This Legendary Cold War Era Spy Plane Named The Dragon Lady Is Coming Back Into Service

The legendary aircraft Lockheed U-2S/TU-2S Airframe 1078, known as the “Dragon Lady”, has successfully returned to service after being rebuilt following an accident in 2021. The spy plane, which has been operating since the 1950s, has been rebuilt and received its signature black paint before returning to service.

The incident occurred on April 21, 2021, and resulted in damage to the left side of hull No. 1. 1078. The severe damage prevented it from being flown to U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, for repairs. Instead, a small team of Lockheed Martin engineers and Air Force personnel completed repairs at Beale Air Force Base, where the aircraft was parked.

The maintenance process, called Planned Depot Maintenance (PDM), involves overhauling the entire aircraft, replacing parts, and performing extensive testing. After PDM was completed the aircraft was painted at factory #42 and returned to Beale AFB.

After the loss of aircraft 1068 in 2016 and the retirement of TU-2S 1065 in 2023, the return of airframe 1078 is important for the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron since it improves aircraft availability for U-2 pilots. The unit now has access to three two-seat trainers, which improves the ability to teach new U-2 pilots, thanks to the recovery of aircraft 1078.

The successful recovery of airframe 1078 is evidence of the commitment and expertise of the experts and maintenance teams involved. The U-2 “Dragon Lady,” which is still an essential tool for the US Air Force over 70 years after it made its maiden flight, is also highlighted for her enduring legacy.

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