhanced by my recent podcast interview with Jill Rutan Hoffman. Her husband Lars Hoffman is a Colonel in the Air Force and has a lot of experience flying this unique, ultra high altitude aircraft. That doesn’t mean he’s an old and crusty guy tho because the U-2 is still a totally operational aircraft to this day… well over 50 years after the first U-2 flew! They’ve even updated the cockpit in the last 8 years to all glass with a range of additional upgrades that improve capability while also reducing pilot workload.
The current plan is for the airplane to remain operational til at least 2014. As was mentioned in the podcast with Jill, I might get the chance to do an interview with Lars before long on what it’s like flying the Dragon Lady. Hopefully that comes together as it will be very interesting to better understand, from the pilot’s perspective, the challenges that go with flying 15 miles high.
This video is a segment from the program James May on the Moon that aired last year on BBC. You might already know that James May is one of the guys from the crazy-cool car show Top Gear. I didn’t know anything about this special program that looks back at the moon landings 40 years later, so this awesome segment was all a surprise to me. This is the part of the program where James goes for a ride in a two-seat U-2.
I actually found the link to the video this morning on Jill’s twitter page (@LookingSkyward) and thought that it might be interesting to watch since I had this increased interest in the U-2. OMGosh… it’s way more than interesting! I realize it might not touch you the way it did me, but watching this was a very powerful experience. The view of earth from 70,000+ feet, at the edge of space, isn’t just beautiful and awesome - it has the ability to change you. You are so far removed from the tiny, meaningless details of everyday life and so thoroughly confronted with thoughts of what it means to exist. It can boggle the mind and challenge the heart.
I know it’s not just me that feels it, as it’s clear that the ride had a real impact on James to be sure. I chose this version of the video on YouTube because it includes the very Top Gear-like intro which I think adds to the experience. It ends as James is exiting the airplane, but stops just before he says some very powerful words that can be found in the last 30 seconds on the versions that don’t include the cool intro… he says, as he’s walking down the portable stairway, “it’s just incredible… if everybody could do that once, you’d completely change the face of global politics... religion... education. Everything.”
This amazing video of a U-2 ride is truly a fabulous experience, and I hope it touches you in some special way. It moves me to add this line from the poem High flight:
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.