It's unusual for a plane to land safely and yet still sustain millions of dollars in damages, but that's precisely what happened during an Air Force training mission last year. Popular Science has the details, which illustrate the dangers that powerful G-forces present to military pilots. In March, a solo pilot in an F-15C jet over Oregon passed out after experiencing extreme G-forces on a turn. He woke up 11 seconds later and took the proper recovery measures of putting the engines in idle and pulling back on the control stick. The good news: He landed safely. The bad news: Those measures subjected the plane to an extreme amount of stress, and its wings, fuselage, and tail sustained an estimated $2.5 million in damage.
The pilot experienced what is known as G-induced loss of consciousness, or GLOC, and Popular Science explains the particulars. Pilots wear special "G-suits" that become automatically engaged when necessary, and the pilots are trained in breathing and muscle exercises that also help in real time. Still, any number of things can go wrong, such as a suit malfunction or a dehydrated pilot, etc. The Air Force says it has determined what went wrong in the Oregon incident, but is not disclosing it. Another example of the dangers: The Air Force Times reports that an F-15C crashed into the ocean off Japan after the pilot dropped the plane's nose too sharply in a corrective measure, exposing the jet to a "dramatic change in G-forces." The pilot ejected safely. (Read more Air Force stories.)