A Visit To See A Hawk


The last few days, I have been reading some interesting articles on what we now call UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. And from what I have read reinforces my belief that there is very little truly “new” under the sun.

Most inventions, considered radical departures from the norm in society have had the stepping-stones from others, sometimes years ago, sometimes decades.

But to go into all this history, with a little post about our second visit to Beale, would tend to tell you a lot about everything and nothing specific about anything.

So maybe that will be for another post.

As a late friend would admonish me – focus.


A year or 2 after our visit to learn about the U2, we received another invitation to learn about the Global Hawk. Before this visit the only UAV I had heard of was the well-publicized Predator.

As I soon learned, there are UAVs for very specific purposes. While the Predator is capable of carrying missiles, the Global Hawk’s mission is strictly recon.

Anytime whenever I have had an invitation to see/learn about anything aviation-related, count me in.

While we didn’t go to the control room, we got a nice tour, including the area where the pilots “suit up” for the U2, (and previously the SR-71).

Join me for a vicarious tour.

Some facts about the Global Hawk. I don’t how much of this is applicable to its Navy variant.

In 2001, it was still under development by Northrop-Grumman, but rushed into production after 9-11.

Cruising altitude – 65,000 feet.

Cruise Speed – 341 kts (391 MPH). Time aloft without refueling – 36 hours. Do the math 😉

It’s flight – anywhere in the world – is controlled from Beale.

Its mission is programmed on the ground. It takes off – and lands – automatically and right down the centerline.

It’s engine is also used in a Cessna Citation jet. (30 years ago I worked for Cessna in Wichita when the Citation lineup was a lot simpler. Don’t ask me which Citation Jet today 😉 )

Landing gear is borrowed from the  F-16.

Wingspan – 130 feet.

At the time of our lecture, we were told that the FAA still didn’t know how to integrate large unmanned drones into the controlled airspace (which I think is still the case, and could be the subject of another article by itself!). So Beale gives a notice to airmen (NOTAM) advising them that a Global Hawk will be taking off – or landing.

We also learned a bit more about the U2 – I was interested to learn that there is a civilian life-support specialist – who worked at his desk right by the legendary Kelly Johnson, still under contract.

So join me for a vicarious tour around the base – with additional commentary by your tour guide!

At the start of the tour, we received a comprehensive lecture. My thanks to the Airman who gave this – in the interest of some privacy I’ll leave out the name(s) but you know who you are 😉


We headed out to a hanger that housed a Global Hawk – my impression of it was that it looked like a large flying Beluga Whale .

Just in case you don’t know where you are!



…your tour guide (about 20 lbs heavier)


…Lest you forget Beale has other inhabitants!


We left the hanger and went back to where the U2 drivers – Image

(and formerly SR-71 drivers) suited up

..This is the outside (and controls) of a altitude chamber – demonstrating Hypoxia (oxygen starvation to the brain) – what Lex wrote about .

Where U2 Pilots suit up, with a reminder of their other famous plane – now retired…



What the U2 pilots wear today…


…and no visit would be complete without a visit to Beale’s other famous inhabitant!





I hope that you enjoyed the tour and I hope that Lex, wherever he is, enjoyed it too.


Filed under USAF

6 responses to “A Visit To See A Hawk

  1. Old AF Sarge

    Why yes, that was awesome. Truly awesome.

    Well done Bill!

  2. Buck

    In re: The SR-71 plaque. There’s this one, too… at the SAC Museum outside of Omaha. (Yeah, I know… it’s actually the “Strategic Air & Space Museum.” But us Ol’ Farts refuse to acknowledge such things.)

    • Old AF Sarge

      That SR-71 at the SAC Museum? I was there, just off the runway, when they flew that bird in on her last flight. The aircrew put on a mini-airshow for us. There were quite a few people there that day. The aircrew did the Blackbird proud. Her last flight was memorable.

      There were very few dry eyes when the old girl touched down for the last time.

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