Hundreds of physical
and mental training hours go into being a part of one of the most
advanced careers in the world -- an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. The
F-16’s multiple missions, such as air-to-air and
air-to-ground combat, make it one of the most versatile aircraft in
the Air Force, said Capt. Charlie Wolfsandle, 55th Fighter Squadron
assistant training officer.
To be selected to fly the F-16, an individual has to pass a
battery of physical and mental tests. Pilots are selected for
training when they receive a commission and are then sent to
initial pilot training. Those selected to fly the F-16 during
initial training are then sent to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., for
F-16 training, said Maj. Mike Sadlowski, 55th FS B-Flight
Pilots must be in good physical condition to handle the stresses
the F-16 puts on a body when flying, Major Sadlowski said.
"The F-16 can pull (nine times the force of gravity) which is
more than any other aircraft in the Air Force," Major Sadlowski
When a pilot pulls positive Gs, blood is pulled to the feet.
When pulling negative Gs, blood is sent to the head, Major
Sadlowski (shown below) said.
Because of the gravity changes, any movement a pilot makes is
magnified and causes the pilot to put more effort into any activity
he or she performs, Captain Wolfsandle said. Besides the physical
challenges, there is a lot of mental work required of a pilot
before taking off, he added.
Flight preparation begins a day before the flight. A pilot has
to consider the number of jets flying, the route the pilot will be
taking, the configuration of the jet for the mission and what the
potential weather will be. When the pilots report for their flight
they have more pre-flight briefings and inspect the aircraft.
"There is really around six to seven hours of prep time for a
one-to-two hour flight," Major Sadlowski said. The most difficult
mental challenge is paying close attention to the details.
"With such an advanced weapons system, a pilot always has to be
looking in the books to keep up to date with the latest systems,"
Major Sadlowski said.
A pilot must be ready to learn new things and adapt to new
surroundings, Captain Wolfsandle said.
Paying attention to the
small details and keeping up to date with new knowledge allows
pilots to survive when something goes wrong. Since the F-16 is a
single-engine jet, pilots have to know what do when a malfunction
occurs because of how fast things will happen in the air, the
"Since the start of training, you begin to memorize the
emergency checklists, and if you forget they won't let you fly,"
Captain Wolfsandle said.
Both pilots agree that even with all their training and prep
work, they cannot accomplish their mission without everyone's
support on the base.
"Every Airman on this base is doing something to support us.
Without them we wouldn't even be able to get the jet up in the
air," Captain Wolfsandle said. [ANN Salutes Senior Airman Joel
Mease, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs]