I had the privilege of going to Cold Lake Alberta to the one of finest jet fighter training facility in the world for “Operation Maple Flag”. Nations from around the world send pilots and planes to Cold Lake to do air to air combat practice. Yep, mid air dog fights at 600 miles per hour. We had the whole day there and got to speak to pilots, crew, officers and operations folks about all the working of such a place. It was mind boggling and an amazing day. He high-lite was standing on the runway as Planes blasted by us taking off.
The part of the story I want to tell you about is what it is like to be in a plane that pushes 6 time the force of gravity on your body. All the pilots are light and lean and the seats they must fit into are very small and hard. The have 40 pounds of gear including G pants, life vest which double as ejection seat harness, helmets and breathing hardware. They put all this on a squeeze in to a tint working space and are strapped down to the point they cannot move anything but their feet ,arms and head. Then the fun begins. Take off with after burners can push 4 G I believe they said. In the air avoidance maneuvers can push up to 7 G – this means there bodies weight is now 1050 pound instead of the 150 they weighed on the ground, but do not forget the extra 40 pounds of equipment that weights 280 pound at 7 G. So their hearts, lungs, brain, organs and of course arms need to be fit enough to keep functioning with well over 1000 pounds pushing on them. Passing out is a bad plan, but the G suit is attached to the plan so as the G forces go higher, the suit compresses the blood out od the legs and back up to the core and brain so they do not pass out (we can thank the Mayo Brothers for this invention in WWII) One other key detail, if you do use the ejection seat the G forces pop up to 20 G for the supper fast exist. I asked a pilot named Vlad it they practice for this and he told me ‘Pacticing an ejection seat would be like practicing shooting yourself, whats the point as you know it is going to hurt like hell if it ever happens”
The pilots I spoke to explained that most flights are less than 1 hour as unless they have a fuel plane in the sky with them, they burn their 10,000 liters of fuel in less than 90 minute in conservative mode. Apply the after burners for full power and they will burn 1000 liters of fuel…… a minute ( ouch on the gas bills).
The scope of what it takes in fitness to exert these stress on your body is well beyond anything I understand. I suspect it takes a special body type in the first place to even start to prepare for this. Good cardio is key, strong lungs a must and solid shoulders and core muscles most certainly. I just want to share with our fitter followers how outstanding it was to see the entire operation unfolding in front of our eyes and then spend time with the fly boys who are at the wheel ( there were 2 girls too) I hope to get some feedback and comments to share on this blog from the pilots so keep an eye out for further updates on this one.