OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Looking upon the curvature of the Earth from 70,000 feet is not your average office view, but for Lt. Col. Eugene Georgescu, 5th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, this is where he has spent 2,000 hours of his life.
Over the past 13 years, Georgescu has spent 2,000 hours flying the U-2 Dragon Lady; an achievement not easily met by all pilots. Only 1,060 pilots have ever flown the U-2 in its 70-year history, and only about 35 pilots have ever met the major milestone.
“I am incredibly grateful to have met this milestone,” Georgescu said. “But it would not have been possible without the support of my family and the incredible 5th RS team.”
To spend that much time inside the cramped cockpit, wearing a high-altitude pressure suit, scraping ice from the canopy, and all alone with the vastness of space around them, it’s a challenge that not many can handle. It’s one of the reasons they wear the Latin phrase “Solum Volamus,” meaning “we fly alone” on their patches.
“The only thing I find uncomfortable about flying the U-2 is knowing that someday this incredible experience will end,” Georgescu said.
Few other air and spacecraft have ever flown at such high altitudes, giving U-2 pilots a unique perspective of the runway they depart from and return to on a daily basis from the outer atmosphere.
“You can actually see the earth’s shadow visibly move across the earth and divide the night from the day,” said Capt. Kalen Judah, 5th Reconnaissance Squadron U-2 pilot. “The thought of how lucky I am to be a part of a relatively small amount of human beings that have looked at the Earth from that perspective is one of my favorite things.”
Even after 2,000 hours from well above the surface of the Earth, Georgescu isn’t ready to give up his fight with the dragon or dance with the lady.
“I absolutely plan on adding more hours,” said Georgescu. “Neither I nor the U-2 have any plans of retiring.”