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U2 on a frozen Saskatchewan lake.


Clunkmeister

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In 1960, a U2, returning from a photo mission over Russia, suffered an electrical failure and had to set down on a frozen lake by La Ronge, Saskatchewan.

Service Members from RCAF Station Cranberry Portage went out and took the pilot to the station, then covered the aircraft with tarps and posted 24/7 security.

Then, they cleared an area on the ice to serve as a runway and the USAF flew in a C-119 with techs to repair the Dragon Lady, which was eventually flown out.

Here’s a few pics taken by the RCAF security detail.

That pilot and the Air Force were mighty lucky, as there is almost nothing up by La Ronge other than lakes and pine trees. 

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I have a friend who was a very young helicopter pilot who worked out of La Ronge a couple years later, and he had said that it apparently was a nicad battery that had an internal short, which overloaded the generators and shut everything down. It was find a place to park it real quick or give it back to the taxpayer. 
 

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Another article on this. Apparently, this was super secret for many years. Dad was a radar tech in the RCAF, so I spent many of my childhood years on these small stations, as well as at Tinker AFB where the training center was located and he got posted every few years. We moved all around.  Moosonee, Gypsumville, Alsask, Dana, Yorkton, Penhold, etc, we moved around a lot   Most of these Stations were in very remote areas in the forests, and had a population of about 300 people, a mixture of USAF and RCAF. They were called the “Pinetree Line”. These Stations were all a part of NORAD, which at the time consisted of 3 distinct lines of distant early warning (DEW) lines:  The Mid Canada Line, the Pinetree Line, and the DEW Line.  They all fed info back to NORAD HQ in Cheyenne Mountain and it’s backup bunker in North Bay.  
This was all a part of our protection system agains Soviet bombers and ICBMs, and gave Cheyenne Mountain it’s info needed to launch the bombers, missiles, or scramble the NORAD alert birds. The entire system was called SAGE, or Semi Autonomous Ground Environment. It was a BIG DEAL back then, and was super secret.  Intruders would be shot on site.  That U-2 was an integral part of the system, and losing it intact would have been catastrophic.  At least Power aircraft was destroyed. The Soviets got a lot of scrap metal, that’s it. 
If you ever get bored, read up on SAGE and the DEW system.  I lived it as a kid, and to me, rock solid security became a way of life.

Today, most of it is gone  SAGE was superseded by AWACS as they became capable enough and technology reached a point where it was reliable.  Some DEW stations are still in use, but most were decommissioned my the 1990s. The Mid Canada and Pinetree Lines are completely shut down.  Today’s AWACS does the same exact job, but is mobile and compact. 
Those were the days  

http://lswilson.dewlineadventures.com/u2/

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Ernie

Quite a story and coupled with the early warning systems of the day, which back then we thought were super sophisticated. Time does march on. 

I remember back in the mid 60's King Radio invented area navigation where you could electronically move a VOR and the VOR system in the aircraft would track to that imaginary station as it was actually there. We thought that was incredible. Today - old hat. Talk about basic ... an ADF approach - how many pilots even know what an ADF is or how to use it? 

 

 

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27 minutes ago, Peterpools said:

Ernie

Quite a story and coupled with the early warning systems of the day, which back then we thought were super sophisticated. Time does march on. 

I remember back in the mid 60's King Radio invented area navigation where you could electronically move a VOR and the VOR system in the aircraft would track to that imaginary station as it was actually there. We thought that was incredible. Today - old hat. Talk about basic ... an ADF approach - how many pilots even know what an ADF is or how to use it? 

 

 

Ain’t that the truth. Oftentimes up north, ADF was all we had, as VOR was line of sight. Having no idea of the winds aloft and you only had one weak ADF signal, which was often a commercial AM radio station, you could carve the great comma in the sky tracking towards it. 🤣

Dual ADF receivers and two actual ADF signals was an absolute luxury. We could hit the outer marker with just that alone. VOR was such a pinky-in-the-air luxury. 🤣

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9 hours ago, Peterpools said:

👍

Peter, I assume you’ve used two ADFs to triangulate your position, or to shoot an approach?  That’s a skill that definitely turns rusty with disuse. But like you, I’m one of those old timers who could navigate quite comfortably without GPS, DME, or even a VOR.  Not to the same precision, of course, but enough to be able to grab the outer marker, localizer, and nail the glideslope. All at night, dead tired, and with drifting snow and ground fog 100’ to the surface. 

