According to the Popular Science report, In late March of 2019, in a military operating area over Oregon, a student pilot and an instructor were conducting a two-aircraft training mission on basic fighter maneuvers.
Each aviator was in their own F-15C jet. It was early afternoon, and the aircraft was at about 18,000 feet. The student made a turn, and during that maneuver, began to experience G-forces. About six seconds into that turn, those Gs caused blood to travel downwards from the pilot’s head, and the student passed out.
Eleven seconds later, after waking up, the pilot began to recover by putting engines to idle, and pulling back on the control stick.
It was the correct course of action, according to the Air Force, but that maneuver subjected the jet to more stress than it was structurally designed to withstand. It endured a phenomenon called “over G-pull.”
The wings, tail, and fuselage were all seriously damaged by the incident, adding up to a cost of more than $2.5 million. The Air Force has still not decided precisely what to do with the aircraft.
Both F-15s landed safely, and neither pilot involved in the mission was injured.
While the fainting flyboy survived the ordeal, the calamitous case does illustrate the perils of operating fighter jets even during training exercises, says Cheryl Lowry, a physician, aerospace medicine expert, and retired Air Force colonel.
“Despite good training, and good aircraft, and good procedures, things still happen,” she tells Popular Science.
And they’re happening at an increased rate. Between October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019, the Air Force Safety Center recorded 12 incidents of G-induced loss of consciousness (GLOC), the majority of them involving student pilots. This is slightly more than in years past, according to the Air Force Safety Center. But the public doesn’t always hear about them since nothing truly disastrous happened.
Fortunately, the Oregon mishap has prompted the formation of an Air Force Safety Investigation Board report, and the overall safety system has “gotten better and…more automated,” according to Lowry.
Despite advancements, 2018 and 2019 saw a global uptick in airplane accidents, reports USA Today. The most infamous incident occurred on October 29, 2018, when a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers.