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Pilot Safety Award of Distinction.

Major Means demonstrated exceptional skill as a pilot while recovering a crippled U-2 that suffered total hydraulic failure during a high-altitude, operational reconnaissance sortie in support of the SABLE GAME mission, Osan AB, ROK. As he was climbing thru 52,000', the caution and warning panel lights lit up, indicating total loss of hydraulic pressure. He immediately attempted to set his hydraulically controlled horizontal trim to the landing setting, leaving his crippled aircraft trimmed to a nose-down position. Major Means radioed the Mobile Officer to assist with procedures to safely recover the aircraft. While Major Means flew the stricken jet, the Mobile Officer read him the emergency checklists. The situation was further complicated by two near-simultaneous fighter aircraft also experiencing in-flight emergencies involving unsafe landing gear. The Mobile Officer suggested that Major Means attempt to engage the autopilot in a manual mode to relieve some of the nose-down force. After the fighter aircraft had safely landed, he flawlessly executed a successful emergency landing gear extension, finished dumping fuel, disengaged the autopilot and returned to base. Major Means calculated the no-flap approach speed and landing distance, which determined that a visual pattern and landing provided the most runway available for a landing rollout maneuver. Dangerously close to the ground to control airspeed, small deviations below the computed approach and landing speed can place the aircraft into a position where a safe recovery or go-around is nearly impossible. If too fast, the aircraft will not be able to be stopped on the available runway. Major Means flew a flight-manual, perfect, visual overhead pattern and landing. Crossing the runway threshold at a mere 2 feet, he demonstrated extremely precise aircraft control, with the Mobile Officer following close behind in the chase car, talking him down to a safe and flawless tail-wheel-first landing. Major Means saved an extremely valuable national asset and ensured continued mission accomplishment.

Maj Mike Means

5th Reconnaissance Squadron

9th Reconnaissance Wing

Beale AFB, Calif.

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Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2007
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