The US Air Force has released breathtaking video footage of the moment an unconscious fighter pilot was saved seconds from a fatal crash after computer systems on-board his F-16 came to the rescue as he began to plummet to the ground.
The declassified footage as seen on this article was captured from the heads-up display of the international student pilot's helmet on 5 May and has only now been released. It shows the pilot going through manoeuvres during training then suddenly pitching into a nosedive after losing consciousness from experiencing an excessive amount of G-force. It is understood he executed a roll and was hit with 8.3G of force, which caused him to blackout.
The F-16 plane began plunging to the ground at a speed of 750mph as instructors shouted for the pilot to recover but it soon fell from 17,00ft to 8,760ft in a matter of seconds. It would have only taken a few seconds more for the plane to crash into the ground with fatal results but technology saved the day.
Thanks to its Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) — a technology introduced on F-16s in 2014 — the plane took over from the nosedive and pulled off a recovery manoeuvre to upright the roll and back to a safe altitude. As the plane climbed back level the student regained consciousness.
As it is all captured through the heads-up display the video might not be the clearest but you can see the horizon approaching at speed then suddenly disappearing after the plane rights itself. It is a dramatic moment, not to mention what the student pilot felt afterwards.
According to Aviation Week this is the fourth recorded time Auto-GCAS has saved an aircraft from crashing since its introduction, an indication of the advanced technology being developed at the cost of millions of dollars to help save military lives.