When Aviation Week Fell For Lies About U-2 Crash In Russia (1960)

by Joe Anselmo
May 13, 2019

Aviation Week's centennial archive is a treasure trove of aerospace history. Our editors continue to revisit some of the key events that took place over the last century.

This blog was originally published on May 4, 2016. 

Steven Spielberg’s 2015 hit movie “Bridge of Spies” portrays how a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance aircraft piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down by Soviet air defenses during an overflight of the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960.  Two weeks later, Aviation Week was still buying the false line that the aircraft had not been taken out by a Russian missile but crashed after an engine failure.

"Soviet leader Nikita “Khrushchev’s most blatant lie is his statement that the U-2 was hit by a Red Army anti-aircraft missile,” wrote Editor-in-Chief Robert Hotz in a two-page editorial published May 16. “The fact is… that Powers’ U-2 had an engine flameout.”

A separate article in that same issue maintained that U-2 flights would continue over the Soviet Union “until an effective surveillance satellite systems becomes operational and/or an arms inspection agreement is reached.”  But there would be no more overflights.

In August, 1960, the first top-secret U.S. Corona imagery reconnaissance satellite became operational, negating the need for more U-2 missions over Soviet territory.

Read the May 16, 1960 issue in Aviation Week's digital archive.


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