Author Topic: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News  (Read 18642 times)

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Offline Yrys

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Nothing new in the article, I presume, for most folks, except maybe the 3min 30s video


Altitude and that woozy feeling

"I'm in a simulated altitude chamber under the watchful eye of Des Connolly of QinetiQ's Human Performance division,
 and they're about to suck most of the air out.

It's all perfectly safe - for much of my simulated journey into the skies I'll be wearing a mask that provides air, much like
the one fighter pilots wear. But for four minutes, I'll drop that mask and see how it feels to breathe the thin air at
7,600 metres (25,000 feet).

QinetiQ carries out such tests on fighter pilots to instruct them on the effects of hypoxia, or oxygen starvation. They also
use the chamber to test life-support systems for high-flying jets such as the Typhoon, systems which are designed to
whip into action in the event of sudden depressurisation.

The symptoms are mild, and they rob the mind of the ability to reason, so if it sneaks up on you, hypoxia will have you
unconscious and then dead before you notice a thing. At the altitudes that a Typhoon can fly, that time could be as little
as five seconds. Luckily, I've got physiologist and pilot Tim D'Oyly at my side in the chamber to watch over the proceedings.

Last gasp

The problem is that there's less oxygen at higher altitudes (and less nitrogen and less of everything else). At 5,500 metres,
there is just half as much as at sea level. As a result, passenger planes are kept pressurised - but only to an equivalent
altitude of around 2,000 metres. Building a plane that could maintain full, sea-level pressure inside with drastically decreased
pressure outside at altitude would make them bulkier and more expensive.

Which means that if you've flown by plane, you'll have experienced the same symptoms I did: ears popping and the need
to clear them (that sort of yawning that one does to equalise the pressure across both sides of the eardrum, I learned, is
called the Frenzel manoeuvre). But as the air was sucked noisily out of the chamber and we quickly ascended to an
equivalent altitude of 7,600 metres (25,000 feet), I encountered first-hand experience of the ideal gas law that relates
temperature, pressure, and volume: it got cold.

Once we reached cruising altitude, I dropped the mask and got immediately to work on a number of tasks as my blood
used up the oxygen floating around in my blood and the tiny amount in the air. My time without the mask on was called
out in 30-second, and then later, 15-second intervals. I wrote down my address, tried a spot-the-difference exercise,
and was asked to remember a four-digit number.

When I started hyperventilating, my body's attempt to take in more air, I didn't even notice. Apparently I had taken on
a sickly grey colour, as had my fingernail beds, and my blood oxygen level plummeted from 99% before the exercise
to just 61%. I, however, felt like I was doing pretty well. The worst I felt was a bit of a warm flush, as if much of me
was blushing. Near the four-minute mark, I found myself literally trying to put a square peg in a round hole; this child's
toy is a popular test of cognition in hypoxic scenarios such as this.

The result? My handwriting went way downhill, I didn't spot the differences very well, and only remembered two of the four
digits when I was asked later. When I put the mask back on and got my first blast of blessed sea-level air, I had the worst
case of seeing stars I've ever experienced.

I think it safe to say that until I've had much more training, no one should put me in the cockpit of a fighter plane.
But I'll keep at it."

Louvre website

"Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind."  Marcel Proust

Offline PPCLI Guy

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2008, 15:47:01 »
Fighter pilots have brains?  I thought it was all "package"...
"The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind....for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole."

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aesop081

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2008, 15:54:59 »
I remember being in the chamer in Winnipeg. When i put my mask back on, the coulour returned to my vision. I had not even noticed that everything had gone black and white !!

Offline dapaterson

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2008, 16:02:48 »
Fighter pilots have brains?  I thought it was all "package"...

Fighter pilots have at least the same brains as infantrymen.


Not that I'm disagreeing with you...


