Size Matters

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Air Force

A U-2 spy plane flies above the clouds.

Now that the Air Force has decided to keep its manned U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft flying well into the future – after earlier talk that the half-century old spy plane might be grounded for keeps – Air Force officials were busy expanding its flight envelope last week. No, not how high it can fly, or how steep it can dive. The Air Force is investigating how much taller and bigger – as well as shorter and smaller – U-2 pilots can be than current rules allow.

The single-seat plane has a snug cockpit, made even more so by the pressure suits the pilot must wear. “We are trying to push the limits,” Dr. Gregory Zehner, 711th Human Performance Wing senior physical anthropologist, told an Air Force reporter at California’s Beale Air Force Base. Human Performance Wing senior physical anthropologist? Yet another Air Force billet threatened by drones.