Losses and Aviation Safety

US Navy F-4 pilot recalls when he was paralyzed during a near supersonic steep dive because he pinched a nerve in his neck while twisting his head back under very high Gs during an ACM engagement against A-4s

‘I was flying an F-4 Phantom when twisting my head back under a very high G-load, I apparently pinched a nerve in my neck that briefly stunned and paralyzed me,’ John Chesire, former US Navy F-4 Phantom II pilot.

G-induced Loss Of Consciousness (abbreviated as G-LOC) is a term generally used in aerospace physiology to describe a loss of consciousness occurring from excessive and sustained g-forces draining blood away from the brain causing cerebral hypoxia. The condition is most likely to affect pilots of high performance fighter and aerobatic aircraft or astronauts but is possible on some extreme amusement park rides.

G-LOC incidents have caused fatal accidents in high performance aircraft capable of sustaining high g for extended periods. High-G training for pilots of high performance aircraft or spacecraft often includes ground training for G-LOC in special centrifuges, with some profiles exposing pilots to 9 Gs for a sustained period.

John Chesire, former US Navy F-4 Phantom II pilot, recalls on Quora;

‘I once was involved with some air combat training off the California coast with multiple adversary aircraft from TOPGUN, Navy Fighter Weapons School and VF-126 A-4s. [It was the “many vs. only us four aircraft,” the ‘furball finale’ for the TG NFWS course. It was our last, graduation flight at the school.]

‘I was flying an F-4 Phantom when twisting my head back under a very high G-load, I apparently pinched a nerve in my neck that briefly stunned and paralyzed me.

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‘It happened in a very high-G, nose-low turn. Although I was somewhat conscious, being stunned I was not in control of the aircraft. My hands were off the stick and I was limp but in pain. We were very near supersonic in a rather steep dive, and I did not have control.

‘My RIO in the back seat was screaming at me, asking frantically if I was OK! After a few seconds I regained my composure, gained control of the aircraft and told him I was, “OK” … except for the remaining sharp pain in my neck.

‘He said later if I had not immediately answered, he would have initiated automatic ejections for both of us. While that may have saved my life if I did not regain control, doing so at such a high-speed ejection would have injured us both significantly.’

Chesire concludes;

‘All’s well that ends well. My RIO and I still talk about that day long ago, and remember it vividly.’

Photo credit: U.S: Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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