Last week I was fitted for a new pair of pants. They were green, they had lots of cool pockets, but most importantly, they connected to an air supply. These pants were designed to inflate—just like that thing the doctor uses on your arm to check your blood pressure—to help squeeze blood up to your head, when experiencing high g-forces, so that you don’t pass out.
Lets talk about g-force.
Right now, this thing called gravity is working very hard to keep your feet on the ground. Standing still, the Earth’s gravitational field is exerting 1 g of force on your body—you weigh 180 lbs, you walk around feeling like you weigh 180 lbs. When you hop on a roller coaster, slam on the brakes of your car, or in this case, strap into a CT-155 jet, there is a good chance you are going to experience forces greater than Earth’s gravity. With each level of g force, your body weight doubles. For a brief moment last week—pulling 6.5 g’s—I could hardly lift my hand off my leg.
Strapping into the back seat of a CT-155 Hawk—one of the two types of training aircrafts used at 15 Wing in Moose Jaw for the NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) program run by CAE—with Saskatchewan pilot, Major Andrew Faith, was without question, one of the most exciting moments of my life. I was at 15 Wing to highlight the world class NFTC training program all Canadian Air Force pilots must go through in Moose Jaw before taking to the sky. The story was a golden ticket, along with a tour of the airbase, I was granted a boarding pass to experience a flight in the most powerful jet on site.
The flight lasted 45 minutes. Travelling at 500 knots—nearly 1000km/h—I thought Major Faith was joking when he told me we were above Gravelbourg less than 8 minutes after leaving the base. Chasing clouds, barrel rolls, loops, and dips were just a few of the manoeuvres Andrew pulled in an attempt to have me fill one of the three puke bags I was provided—lucky for me and to everyones surprise, I was able to keep down my lunch.
Experiencing the g-forces that these pilots train to withstand was both exhilarating and exhausting. For a few short seconds we were pulling 6.5 g’s of force and it took every ounce of energy in my body to stay awake, let alone steer a jet. Following the flight I could have laid down on the tarmac and slept for 12 hours straight.
Not only do Canadian Air Force pilots undergo extremely demanding physical training, they spend a huge amount of time in the classroom, studying and preparing themselves for every possible scenario that could take place in the sky.
The pilots at 15 Wing come from all over Canada and the world. They are dedicated, fearless, and passionate about what they do. As I toured the base I asked several students what it was they loved about flying and one answer kept coming up,