Maj. Jack Nelson, a U-2 pilot assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan AB, South Korea, was flying at high altitude when his autopilot, navigation, primary heading, and reference system display malfunctioned. Then, not long after he reset the multi-function displays, the plane’s environmental control system stopped working and the temperature in the aircraft plunged below zero. Still, Nelson persevered and safely landed the aircraft. For his skill and ingenuity, he was awarded the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy. “Flying planes is a risky business, but it’s really great to know you have one of the best teams in the world that’s got your back when you are out there flying and something does go wrong,” said Nelson during a May 25 Pentagon ceremony. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the award, named after a pilot who was declared missing after his T-33 Shooting Star disappeared in 1955, is “about taking a situation that’s not supposed to occur, and turning it into normal, or at least as normal as you can get.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.