U-2 pilot “The Starman” shares out of this world experiences

Mostar, of Cool, flew plan that gathered intelligence for Washington
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
With a vast expanse of clouds swirling below him and the edge of space above him, “The Starman” flew a U-2 spy plane thousands of feet above major conflict zones all over the world. Beneath a quarter-million dollar, pressurized suit, Pilot Major Roger Mostar, of Cool, navigated the plane known as the Dragon Lady to send real-time intelligence to Washington. His designated U-2 had the capability to take photos and collect radar signal information. Even from 70,000 feet in the air the plane could penetrate clouds and weather to record conversations of enemies and send them back to the President in real time. Navigator in the sky During his 13-year career as a U-2 pilot, which began in 1987, Mostar earned esteemed recognition for saving a plane from being destroyed. The command center told him to parachute out because the plane was not flyable, but Mostar touched down in Germany after a two-hour landing. He faced each mission with signature confidence. “Without the suit you’d explode,” Mostar said. “I had faith in all this stuff. I just like flying. I fly little airplanes, too. I fly Cessnas and Pipes.” Before and after the missions, the pilots’ psychological conditions are strictly monitored. Mostar said testing has revealed that a U-2 pilot’s blood gets so hot during a mission that it actually becomes frothy. While many of Mostar’s adventures are classified, he said at any given time there are probably a few far above the Earth gathering intelligence for the U.S. military. He flew over Baghdad during Desert Storm and Bosnia during the Bosnian War. No other country has U-2 planes or planes with the same capability, according to Mostar. At times, that makes them a target for attack. Famed U-2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in the 1960’s. Mostar said he was targeted by radar several times, but never shot at by missiles. “The altitude is the biggest defense we have,” Powers said. “These perform fairly well at the high altitudes.” The team behind the pilot Mostar said he is most proud of making it into the group of select pilots to begin with. Each mission took a team of intelligence analysts, rocket scientists, pilots and more to be successful. Mostar, husband to wife Katie and father to two daughters, Erica and Vanessa, said the team became like a second family. “It was like a family and the best thing about it is it was a small group of people with a very definite mission for national interests. Targets came from Washington.” Today, Mostar has another family at FedEx, where he is a pilot. Although he has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Oregon, Mostar said flying is the career for him. He may not be flying a spy plane anymore, but Mostar is still globe-trotting. Wednesday he got back from Shanghai and Sunday he is headed to Paris. “The Starman” esteemed by locals John Keenan, of Cool, saw Mostar speak at a meeting of the Sons in Retirement Branch 138. “I had goose bumps. The idea is I lived through the Gary Powers incident,” Keenan said. “I have to reflect that he is an image of what Gary Powers was. Because of my age and my age group this guy was a hero.” Keenan served in World War II and said he knows intelligence gathering still happens with U-2 spy planes. He said he is hoping Mostar will speak to the Sons in Retirement again later this year. He said upon reflecting on The Starman, one word comes to mind. “H-E-R-O and he volunteered. Today we have a volunteer Army, Navy, Marines, Coastguard that are heroes/volunteers. He is one of the greats. I was stunned.” Reach Sara Seyydin at