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Air Force releases details on crash that killed U-2 instructor pilot

The wreckage of a U-2 aircraft on the lower slopes of the Sutter Buttes in California on Sept. 20, 2016. Two pilots ejected, but one — Lt. Col. Ira Eadie — was killed in the crash.

HECTOR AMEZCUA, SACRAMENTO BEE/TNS

By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — U-2 instructor pilot Lt. Col. Ira Eadie was killed in September when his student incorrectly reacted to a stall, sending the plane into an unrecoverable dive, the Air Force found in an investigation released Wednesday.

It was the first time Eadie’s student had ever flown a U-2. The accident occurred during the first of three “acceptance flights” that the Air Force uses to evaluate potential U-2 pilot candidates who are trying for a spot in the competitive flight program. The TU-2S plane flown in the crash was a two-seat version of the U-2, a normally single-seat high altitude spy plane.

The crash happened Sept. 20 near Beale Air Force Base in California when Eadie was showing the student pilot how to recover correctly from a stall, given the aircraft’s sensitive maneuverability. When the student pilot took the controls to repeat the maneuver, he put the aircraft into an unintended second stall. The nose dipped sharply down, the left wing dropped low and the aircraft began rolling to the left.

“With the aircraft having departed controlled flight and rapidly approaching an inverted condition, it is not apparent what actions [Eadie] attempted to effect a recovery, if the aircraft was at all recoverable,” the Air Force said.

Based on the investigation and recordings between the two pilots, neither one thought they were in imminent danger, but they had to eject because the aircraft was rapidly losing altitude, according to the investigation.

“[Eadie] calmly commanded bailout by stating, “Eject, dude.”

U-2 ejection seats are designed to clear the plane’s path, the Air Force said, but the investigation found that based on burn analysis on the belt, Eadie’s lap belt might not have been secured when he ejected. When Eadie ejected, his seat did not clear the aircraft, which was in a sharp roll. Instead, his ejection seat struck the aircraft’s right wing, breaking off a five-foot section.

Eadie was a member of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, and is survived by his wife and six children.

The $32 million aircraft was destroyed. The student pilot, who the Air Force would not identify, was injured in the crash but recovered.

The student pilot ultimately graduated the U-2 program and is now an active-duty U-2 pilot, according to Maj. A.J. Schrag, a spokesman for Air Combat Command.

The student pilot had served previously as a C-17 commander at the 10th Airlift Squadron at McChord Air Force Base in Washington in 2011, the Air Force report said. The pilot went on to become a T-38 instructor pilot at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas in 2014. At the time of the incident, he had 1,349 flight hours in the C-17 and 540 flight hours in the T-38, the Air Force report said.

copp.tara@stripes.com
Twitter:@TaraCopp

Read the full report here

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The pilot who died after ejecting from a U2 spy plane that crashed in northern California was identified Wednesday as Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie. Eadie was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, California.
U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO


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