For episode 67 of the Talk4 Podcast, we featured John "Rain" Waters, a former fighter pilot of the F16 and demo pilot. In this snippet, we discuss the physical effects and challenges of flying a fighter jet and how taxing it is on your body.
"Tell me a bit more about the physical effects of it, because I was saying this when I went out in the L39, "that was one of the hardest physical challenges I think I've ever done" and I've been doing sports since about four years old and it was so difficult, I was exhausted after that experience and literally needed food so badly afterwards and went to Chipotle and just devoured it. I loved it and literally chugged a whole energy drink, I was buzzing like a rabbit after that haha. Just tell me about that then so you've got the Garmin watch and everything, let's say half an hour of flying, how taxing actually is that on the body and how many calories are you actually burning flying a fighter jet?"
John "Rain" Waters:
"I mean it depends if you're going cross-country from point A to point B, you know a thousand miles whatever it is, it'll probably be pretty benign and you'll just be sitting there not doing much other than thinking what I'm always thinking about in a single engine fighter, "If my engine is going to quit where am I going? If my engine dies where am I going? So it's more of a mental game"
However the F16 demo routine is very high intensity and high impact. If you will, it's a full-on Sprint. If you watch some of the demo videos, I actually have one or two up on the channel that actually have the heart rate monitor where you can kind of see it going and it probably doesn't go below 150 until the slow speed pass, like that's kind of the first time you can catch your breath. You're still focused but you've just been sprinting for the last seven minutes to get a 30 - 45 second break and then you sprint for another seven eight minutes. So again, if Garmin is accurate you're burning anywhere from four to seven hundred calories. Which is not uncommon after being in the jet for 20 minutes and just being completely drenched.
Some fun facts about the F-16 is it does have air conditioning. The environmental cooling system (or the ECS) is designed to cool all the avionics and all the things that kill and break things. So the priority is cooling the radar up front when it's in a hot humid environment.
In a humid environment you have to dry the ECS out. Right after you start flying you have to run full hot for five minutes, so imagine sitting in your jet cranking on full hot for 5 minutes on a baking summer day. It's like having hair dryers just blowing in there because it does move a lot of air volume. So flying in a place like Miami where it's just 100 degrees humidity you're essentially getting just a few minutes where you don't have to have it in full hot so you're sitting in a sauna running at full sprint. By the way you also feel like you have a gorilla that's stomping on your chest and ripping your neck around from the G force so there's a lot of physiological things going on.
The Viper also has a recline seat so your head is actually forward of your spine. Doing the demo we call it the speed lid. The helmet is actually like wearing a baseball cap, you have about a pound and a half forward of your eyebrow roughly but now when you pull nine G's with that right you got 11 pounds and now your neck is forward of your spine even more and you're looking around trying to fight someone. I've just heard my neck crunching and grinding so uh it is a lot of fun but it's a lot of work and it can be very it is very taxing on the body."
"The seats as well trust me people probably don't actually think about this but actually the seats are rock hard as well. I mean that's another brutal side of it too there's zero padding on those seats it is brutal especially when you've got those G's on you"