By Steve Large

SUTTER COUNTY (CBS13) – One Beale Air Force base pilot is dead and another recovering after their U-2 spy plane crashed into the Sutter Buttes Tuesday morning.

Now investigators are trying to figure out what went wrong.

A still photo shows the burning wreckage of the downed U-2 spy plane, littered across a section of the Sutter Buttes. Chuck Jones was one of the first to the scene and took the picture.

“You could see the tail sticking into the ground,” Jones said. “And the wind was taking the fire and whipping it forward.”

Video from a Sutter Buttes mountaintop shows the wreckage smoldering, and away from the crash site what appears to be the parachutes of the two pilots who ejected before the plane hit the ground.

One pilot died; the other survived and is being treated for undisclosed injuries.

Pete Spyres was in the air flying a crop duster and watched the crash from the sky.

“As I was coming over the top of it, I looked down and I saw the wings of a plane,” Spyres said. “I just saw a U-2. I just knew exactly what it was.”

The U-2 plane crashed shortly after take-off during a training mission.

“Everything about the flight today was a routine flight,” Colonel Larry Broadwell said.

Broadwell says the crash left airmen and women with heavy hearts at Beale Air Force Base, but he stressed no changes would be made regarding future flights of this spy plane – which is designed to fly at extremely high altitudes for long periods.

“I would match the safety and maintenance records of the U-2 with any aircraft that the Air Force flies,” Broadwell said. “We are going to continue flying U-2 missions around the world around the clock.”

Beale Air Force Base has not released the names of the pilots.

  1. Charles says:

    Sounds like a bird strike. Noise of metal shearing on take off from witnesses, etc.

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