BEALE AIR BASE. California— A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot assists a civilian pilot in distress, Feb. 8, 2022, near Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California.
Around 9 a.m., a civilian plane suffered an engine failure over Lake Berryessa. The civilian pilot received radio assistance from Major Heatherman, pilot of the 99th U-2 Reconnaissance Squadron.
Heatherman was on a training mission when he picked up a distress call from a civilian plane that was having engine trouble over Lake Berryessa and was looking for a place to land.
“I was climbing in altitude on a high exit and about 20 minutes after takeoff, I heard a distress call from a civilian aircraft which was having engine trouble over Lake Berryessa and was looking for a place to land,” Heatherman said. “I forwarded this call to the flight supervisor at Beale and Air Traffic Control in Oakland to see if they were aware.”
After a few minutes, Heatherman received confirmation that Travis AFB air traffic control was coordinating.
“Due to the altitude of the civilian aircraft, Travis AFB could not hear or see them on their radar,” Heatherman said. “As a U-2 pilot, I was flying twice as high as most airliners, so I had really good line of sight with my radios.”
Heatherman was asked to relay the radio messages to the civilian aircraft. About 30 minutes after the distress call, the California Highway Patrol reported that they had found the civilian aircraft safely landed in a field near the lake.
“Fortunately, the aircraft landed safely in a field with no injuries, and Major Heatherman then continued with his mission,” said Major Dudderar, 1stRS flight supervisor. “It is not unusual for pilots to offer assistance to aircraft in distress to varying degrees depending on the situation. There is a common bond between all pilots, whether military or civilian. We will all give a helping hand if we can help in a difficult situation.