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Pilot killed in U-2 spy plane crash in California

The plane crashed around 9:00 a.m. local time (1600 GMT) shortly after takeoff in an unpopulated area in Sutter, north of state capital Sacramento, the Air Force said.

The service had initially said both pilots ejected safely, but later confirmed one was killed.

The plane was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, the facility said on Facebook.

Beale spokesman Airman Tristan Viglianco said it was not immediately known if the pilot had died during the dangerous eject procedure or after.

U-2 spy planes came to the world’s attention during the Cold War, when one of the secret reconnaissance planes piloted by Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union.

The Air Force still has 33 U-2s in service, five of which are two-seat trainers.

With a maximum altitude of 70,000 feet (21,300 meters) the U-2 was initially designed to fly out of reach of Soviet air defenses.