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A newly declassified video from the US Air Force Arizona Air National Guard shows how the autopilot system on an F-16 saved the life of its pilot who had become unconscious in the middle of the flight.
The Aviation week first published the video which shows the fighter jet going in to a nosedive after the pilot falls unconscious.
In this instance, an international F-16 student pilot was undergoing basic fighter maneuver training with his USAF instructor pilot in two separate F-16s over the U.S. southwest. The student rolled and started to pull the aircraft but experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) as the F-16 hit around 8.3g. With the pilot now unconscious, the aircraft’s nose dropped and, from an altitude of just over 17,000 ft., entered a steepening dive in full afterburner.
You’ll notice in the video that the auto pilot system, called the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS), kicks in at the 32 second point. The plane was pulled out of the nosedive and the pilot was able to regain consciousness and take control of the plane.
The autopilot system which was developed by Lockheed Martin, NASA and the Airforce Research Laboratory identifies an oncoming collision by analyzing the plane’s trajectory and the terrain data. If both are going to meet at a certain point in the future, it alters the trajectory.
This is apparently the fourth save that this system has made possible. It was used earlier in an anti-ISIS combat mission in 2015 over Syria. The system was tested repeatedly from 2009 through to 2013 when it as certified and made ready for the F-16 fleet.
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