This is why a Dragon Lady crashed

The cause of a Sept. 20, 2016 crash near Sutter, California, that destroyed a TU-2S Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft and killed a pilot has been released.

The Air Force officially reported that the TU-2S was on a training mission. When the trainee — not identified in the Air Force release — finished a stall recovery drill, the plane went into what the release called an “unintentional secondary stall.”

U-2 Dragon Lady-spy-plane-reconnaissance

Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The release reported that both pilots ejected from the airplane before it inverted and descended below the minimum safe altitude. The instructor, Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, was killed when he was struck by the stricken plane’s right wing. The trainee received minor injuries.

The Air Force release noted that nobody was injured on the ground, but the $32 million trainer was completely destroyed in the crash.

“Beale’s Airmen have shown resilience in the months following the crash,” Col. Larry Broadwell, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a separate statement released by Beale Air Force Base.

“This tragedy impacted the Eadie family, Beale, and the local community. We will continue to provide support to those affected and always remember the sacrifice Lt. Col. Eadie made in the line of duty.”

A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

“The results of the accident investigation were presented to us, affording our family some small degree of closure during this difficult situation,” the Eadie family said in the statement from Beale Air Force Base.

“We would like to thank the entire investigation team for their diligent efforts in helping make sense of this tragedy.  We greatly appreciate the love and support from all who have assisted over the past few months.  We would also like to thank you in advance for respecting our family’s privacy during this current period of grieving.”

An Air Force fact sheet noted that as of September 2015, five TU-2S trainers were on inventory. The first version of the U-2 flew in 1955, and the last U-2 was produced in 1989.