Frantic calls of “Two recover, Two recover, Two recover,” echoed across the airwaves.
Maj. Luke O’Sullivan, F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor pilot, watched helplessly from his cockpit as his student’s jet descended from an altitude of over 3 miles to under 4,400 feet in a matter of seconds.
While executing a more than 8-G turn, the over 1,000 pounds of pressure had drained the blood from the student’s brain, causing tunnel vision and impairing his ability to rationalize.
Within seconds, he was a victim of gravity-induced loss of consciousness.
Given the rapid rate of descent, O’Sullivan knew there was no way the pilot could regain consciousness in time to pull out of the free fall.
In less than four seconds, his student would be dead — except, he didn’t die. Instead, the essentially pilotless F-16 rolled upright, pulled a 5-G climb and then leveled off.
The pilot’s savior: a technology developed in the 1980s known as the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.