Shady Lady: 1,500 Hours Flying the U-2 Spy Plane
(Crecy Publishing, 304 pages, $24.95)
Developed during the Cold War by Lockheed’s “Skunk Works” division, the amazing high-altitude U-2 spy plane has been in continuous military service for more than six decades. No other American spy plane has been as successful at gathering vital and highly classified intelligence. Author Lt. Col. Rick Bishop tells his story as only a former U-2 pilot can. Taking us into the super-secret world of high-altitude recon missions, Bishop explains the many challenges he encountered while flying his advanced and secretive plane. A compelling read, this book introduces the reader, in layman’s terms, to the culture and camaraderie of military pilots involved in the designing, building, and flying of one of the most sophisticated aircraft ever included in the U.S. inventory.
Bishop flew for more than 50 years as a civilian, Army, and Air Force pilot, amassing more than 16,000 hours in the air. Voluntarily joining the Army in 1967, he saw action in Vietnam, as an Army aviator piloting heavylift helicopters, before joining the Air Force in 1974. He then flew jets for four years, until he was selected to join the U-2 program. During the next 13 years, he rose to commander of the 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, prior to further advancement preceding his retirement in 1991.
The author covers his entire career as a U-2 pilot, including life at the squadron level and what it’s like to sit in the cockpit operating Lockheed’s “Dragon Lady” at the top edge of the earth’s atmosphere. Bishop’s candor and openness, along with more than 100 photos, give you the feeling you are learning something secret, with an honest attempt to let you in on what it was really like. I particularly liked the in-cockpit photos and the detailed illustrations of the aircraft. Add to this the absolutely amazing high-altitude photos taken of the earth from the cockpit and you get a real sense of what it was like to be flying the Dragon Lady. At 304 pages, there’s a lot of material to enjoy in this book, and at $24.95, it’s an excellent value that should be in everyone’s aviation library.—