Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rare TU-2S plane takes to the skies after three years of maintenance

The TU-2S Dragon Lady 1078 two-seat trainer reclaimed the skies after a hiatus of 1,030 days, following an arduous journey of repair and maintenance.

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs said in a release that on February 15, its silver frame glimmered against the azure backdrop as it soared through the heavens, marking a triumphant return to flight.

The saga of Aircraft 1078 began on April 21, 2021, when a flightline mishap rendered its wing damaged and grounded, stranded at Beale Air Force Base. Despite this setback, a collaborative effort between the 9th Maintenance Group and Lockheed Martin breathed new life into the aircraft, defying the odds of restoration.


Traditionally, such extensive maintenance for U-2 aircraft is conducted at U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. However, due to its immobilization at Beale, a decision was made to undertake the wing repair and complete Program Depot-level Maintenance (PDM) locally, a task usually reserved for Plant 42.

Photo by Frederick Brown

Under the supervision of Maj. Brandon, a team of Lockheed Martin technicians and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Detachment 4 personnel meticulously executed the PDM restoration, ensuring Aircraft 1078’s readiness for flight once again.

The process of PDM involves comprehensive disassembly, component replacement, and meticulous reassembly, culminating in a series of rigorous tests to certify airworthiness.

Following a battery of functional check flights, including high-altitude pressure suit tests exceeding 70,000 feet, Lt. Col. Joshua, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron student flight commander, piloted the aircraft for its maiden solo flight to Plant 42 for the final touch — a fresh coat of the iconic black paint.

Photo by Samuel Burns

The restoration of Aircraft 1078 not only signifies a technical triumph but also restores a vital asset to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron’s fleet, enhancing aircraft availability for the next generation of U-2 pilots.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Colton Jones
Colton Jones
Colton Jones is the deputy editor of Defence Blog. He is a US-based journalist, writer and publisher who specializes in the defense industry in North America and Europe. He has written about emerging technology in military magazines and elsewhere. He is a former Air Force airmen and served at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.