When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.

J.J., whose name was withheld by the U.S. Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said this month.

"We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We're between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time," Maj. Matt "Top" Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.

"We're about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches," Nauman added. "It's a pretty small group of people that we've hired over the last 60 to 65 years."

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How exactly do the pilots of one of the world's most sophisticated spy plane take a dump during flights of between 8 and 12 hours at twice the altitude of commercial airliners?

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U.S. Air Force Photo by John Schwab

The pilot killed when a U-2 Dragon Lady crashed near the Sutter Buttes on Tuesday has been identified as Lt. Col. Ira Stephen Eadie of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds

A crowd of U-2 Dragon Lady pilots gathered in Hangar M at Beale Air Force Base on Wednesday to welcome the newest member into their elite club and to celebrate a milestone.

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