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When nine-year-old Ellie Carter from Devon wrote to the organisers of the Royal International Air Tattoo asking if they would invite her favourite aircraft to July's event little did she know what lay in store.

Ellie's letter asked if the airshow would invite a US Air Force U-2 spyplane because she loved the fact it flew on the edge of space and that teamwork was required to operate and land the aircraft safely.

But in her enthusiasm Ellie only gave her name, age and the fact she lives in Devon, leading to an international "hunt" for the youngster which captured the attention of the US crew of the spyplane at Beale Air Force Base, in California.

Luckily the Monkleigh Primary School pupil keeps a close eye on the Air Tattoo website and spotted the plea from organisers trying to track her down.

After her mother, Lorna Carter, got in touch it was arranged by the crew of the U-2 spyplane - who had been inspired by Ellie's letter - for her to come to the US airbase and be shown around the aircraft.

She was also given the rare opportunity to sit in the chase car travelling at approximately 120mph as it attempted to keep up with the landing U-2 plane, which had just completed a 12-hour flight from Sacramento at altitudes on the edge of space.

"It was really fun," Ellie said afterwards. "The whole day was amazing. I never thought I would ever be able to do anything like this."

Speaking about the letter, she added: "It just went everywhere, it went to Fairford and then to the Pentagon and Beale Air Force Base, which was really amazing."

Air Tattoo spokesman Richard Arquati said: "When we put Ellie's letter on our website we never expected to be contacted by U-2 pilots offering to help.

"The US Air Force bent over backwards to ensure Ellie had a day she would never forget and we are hugely grateful to them for making such a rare and unique experience possible.

"We very much hope we will see U2s returning for the Air Tattoo itself on July 7-8 when they would take their place alongside other iconic aircraft such as the Vulcan bomber and Avro Lancaster to inspire thousands of other people young and old."

Click on the video below to see Ellie meeting the pilot of the U-2:

March 6, 2012

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