Suit up with a NASA high altitude ER-2 pilot as he prepares for a scientific research mission flying as high as 70,000 feet in the agency’s modified U-2 spy plane.NASA acquired its first ER-2 aircraft in 1981 and a second in 1989.
They replaced two Lockheed U-2 aircraft, which NASA had used to collect science data since 1971. The U-2s, and later the ER-2s, were based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, until 1997, when the ER-2s and their operations moved to NASA Dryden.
Since the Airborne Science Program’s inaugural flight on Aug. 31, 1971, NASA U-2s and ER-2s have flown more than 4,500 data missions and test flights in support of scientific research.
NASA’s ER-2 set a world-altitude record for the class of aircraft with a takeoff weight between 26,455 and 35,275 lb on Nov. 19, 1998, when the aircraft reached 68,700 feet.