This muscle car is crucial to helping the U-2 spy plane land

Who said muscle cars don’t have a practical purpose?

For decades, the U.S. Air Force has used fast cars to help pilots of the Lockheed Martin U-2 spy plane land. In service since the early days of the Cold War, the U-2 is notoriously difficult to land, earning it the nickname “Dragon Lady” and leading the Air Force to institute some very special procedures.

Chase cars like the Pontiac GTO in this video from YouTube user TopFelya accompany U-2s on the runway. They’re driven by pilots who provide information to the person in the cockpit. It really is the perfect use for an American muscle car.

This is usually just a precaution for takeoffs, according to The Drive, but it is absolutely necessary for landings. The U-2’s glider-like wings were designed to help it claw onto thin air at high altitudes, but they make landing tricky. Their high-lift characteristics mean the pilot essentially has to stall the plane a few feet over the runway to land. The U-2 is also very susceptible to crosswinds, and its massive wings can droop close to the ground (they actually do rest on the ground once the plane has come to a stop).

That’s why the Air Force uses chase cars. A U-2 pilot is stationed in one of these cars at the end of the runway, and speeds off in pursuit once the plane approaches. The driver calls out relevant information to help guide the pilot into a safe landing. Because the chase car needs to catch up to the plane in order to do that, they must be fast.

In addition to the Pontiac GTO (the last generation, that was actually a disguised Holden Commodore) the Air Force has used the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and the Pontiac G8 as U-2 chase cars. A Tesla Model S was even spotted shadowing a U-2 on takeoff at a British military base recently. The U-2 has been in service for around 60 years, but it could still outlast all of those V8 muscle cars. Even in an electric-powered future, there will always be a need for fast cars.

Product Review

Montblanc Summit 2 offers smart functionality but still looks good with a suit

Montblanc’s Summit 2 is the first smartwatch to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. It’s feature packed, with GPS, NFC for Google Pay, and a heart rate sensor, but it also has the classic timepiece look.
Gaming

Have a spooky dance party at an abandoned mansion with Fortnite's new challenges

The Fortnite season 7, week 2 challenges have arrived in Battle Royale. From searching for chests to dancing off at an abandoned mansion, here's how to do them and the rewards you get for completing them.
Computing

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is back with new design, internals and S Pen

Samsung's new Notebook 9 Pen looks to be an ideal Windows 2-in-1 for creators. New features include a modern design, an updated S Pen in the box, and the latest eighth-generation Intel Core i7 processor.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Cars

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.