Here’s something you don’t see everyday, and you can’t see anymore as the viewsight is out of every operational U-2 or ER-2 now. Back in my first year or so in the U-2, I had the chance to fly the Block 10 U-2. This is when it still had a viewsight (also called a driftsight) and didn’t have all the fancy glass screens. Unlike most aircraft, the U-2 is actually very hard to descend unless you put out lots of drag. The first thing in our descent checklist is to lower the gear. There’s no airspeed limit on it and it provides a moderate amount of drag. We could use the viewsight to see the gear lower.

Getting this video was a feat in and of itself. Looking through the viewsight was like looking through a scope. Your eye (or in this case, camera) had to be lined up perfectly. I was using an older Canon Powershot and I practiced holding it to keep the view through the viewsight. I realized this was really a 3 hand operation because the only way to get the viewsight to look all the way up at the belly of the plane was to squeeze this spring loaded small lever together with the viewsight handle sitting down by my right side. The gear handle has to be actuated with my left hand. And I had to have a way to hold the camera in just the right spot to get the video. I ended up finding a very sturdy rubber band that could hold the viewsight levers in place, then filmed with my right hand, while lowering the gear handle with my left. And here is the result, a grainy (not) HD video but probably one of the only ones out there.

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