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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2008, 16:17:34 »
Fighter pilots have at least the same brains as infantrymen


.....but it's jammed way in the back of the skull by the monsterous ego that occupies the same space ;D
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Offline Magic

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2008, 17:13:59 »
Here is a good example of Hypoxia. You can see the rapid deterioration of the pilots cognitive thinking. Its funny to watch but scary as well. Look at 2:40 how confused and disorientated he is.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLQMupV3DLk


Interesting stuff.

Offline Magic

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2008, 17:26:55 »
This is also a good watch. It shows the science behind GLOC (Gravity Induced Loss Of Consciousness). Quite interesting.

Part One

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvLM_uzNJZU&feature=related


Part Two

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQgvPBlz6M0&feature=related

Offline PMedMoe

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2008, 11:25:28 »
Here is a good example of Hypoxia. You can see the rapid deterioration of the pilots cognitive thinking. Its funny to watch but scary as well. Look at 2:40 how confused and disorientated he is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLQMupV3DLk

Interesting stuff.

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Offline Magic

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2008, 11:30:36 »
If my eyes aren't deceiving me, when he says two of hearts, isn't that the two of spades?

Exactly, you see the mental symptoms of hypoxia, disorientation and confusion in this case.

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2008, 11:49:42 »
Exactly, you see the mental symptoms of hypoxia, disorientation and confusion in this case.

I just thought it was very early in the video, but you don't know how long his mask has been off.
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Offline Magic

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2008, 11:51:43 »
I would assume it was very early in the testing since he was very responsive, However, turned sour quickly.

aesop081

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2008, 12:03:28 »
I just thought it was very early in the video, but you don't know how long his mask has been off.

Everyone is affected at different rates. It took a bit for me to start getting confused but the guy next to me was out to lunch very early on.

Offline Ex-Dragoon

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2008, 16:50:48 »
Everyone is affected at different rates. It took a bit for me to start getting confused but the guy next to me was out to lunch very early on.

Thats a first ;)
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Offline snyper21

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2008, 18:19:11 »
Hey guys I just have a question about getting selected to fly fighters. I met this pilot trainee last summer and he told me that the guys who select people to fly fighters much prefer ones who have graduated from RMC. Also, watching Jetstream I noticed that all of the pilots were from RMC. Can anyone verify this for me? Thanks.

Offline pipstah

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2008, 02:20:50 »
Hey guys I just have a question about getting selected to fly fighters. I met this pilot trainee last summer and he told me that the guys who select people to fly fighters much prefer ones who have graduated from RMC. Also, watching Jetstream I noticed that all of the pilots were from RMC. Can anyone verify this for me? Thanks.
         The selection is a very complexe process. There's alot of stuff put into considerations as for exemple: course ranking, attitude....

         As for my personnal experience, I was surprised to be one of the youngest on my course in Moose Jaw at 26 years old. Wich mean, there was alot of people in the 30's and 40's. That being said, those people tend to have a family. Sometimes the said family doesnt want to be stuck between the two jets bases. But in the other hand, a fresh RMC guy with no girlfriend, baby to take care of, will be more focused and able to go through a demanding course like the F-18 OTU. That is my personnal point of view.

          The last thing I would say is: the biggest factor is how many put that now has their first choice...  ;)
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Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2008, 22:06:48 »
Hey guys I just have a question about getting selected to fly fighters. I met this pilot trainee last summer and he told me that the guys who select people to fly fighters much prefer ones who have graduated from RMC. Also, watching Jetstream I noticed that all of the pilots were from RMC. Can anyone verify this for me? Thanks.

Where did you meet that guy?

Offline Le Adder Noir

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2008, 06:42:42 »
Let us not forget that fighter pilot's brains are subject to other conditions: consider for example high G turns....





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Offline snyper21

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2008, 14:28:14 »
i met the guy at an airshow in the summer.

