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Making history, reserve pilot flies U-2 Dragon Lady

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, receives suit preparations at Beale Air Force Base, California, May 5, 2020. Before flights, pilots go through pre-flight checks to make sure their pressure suits are able to respond during extreme conditions and high altitude flights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, receives suit preparations while an Airman from the 9th Physiological Support Squadron checks his suit at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020. Before flights, pilots are put on 100 % oxygen to decrease the amount of nitrogen in their body so that it can reduce the effects of decompression sickness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, steps out of the transportation van at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020. Prior to suiting up and entering the cockpit, U-2 Dragon Lady pilots are evaluated and monitored medically to ensure they can perform at high altitudes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, touches the nose of the U-2 Dragon Lady while an Airman from the 9th Physiological Support Squadron helps transport his oxygen at Beale Air Force Base, California, May 5, 2020. The U-2 Dragon Lady is one of the oldest operational aircraft in the Department of Defense with its first flight on Aug. 1, 1955. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, taxis to the runway in a U-2 Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020. The U-2 has been providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance since the Cold War and continues to deliver imagery to decision makers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, prepares to taxi at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020. At altitudes of more than 70,000 feet, the U-2 Dragon Lady is the highest flying operational aircraft in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

For the first time in Air Force history and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, reservist Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, takes off in a U-2 Dragon Lady as the first Reservist in Air Force and 99th RS history to do so at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., May 5, 2020. The U-2 has been providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance since the Cold War and continues to deliver imagery to decision makers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) --

For the first time in Air Force and 9th Reconnaissance Wing history, a reservist, Maj. Jeffrey Anderson, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, qualified to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.

The U-2 is known as the hardest aircraft to fly in the world. It has been a host to less than 1,500 pilots since the first flight in 1955, and 65 years later the first reserve pilot makes history.

“I applied for the U-2 program while in active duty, and then switched to the reserves,” Anderson said. “The last two years I’ve been flying for Delta Air Lines and then I took a two-year break, and now I’m back flying the U-2 as a Reservist.”

Coming back to active duty from the Reserves is no easy task. Anderson was able to come back to fly the U-2 through a commander-directed requalification program.

“It’s really exciting to have the first qualified reserve pilot in U-2 and Air Force history pave the way for other Reservists to fly,” said Lt. Col. Chris Mundy, 99th RS commander.

The average training program takes months to complete the U-2 and T-38 Talon flights, various simulators, survival training and other operations.

“I have been activated for 183 days, and my qualifications and training allow me to support the mission,” Anderson said. “In order to make sure I was able to come back, I had to do rigorous training (to) make sure I was able to fly.”

By having a Reservist that’s qualified in the aircraft, 99th RS gains more flexibility for the U-2 program for the future. It allows for more experience when there is a manning crisis for the pilots in the Air Force.

“A lot of pilots in the U-2 community got out and continued flying careers and what we have here is a chance to get the experience from those Reserve pilots down range,” Mundy said.

The U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft which delivers critical imagery and signals intelligence to decision makers throughout all phases of conflict, including peacetime indications and warnings, low-intensity conflict and large-scale hostilities.

“Two and a half years ago when I flew my last mission, it was sad,” Anderson said. “I’ve flown so long and reflected back on my time flying. It was the right decision for my family to commit to the Reserves and didn’t have a slight thought of being back here. Now, I get the chance to support this impressive mission and this is truly amazing.”