American Experience (1988– )
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Spy in the Sky 

The story of America's high-altitude U-2 spy plane.


Linda Garmon


Linda Garmon


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Episode credited cast:
David McCullough ... Himself - Host
Roy Scheider ... Himself - Narrator (voice)


In the 1950s, President Eisenhower needed accurate information on the Soviet Union's military buildup. Photographs from reconnaissance aircraft seemed the best way to get it, but overflights using converted bombers were too dangerous. The U-2 spy plane was designed to fly high enough to avoid Soviet air defenses and long enough to bring back photos of military installations deep within Soviet territory. This documentary chronicles the design, test flights, and espionage missions of this remarkable airplane, including the ill-fated flight of Francis Gary Powers. Lots of archival footage and interviews with the pilots who flew the aircraft are included. Written by yortsnave

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Release Date:

26 February 1996 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

WGBH See more »
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User Reviews

Not just about Francis Gary Powers but about the plane itself.
3 May 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

"Spy in the Sky" was narrated by Roy Scheider. Although I thought that this episode of "The American Experience" was all about the Francis Gary Powers incident, this really was only a small portion of the show. Instead, it was about the U-2 program itself--why the U-2 was created, the planes very unusual construction and the difficulties getting it off the ground. I was very surprised about just how fragile and light the plane was, as they described it as having wings like tin foil! It was also surprising how long the plane was in service--I'd just assumed it was completely replaced by the SR-71 in the late 60s-early 70s. In addition, there was some discussion of Powers--a very famous case when the Soviet Union actually shot down one of these planes and captured its pilot. Overall, a fascinating portrait of the Cold War--well worth seeing and well made (as usual for the series).

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