The U-2 Program revolves around the iconic U-2 spy plane, nicknamed “Dragon Lady.” Originating in the 1950s, this aircraft specializes in high-altitude reconnaissance missions, gathering crucial intelligence data from altitudes surpassing 70,000 feet.
Becoming a U-2 pilot demands more than just aviation skills; it requires a harmonious blend of technical mastery, acute mental endurance, and an unwavering spirit. Aspiring pilots must undergo rigorous training and adapt to the unique challenges of high-altitude flights. Merryl’s journey exemplifies the dedication, resilience, and passion needed to pilot this iconic aircraft, showcasing the depth of commitment required for such an elite role.
If you’re interested in having Merryl Tengesdal share her incredible journey and insights at your event, please reach out to the Harry Walker Agency, her official booking agency. They will provide you with availability, speaking fees, and any additional details you might need.
“Shatter the Sky” is Merryl Tengesdal’s literary work, likely delving into her unique journey, aviation milestones, challenges, and the transformative experiences of being the sole Black woman piloting the U-2.
The U-2, often referred to as the “Dragon Lady,” is a legendary spy plane developed in the 1950s for high-altitude reconnaissance missions. It’s designed to fly at altitudes above 70,000 feet, allowing it to gather crucial intelligence data often beyond the reach of other aircraft. Despite being over six decades old, the U-2 remains a vital asset, having undergone continuous upgrades to incorporate advanced sensors and cameras, ensuring its relevance in modern defense and intelligence operations.
Merryl Tengesdal has showcased her versatility and skill across a range of aircraft. During her service in the Navy, she piloted the SH-60B Seahawk Helicopter, the T-34C, and the T-6A. Upon transitioning to the Air Force, she achieved distinction by flying the U-2S Dragon Lady. She has also flown the T-38A/B/C aircraft, reflecting a diverse and accomplished aviation career.
Outside of her military achievements, Merryl Tengesdal is also known for her participation in the CBS reality series “Tough as Nails” and has been recognized for her determination and grit by her alma mater, the University of New Haven. Moreover, she is a personal trainer, author, leadership consultant, and motivational speaker, continuing to inspire many with her story and experiences.
Merryl Tengesdal’s military journey spans various pivotal roles and locations. Starting in the Navy, she served as a Naval Aviator at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, flying the SH-60B Seahawk Helicopter. She later became a T-34C and T-6A Instructor Pilot at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Transitioning to the Air Force, Merryl flew the U-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California, where she held leadership roles such as the 9th Reconnaissance Wing Chief of Flight Safety. She also served at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) J8 staff in Colorado. Her diverse service portfolio culminated as the Director of Inspections at the Pentagon for the Air Force Inspector General. These varied assignments showcase Merryl’s versatility, commitment, and the breadth of her contributions to the U.S. military.
Merryl Tengesdal proudly served in both the US Navy and the US Air Force. In the Navy, she began her aviation journey flying the SH-60B Seahawk Helicopter and later took on the role of a T-34C and T-6A Instructor Pilot, training both Navy and Air Force students. Transitioning to the Air Force, she became a trailblazer as the first and only Black woman to pilot the U-2 spy plane, contributing significantly to high-altitude reconnaissance missions. Across both branches, Merryl’s leadership, aviation expertise, and commitment to breaking barriers have left an indelible mark on military history.
Merryl Tengesdal’s path to piloting the U-2 began with a childhood fascination for flying and space exploration in The Bronx, New York. After earning an electrical engineering degree and joining the Navy, she flew the SH-60B Seahawk Helicopter and later served as a T-34C and T-6A Instructor Pilot. Recognizing her exceptional aviation skills and leadership potential, Merryl transitioned to the Air Force, where she embraced the opportunity to fly the U-2. By 2004, she made history as the first African-American woman to pilot the iconic U-2 spy plane, showcasing her dedication, talent, and pioneering spirit.
The U-2 spy plane earned the nickname “The Dragon Lady” primarily due to its demanding flight characteristics and the immense skill required to pilot it. Operating at altitudes above 70,000 feet, the U-2’s thin wings and unique design make it challenging to handle, especially during takeoff and landing. The name is derived from the “Dragon Lady” character in the “Terry and the Pirates” comic strip, known for her mysterious and unpredictable nature – much like the demanding and unforgiving nature of the U-2 aircraft.
Merryl Tengesdal retired from the military in 2017, concluding an illustrious career in both the US Navy and the US Air Force. While she made significant contributions, notably as the first and only Black woman to fly the U-2 spy plane, she has since transitioned to other endeavors outside of active military service.