U-2 Spy Plane Crashes In California, Both Pilots Eject (Update: One Reported Dead)

A U2 taking off from Beale in August of last year. Photo Credit: USAF
A U2 taking off from Beale in August of last year. Photo Credit: USAF

A U-2 spy plane has crashed in Northern California in Sutter County, neighboring Beale Air Force Base where the plane launched. Both pilots have ejected, but details beyond that are scarce. (Update: it has been reported that one pilot has died. More information below.)


Beale is in Yuba County, which is next to Sutter. We’ll update as we get more information on the condition of the pilots or the cause of the crash.

Update: Given that this was a two-seater U-2, it was fairly clear that this was a training mission, but the Air Force confirmed this to local KCRA News. It can also be said that the crash happened at 9 AM this morning, and that it occurred shortly after takeoff. Both pilots are ok, but he cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Pictures of the crash scene in the Sutter Buttes:

Update 4:42 EST: The LA Times reports that one of the two pilots has tragically passed away. Here are their words, noting that the official line on the pilots changed, and then the Times got confirmation from a photojournalist at the air force, Sgt. Charity Barrett, that one of the pilots had died:

Initially, the Air Force reported the crew members had “safely ejected” and were awaiting recovery.

Almost four hours after the crash, however, air combat command tweeted, “There is no official confirmation of status of U-2 pilots.”

Shortly before 1 p.m., Sgt. Charity Barrett of Beale Air Force Base confirmed one pilot’s death. The extent of injuries suffered by the second pilot was unclear.


There has still been no official confirmation of the death from the Air Force itself or from Beale Air Force Base.

Update 5:00 EST: As Jalopnik alumnus Tyler Rogeway spotted over on The War Zone, there’s now eyewitness video of the crash. It shows the plane spinning slowly towards the ground behind one of the buttes, the pilots and their gear having already ejected.



Boy, that’s an unforgettable fire.

(Yes, I’m ashamed of that.)