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Ernie

Now that's flying, shooting non precision approaches the hard way. Nope, never did any dual ADF navigation, as in my neck of the woods, the northeast tri state area, loads of VORs and crowded skies. I've always admired pilots who were old school, could navigate with a sectional, a road map, were masters at pilotage and dead reckoning to get from point A to point B safely.  I started flying back in the mid sixties in a J3, needless to say, you learned the ways of the magnetic compass. First dual cross country was from Zahns to Bader Field, Atlantic City was in a J3, the traffic on the Garden State Parkway passed me by. Not long after that, the succession of moving up in aircraft began and most of my hours when I was flying was in my Colt or 172's. 

 

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9 hours ago, Peterpools said:

Ernie

Now that's flying, shooting non precision approaches the hard way. Nope, never did any dual ADF navigation, as in my neck of the woods, the northeast tri state area, loads of VORs and crowded skies. I've always admired pilots who were old school, could navigate with a sectional, a road map, were masters at pilotage and dead reckoning to get from point A to point B safely.  I started flying back in the mid sixties in a J3, needless to say, you learned the ways of the magnetic compass. First dual cross country was from Zahns to Bader Field, Atlantic City was in a J3, the traffic on the Garden State Parkway passed me by. Not long after that, the succession of moving up in aircraft began and most of my hours when I was flying was in my Colt or 172's. 

 

Believe me, Peter, you use what you have, and you have what you use. IFR up there is “I follow Rivers, Railroads, or Roads”, but quite honestly, rivers were the most common.  Winds aloft info was one of the most important things you got, and being able to read isobars on the weather charts properly gave you a decent idea of winds aloft between reporting stations. Add to that the dew point, and suddenly you were armed with 90% of what you needed to know. Dead reckoning is simple if you can see ground drift, but with the flat, featureless tundra up the central arctic and the almost constant ground drift, you had beautiful stratus below, and 10 ft below that, sharp rocks. So between ADF plots, you see your drift on the chart based upon the track you THINK you’re following. A lot of assumptions, but if we had a FUBAR, at least with radio and FSS available who could at the worst, listen for the sound of engines and relay it in real-time, we had it 2000% better than the likes of Punch Dickens, Max Ward, Robert Byrd, and Tom Lamb in their Fairchild 71’s, Fokker Supers, and Junkers W34’s and 52s… 
ADF is as handy as a pocket on a shirt when used correctly, but, unfortunately, is a lost art today. If the lights go out today, I fear that 80% of the new breed will auger in, 10% will get lucky, and the last 10% spent some time with grey haired old veterans chugging around in clapped out DC-3s.

That U-2 driver was most likely either a Vet, or learned from one. TACAN was still new then. Either way, with no electrics, he had nothing but sectionals and his head to rely on. 

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Ernie

Today it's an electronic world, MFD and computers, nothing like the old days when we all first learned to fly using our eyes and a compass. I'm sure as the world turns and time goes by, the skills of the pilot will change as well. I've read that airlines are now looking at single man crews, with the aircraft doing almost everything and someday, no pilot on board at all. As sad as it sounds, the romance will be gone and technology will have passed us by.

 

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Peter, it’s sad, actually.  Today, I have no doubt that it’s a ton safer than even 30 years ago, but yeah, the spirit of the thing is gone now. 
Back then, oil burners were really still only used by the big airlines and the military. Yeah, the Twin Otter was around, but it was still relatively rare.  
Avgas ruled the day, but today, avgas is getting harder and harder to find, or at least decent avgas that won’t tear up the insides of an 1820 or 2800.  I’m an old dinosaur, I guess.

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