Offline retiredgrunt45

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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2008, 14:47:56 »
I liked this one, The pilot says tall skinny guys pass right out when pulling G's, but short bald fat guys who drink lots of beer and eat plenty of red meat, just take it all in stride, shake their heads and keep on going. I'm one of those bald short fat guys  ;D Must be all that cholesterol keeping the blood from draining out of my brain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJi1vi9XHWY&NR=1
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Re: What happens to fighter pilots' brains at high altitudes , BBC News
« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2008, 16:08:13 »
I liked this one, The pilot says tall skinny guys pass right out when pulling G's, but short bald fat guys who drink lots of beer and eat plenty of red meat, just take it all in stride, shake their heads and keep on going. I'm one of those bald short fat guys  ;D Must be all that cholesterol keeping the blood from draining out of my brain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJi1vi9XHWY&NR=1

True, big time.  My jet instructor was an ex CF-5 pilot, about 5'2", stocky and could take G all day long without even a whisper of the M1 'grunt'.  I, on the other hand, at 6'2" and as they say in Texas, "a tall drink of water"...had to work hard to even try keeping up with my instructor in the G department.

G2G

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One thing for sure is, the pilots featured on Jetstream held Engineering degrees (7 out of 8).  You can spot the iron ring on their pinky, so that was a dead give-away.

I guess it would make sense too, university engineering training would give you the significant stamina to absorb crap-loads material.  Stamina (not intelligence) being the keyword.  And I guess in terms of the 'technical' material a CF18 pilot would be studying, would most likely resemble engineering-style subjects.


Offline SupersonicMax

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One thing for sure is, the pilots featured on Jetstream held Engineering degrees (7 out of 8).  You can spot the iron ring on their pinky, so that was a dead give-away.

I guess it would make sense too, university engineering training would give you the significant stamina to absorb crap-loads material.  Stamina (not intelligence) being the keyword.  And I guess in terms of the 'technical' material a CF18 pilot would be studying, would most likely resemble engineering-style subjects.

On my Hornet OTU, we are 4 guys that have engineering background out of 10.  2 guys have arts degrees, 2 have aviation degrees and 2 have physics degrees (1 has a master). 

We are all doing pretty good and I don't see how my engineering degree helps me.  THere is some "technical" stuff, but it's nothing outside the grasp of an arts-man.  Nothing you would need an engineering degree to understand.  I don't find it "resemble" engineering-style subjects.  In the end, the meat and  potatoes is how to kill.  This isn't done in the books, but by flying.

Offline xtreme

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Well, since you've done/doing Fighter Training - it would be hard for me to argue with that.  Unless of course, you are one of the few BS'ers on this site.  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

4 out of 10 is still 40%.  Which implies that the majority are still Engineers.  It is the stamina developed through Engineering that we take granted for.  The study-skills, time-management, learning how to read technical literature, drawings etc.  You've learned - how to learn.  On top of that, you've learned - how to learn technical subjects. 

I find it hard to believe that studying how to fly the Hornet and all the technical details about the jet,  tactical fighting lack any technical content.  Last book I picked up on tactical air-to-air combat written by veteran U.S. fighter pilots talk plenty about physics.  Especially, the Conservation of Energy.

I'm not surprised that Physicists are in your program.  I expect them to be.  If anybody understands g-forces, centripetal acceleration/velocity, g-forces, potential/kinetic energy, angles, trignometry (required for interception) etc - it would be the physicists.

As for the arts students.  My assumption would be, those with art degrees that gained entry must have sufficiently high aptitude/IQ/learning ability in general that make up for their lack of technical training.  i.e.extremely fast learners.  Perhaps even faster than the Engineers and Physicists.

Anyways, I'm not arguing with you.  I just want you to appreciate your own education!  :)

aesop081

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Unless of course, you are one of the few BS'ers on this site.

He is not.

Quote
  On top of that, you've learned - how to learn technical subjects. 

I do not have a university degree in engineering but, although not the pilot, i assure you i have a solid understanding of my machine, its systems and how to fight with it. I'm pretty sure i understand "technical" things. I'm also sure that all the flight engineers i fly with (none of them with engineering degrees) understand "technical" things.

Quote
Last book I picked up

You have a book, Supersonicmax has............

