Beale is the home of the 9th Reconnaisance Wing (9 RW) which features two very cool airplanes: the U2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk.
|U2 flying over Beale AFB|
The U2 provides day and night, very high-altitude (70,000 feet), all-weather surveillane. The aircraft is also used for electronic sensor research and development, satellite, calibration, and satellite data validation. As a frame of reference, commercial aircarft that we fly in the United States fly between 36,000 and 40,000 feet. These guys fly WAY up there.
Because of the high operating altitude, the pilot must wear the equivalent of a space suit. The suit delivers the pilot's oxygen supply and emergency protection in case cabin pressure is lost at altitude (the cabin provides pressure equivalent to about 29,000 feet / 8,800 metres). To prevent hypoxia and decrease the chance of decompression sickness, pilots don a full pressure suit and begin breathing 100% oxygen one hour prior to launch to remove nitrogen from the body; while moving from the building to the aircraft they breathe from a portable oxygen supply.
|Pilot walking up to the U2...but first....must let someone take his photo.|
The other plane is a Global Hawk. This plane is flown with no pilot!
Here's a terrific link is you are interested in the plane.....
|Global Hawk maintenance.|
Well, we did other stuff later in the day that I'll post in a few days. This post is already a bit lengthy.