Technology on F16 jet saves pilot’s life

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While technology can oftentimes cause obstacles for people and systems, if implemented correctly, it can also save lives.

One pilot at the 162nd Wing of the Air National Guard in Tucson found this to be the case Tuesday, after technology implemented into his F-16’s computer system saved his life.

"I'm glad it's on the airplane,” Major Luke O’Sullivan, F-16 instructor said. “It's obviously saved a number of pilots and airplanes at this point.”

G-forces, or forms of acceleration which cause objects to experience a force acting in the opposite direction, caused the pilot to black out while flying the jet.

"As you hit a really hard turn, it kind of increases the acceleration of the aircraft, and what that causes is all the blood in your brain to start to pool in your lower extremities,” O’Sullivan said. “So, it kind of pulls it away from your brain and your eyeballs and pulls it away from where it needs to be."

The plane plummeted nearly three miles at 700 miles-per-hour, seconds from smashing into the ground, before a system called Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance (GCAS) kicked in.

The system works by uploading its location into the computer allowing the plane to know where it is and in turn, allowing it to sense impending doom. The technology then works to correct the problem by pulling the jet up and out of danger.

O’Sullivan said that the pilot was in such a state when he woke up suddenly, that the pilot said after he felt like he was waking up in his bed in the morning.

"He definitely had a significant emotional release and I was definitely glad to see him in one piece,,,and alive," O’Sullivan said.

Pilots have other ways of combating blackouts due to G-forces, such as uniforms that provide more squeeze capability on the muscle tissue, pushing the blood back upward. However, GCAS has taken years to get into wide use, despite its inception in the 80s. Now, it is installed in 600 military aircrafts and has already saved four lives, including this pilot in Tucson.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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