Surviving a Harrowing U-2 Flight

The Air Force has awarded the Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy to Lt. Col. Joseph Santucci for safely landing a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft following an in-flight emergency that left him struggling to keep the U-2’s nose up and flying. Santucci, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander at Beale AFB, Calif., had to use all his strength and both arms to pull back on the yoke, making it nearly impossible to troubleshoot systems. Complicating matters, he said, “There was bad weather, no horizon, no moon illumination, and the disorientation was horrible for me; probably the worst I have ever experienced.” Santucci credited control tower supervisor of flight, Capt. Eugene Georgescu, and an unidentified mobile driver—a pilot in a chase car to aid U-2 landings—with helping him get down with only minor injuries. USAF will make the formal award later this year. (Beale report by TSgt. Luke Johnson)