Fighter pilots are amazing people. We see them dodge rockets and missiles, some unsuccessfully. How do they do these things?
My Interest on Airplanes
I am not really very fond of airplanes but I was ‘forced’ to read about them since I am following two writers with those interests. My brother was also an airplane fan and and many of his drawings (he’s an animator) consist of airplanes.
My Pilot Friend
Now, I have a friend who engages himself in the same field as I do, that is working on coral ecology or the environment in general. We met once in our place while he was doing his Ph D (now he’s a Ph D) and again in Hong Kong during one of the conferences I attended in 2006. I am one of those who took fancy on his coral reef assessment methodology because it is simple yet powerful in determining the state of the corals. I would say, better than just finding out the percentage of living corals as a measure because not all localities are favorable for coral crowth.
He visited our place again and I invited him to dinner. I earlier learned that he was once a pilot and got to that topic in our conversation. I asked more details about it curious about how he managed to become a scientist while he was once a pilot.
A Veteran Pilot
I came to know that he was a veteran fighter plane pilot, flying more than 64 combat missions. Those 64 missions were flown within three weeks! Imagine that. I said, “How were you able to dodge all those rockets?”
Those were the times that he was flying one of the fastest fighter airplanes, the F4 phantom. Reading about this fighter plane, I was awed by how fast it can fly. It’s more than twice the speed of sound or Mach 2.5. Rockets can be faster, he said, but he uses a technique to elude them.
He should wait until the rockets are close enough before maneuvering quickly, a sudden banking of his fighter plane to evade it. If he does it earlier or later, then that would be the end of him. I said “That must be a jolting move, as the airplane is so fast and you would move it a sudden turn.” He said, the force could be equivalent to 9Gs. Aerospaceweb.org explains that this means that the pilot weighs 9 times as much as he normally does. Wow, that must be very strong force that you have to counteract to turn that joystick away from the incoming missile or rocket. He said you really need to be strong to be able to move at that point. And your decision must be quick. Also, the blood tends to be concentrated on the lower parts of the body. My friend told me that the tight flight suit, in conjunction with a pressure controller, keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. But there are times the pilot will blackout because enough blood could not flow back to the brain. When this happens, the pilot subconsciously releases the joystick and the airplane returns to normal flight conditions.
A Learning Experience
This was a learning experience. It’s difficult to be a pilot and one must be intelligent enough to be able to man all those controls. And not only intelligent but physically fit and strong. He said that during his time, he trained for 20 months. Currently, it will take three years to become a good pilot, fighter pilot at that.
I was amazed by his experience and couldn’t imagine how he managed to evade being hit by incoming rockets or missiles through his stint as a fighter pilot. But the fact that I am talking with him is proof that he indeed is a seasoned fighter plane pilot, and now he is gaining new grounds discovering new methodologies and breakthrough findings to understand life in the complex marine environment.
Why he became a marine ecologist? I forgot to ask the question again to bridge the gap but if I remember it right, he lives by the sea and enjoyed swimming seeing those corals. Anyhow, he’s such a remarkable man and I’m glad he’s my friend.
Image via Wikipedia
I invite you to see me explore our place in one of my blogs about Club Noah, a well-known tourist destination in Palawan. You may read it at Palawaniana and see that funny-looking fish at end of my blog.