Pilot dead, another injured in California spy plane crash

SUTTER COUNTY, Calif. -- A pilot died and another was injured Tuesday when an Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady crashed shortly after takeoff in Northern California, the U.S. Air Force said.

The crash occurred about 9:05 a.m. north of Sacramento in Sutter County; TV images showed a brush fire.

The aircraft had been assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, east of Marysville, and was on a training mission.

The crash occurred near the Sutter Buttes mountain range. The pilots ejected from the aircraft. The incident is under investigation.

KCRA-TV reported people saw two parachutes carrying people and a third with equipment.

The U-2 Dragon Lady "provides high-altitude, all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance, day or night, in direct support of U.S. and allied forces," according to an Air Force fact sheet.

Beale is the home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and houses the U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft.

U-2 history

In 1996, a U-2 plane from Beale "crashed into the parking lot of the Oroville Mercury Register after declaring an inflight emergency 15 minutes after take off," KCRA reported. A pilot ejected before the crash and was found dead. A civilian also died.

A U-2 spy plane was involved in one of the most dramatic incidents of the Cold War. In 1960, a U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union during a reconnaissance mission.

The American pilot, Francis Gary Powers, spent 21 months in a Moscow prison. He was returned to the United States in 1962 after a spy exchange.