Shady Lady: 1,500 Hours Fly­ing the U-2 Spy Plane

Flight Journal - - REVIEW RUNAWAY - By Lt. Col. Rick Bishop Gerry Yar­rish

(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.—

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