A nine-year-old girl whose “destiny” is to become a spy pilot had her dream come true yesterday when she raced at 120mph in the chase car following a U-2 spyplane as it came in to land.
Ellie Carter, from Great Torrington, Devon, wrote to the organisers of the world’s largest military airshow – RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire – asking if they could feature her favourite aircraft the following summer.
But Ellie only gave her name, age and the fact she lives in Devon, leading to an international “hunt” for the youngster which captured the attention of the United States crew of the spy plane at Beale Air Force Base, in California.
Luckily the Monkleigh Primary School pupil keeps a close eye on the Royal International Air Tattoo website and spotted the plea from organisers trying to find her.
After her mother, Lorna Carter, got in touch it was arranged by the crew of the U-2 spyplane for her to go to the Gloucestershire base and be shown around the aircraft. She was also given the rare opportunity to sit in the chase car travelling at about 120mph as it tried to keep up with the landing U-2 plane, which had just completed a 12-hour flight from Sacramento at altitudes on the edge of space.
The aircraft is always met on landing by a ground crew in high performance vehicles who chase it down the runway in order to fix stabilisers under the wingtips as the aircraft rolls to a stop.
“It was really fun,” Ellie said afterwards.
“You could just see the back of the plane, which was really cool, and it came overhead and landed in front of us.”
Ellie’s love of U-2s, which fly at more than 70,000ft and so close to space the pilot has to wear a space suit, began shortly after her first visit to the Air Tattoo.
Although they are rarely seen at airshows in the UK, U-2s occasionally land at RAF Fairford on their way back to the US following top secret missions.
Ellie was accompanied by her parents and six-year-old brother. Mrs Carter said: “Her dream is to be a U-2 pilot and I can’t imagine her doing anything else.
“She seems to know just as much as the pilots do about the cockpit and everything now, so it’s definitely her destiny.”