A Most Excellent Adventure
(click on pictures to enlarge)
Historical Over Fly of Russia by the ER-2
During the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States on May 1, 1960, Gary Powers was shot down in a U-2 while overflying the Soviet Union. The U S government had been denying these over flights for months, but the capture of Gary Powers was proof that the overflies were a reality. Consequently, no U-2 or ER-2 aircraft have over flown what is now Russia since. During the negotiations for the SOLVE mission the mention of "there will not be another incident" by the Russian group assured us that the topic was as much on the Russian group's minds as it was on the United States group's minds. So when the morning of January 27, 2000, when the science mission that would take the ER-2 into Russian airspace for the first time in almost 40 years was about to commence, the anticipation ran high among all of us.
Thursday morning dawned clear with a hint of a polar stratospheric cloud above as the ER-2 taxied out for it's historical flight with Dee getting the call in the rotation over Jan by sheer luck. The pilots rotate flights and Dee got to do this flight just because it was his turn. Jan on the other hand flew the ER-2 to Kiruna from the United States. Pictures A through D show the taxi sequence. As the flight progressed, some of us were in the radio room when the call came through that Dee had crossed over into Russian airspace on schedule and without incident. There was a jovial feeling among the Americans and Russians during this historical moment.
A few hours, later after a short polar day, a crowd gathered in the dark cold as the ER-2 landed. Picture A shows Stephen and Megan awaiting the return. Picture B shows the Dutch media video crew braving the cold for shots for their documentary. Finally, as shown in picture C, the ER-2 taxis back to the ramp where it had departed only a few hours ago. Picture D shows the crew with the pilot. The individuals are: Bob, Smurf, Ron, Gil, Dee, Jim, Bob, Jan, and Wayne. Picture E shows Vladimir who is one of the Russian representatives. Picture F is of Kirill, Dee, and Mikhail. Kirill and Mikhail are two more Russian representatives. Picture G shows Mike, Dee, and Paul while Mike, Dee, and Mike are shown in picture H.
.Afterward, during the debriefing period, Dee told us about his emotions during the flight in response to a question by Kathy. Dee is an eloquent speaker, and I found myself very moved by what he had to say. Being an ex Air Force pilot and having seen the wreckage of Gary Power's U-2 during his recent visit to Russia to negotiate this over flight, Dee was able to experience some real emotion and to relate this to us in a very poignant way. All in all, it was a very long day not soon to be forgotten. And by the way, we got some good science from the flight, also.