« Last Edit: March 04, 2010, 18:38:11 by CDN Aviator »

Offline SupersonicMax

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Well, since you've done/doing Fighter Training - it would be hard for me to argue with that.  Unless of course, you are one of the few BS'ers on this site.  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

I don't think I have to prove myself to you.  I couldn't care less if you don't believe my profile, it won't make a difference when I'm flying over the blue water of Key West tomorrow morning and afternoon.

4 out of 10 is still 40%.  Which implies that the majority are still Engineers.  It is the stamina developed through Engineering that we take granted for.  The study-skills, time-management, learning how to read technical literature, drawings etc.  You've learned - how to learn.  On top of that, you've learned - how to learn technical subjects. 

40% is a minority in my books.  It's more than any other programs, however, it is still a minority.

By this point in pilot training, everybody has the motivation, stamina and learning habits squared away.  Otherwise, we wouldn't be here.  I don't think engineering gave me the stamina and learning habits, but I believe it's a personally trait:  we are all perfectionists and people that like to do well, in everything we do. 

I find it hard to believe that studying how to fly the Hornet and all the technical details about the jet,  tactical fighting lack any technical content.  Last book I picked up on tactical air-to-air combat written by veteran U.S. fighter pilots talk plenty about physics.  Especially, the Conservation of Energy.

The "technical" details of the jet is, while important, a very very small part of the course.  The tactical aspect is what is hard.  And again, the concepts you need to understand in order to be efficient in the tactical aspect are very, very simple.  Nothing at the engineering level.  You are paid to fly the airplane, not to design it.  Test pilots/engineers are paid to test and design new kit. 

The book you read, I assume, is Fighter Combat: Tactics and Manoeuvring by Robert L. Shaw.  I have a copy at home and read it.  It's WAY too technical to be useful for a pilot.  I have no time in the cockpit to asses how my L/D is doing and what my exact turn rate is.  I need simple cues to tell me about my energy and the bandits energy and how to turn my jet to either regain energy or threaten/kill him.  Things like AOA, airspeed, Line of Sight, "feel".  Luckily, the jet is made in a such way that it is easy to get those things.

I personally am a geek.  I like to get deep into things, so to speak.  I like to understand the very minute details of everything.  Break it down, calculate it, etc.  That is just me.  Lots of people are extremely talented fighter pilots and wouldn't be able to tell you exactly how your thrust has an influence on your turn rate.

An other thing, the book is purely for visual manoeuvring.  While an important skill set to have, tactics are much more than that.

I'm not surprised that Physicists are in your program.  I expect them to be.  If anybody understands g-forces, centripetal acceleration/velocity, g-forces, potential/kinetic energy, angles, trignometry (required for interception) etc - it would be the physicists.

Again, you are thinking that you need all this for flying.  You don't have TIME or BRAIN CELLS when you are flying to think about all this.  You have simple cues, rules of thumbs, (that are explained to you and are NOT rocket science) to make things happen.  Engineering is all about theoretical material.  Flying is very much practical.  I have NEVER used trigonometry directly in an intercepts.  I have rules of thumbs that are derived from trigonometry, but I did not design them.  For example, turn X seconds, Y degrees from the bandits heading for each Z degrees of aspect angle.  You have to dumb it down.  You are not sitting at 1G, 0 kts doing this, you are closing at close to 2 times the speed of sound. 

As for the arts students.  My assumption would be, those with art degrees that gained entry must have sufficiently high aptitude/IQ/learning ability in general that make up for their lack of technical training.  i.e.extremely fast learners.  Perhaps even faster than the Engineers and Physicists.

Dude, you sound like an elitist.  Fighter pilots, not too long ago, used to be high school graduates that thought it would be cool to fly fast and shoot crap.  Most of them are extremely talented.  It has nothing to do with IQ.  It has a lot to do with attitude and motivation.

Anyways, I'm not arguing with you.  I just want you to appreciate your own education!  :)

I appreciate my own education thank you.  It may have helped me during the ground school portion a little bit.  As I said, I like to put numbers to everything.  However, in flight, it hasn't helped me a slightest bit.