By lex, on January 23rd, 2007
Just as my own well of sea stories runs dry comes this tale, courtesy of ENS Tim. It’s an anecdote from an aviation physiologist teaching ENS Tim’s flight school class – the hero of the tale is a certain ENS X:
“In all of aviation, one of the most common causes of spatial disorientation, loss of consciousness, loss of vision (blackout/greyout), or loss of voluntary muscle control is acceleration placed on the body due to high G-load maneuvering. When a pilot executes a high G turn, there is a higher load factor placed on the body due to centripetal acceleration, causing blood to flow away from the eyes, brain, and core, eventually pooling in the outer and lower extremities, especially the thighs, calves, and feet. Since a human’s eyes are the most susceptible to oxygen deprivation of all the flight-essential organs, they are the first real sign of a syndrome known as G-LOC (Gravity induced Loss Of Consciousness). The vision begins to fade and narrow into a tunnel-like field of view, eventually disappearing, immediately followed by unconsciousness. There are measures to combat GLOC, such as a “G-suit” that relies on air filled bladders strapped to your legs and torso that help force blood back towards your head, as well as proper strength training, diet, and hydration regimen, however; the most effective means for combating a high G situation is known as the Anti-G Straining Maneuver.
The AGSM is a process by which the pilot can use isometric muscle contractions in his lower body and torso combined with a highly specialized breathing pattern known as the “Hick” maneuver to literally force blood back towards his brain by force of his own muscles. During the fifth week of training in the initial stage of flight school known as Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, this AGSM technique is taught to all prospective aviators and flight surgeons, since its use is essential for even basic day to day aviation once the students begin the flying portion of their training. Sitting at amphitheater style desks mounted to the floor in a large classroom, the students are shown the proper combination of breathing (Hick maneuver) and muscle flexing used to increase pressure on their diaphragm and push the pooled blood out of their lower limbs to feed their brain and eyes. In small groups of 5-10 at a time, the students practice the maneuver under the supervision of an Aviation Physiologist so that they can receive critique and special help learning the fundamentals of this so that they are prepared for their first flight. The order of operations for the AGSM is “Legs….Breath….Pull” meaning that the student first braces his or her legs against the ground and flexes the gluteus, calf, and hamstring muscles while firmly tightening the abdomen, then breathes in deeply saying the first two letters of the word “Hick.” The effect is a closing of the glottis, the membrane that separates the windpipe from alimentary canal. The student then counts to three, at which time they exhale while saying the last two letters of the word “Hick” and quickly re-inhaling another breath and starting the sequence over again. All of this makes the student look they’re saying “hi……ck hi…….ck hi…..ck hi……ck.” In a normal combat situation, after considerable experience of course, most tactical fighter pilots can withstand up to 9 g’s of acceleration without experiencing GLOC.
Well, approximately six months ago, Ensign X was in the class learning about the Hick maneuver and the complexities of the AGSM. Overestimating the amount of effort required to execute this maneuver under normal gravitational conditions (i.e. not in a turning aircraft) the student decided that in order to impress the instructor, he would perform the maneuver to a degree comparable to actual combat maneuvering standards. As the teacher prepared Ensign X’s group, the command “Legs!” was given. Ensign X braced his feet against the rails of the seat in front of him, tightening his buttocks muscles, his calves, and his stomach. The command “Breathe!” was given, and Ensign X inhaled deeply through both his nose and his mouth, ensuring a good fill of his lungs to help compress his diaphragm and chest cavity. The command “Pull!” was given by the instructor, at which point Ensign X used all the strength in his stomach and buttocks muscles to bear down on his lungs and midsection, forcing the blood from his legs back to his “simulated” oxygen starved eyes and brains. Three seconds passed, at which point the instructor chanted “Hick!” echoed by the sound of the 7 other fellow students exhaling, pressing out their air with the muscles in their stomachs and legs, followed almost instantly by a quick, punctuated breath inwards to refill their lungs and reapply pressure to their diaphragm. Herein lay the failure in Ensign X’s calculations, for when he reapplied pressure to his diaphragm, stomach, and buttocks, he felt a warmth spreading underneath him reminiscent of the sensation one experiences when reclining into a relaxing bath. Almost immediately the students around him sensed the macabre turn the days events had taken and began to laugh and stare aghast as Ensign X struggled in utter futility to disguise his embarrassment. As the smell punctuated the mood of the room, Ensign X decided, in true aviator fashion, that the mission was to be scrapped and decided to “punch out.” As he retired awkwardly to the men’s room down the hall, the class burst out in laughter and amazement at what had just happened.
Several weeks later, Ensign X, callsign “Sh!tter,” reported to his follow on squadron.
Thus is a callsign born.
What a great business.