To keep aircraft from crashing, they use high-speed chase/guide cars during take-offs and landings.The process is pretty simple: The Air Force buys fast and relatively inexpensive Detroit muscle and puts a highly trained pilot in the driver’s seat. Those pilots then act as ground-based wingmen for the U-2s in the air, talking them through runway operations.
image/text credit: TopFelya
Because of the speeds involved, the chase cars are usually high-performance cars. They wait at the end of the runway, and when the U-2 passes, they burn rubber to keep up, calling out altitude and wing attitude over the radio.
When the airplane’s main gear is roughly two feet over the tarmac, the pilot deploys several sets of spoilers and flaps to reduce lift and minimize wing drop, lowers the plane down, slows to a stop while balancing on the two center wheels, and then drops a wingtip to the ground (they have titanium skidplates for this purpose) and stops.
The “pogo” wing landing gear that fell off on take-off are then reattached, and the U-2 taxis to its hangar. The addition of the chase cars all but eliminated serious landing accidents.