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LeVier who had conducted the first taxi-test a few days prior, accelerated the U-2 to 70 knots when he suddenly realized he was airborne, leaving him in “utter amazement.”
“I had no intentions whatsoever of flying,” recalled LeVier in transcripts quoted in “The CIA and Overhead Reconnaissance – the U-2 and OXCART Program, 1954-1974 (PDF 16.56MB)” written by CIA Historians. “I immediately started back toward the ground, but had difficulty determining my height because the lakebed had no markings to judge distance or height. I made contact with the ground in a left bank of approximately 10 degrees.”
He was unable to land the U-2 on his first attempt, and it bounced back into the air, but he managed to successfully bring it down on a second try. Damage to the prototype U-2 was very minor. This test would later be considered the first unofficial flight of the U-2.
LeVier piloted the U-2’s first official test flight a few days later on August 4th, and the first official flight with visiting dignitaries present was on August 8th.
The strip of wasteland was known at the time by its map designation: Area 51. To make the new facility sound more attractive to the pilots and workers who would reside there, Lockheed’s famous aeronautical engineer, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, called it “Paradise Ranch,” which was soon shortened to just “the Ranch.” Many of the workers even referred to themselves as “ranch hands.”
a reply to: Zaphod58
With any aircraft once you drop below a certain altitude your altimeter stops working, because there's no pressure change anymore.