“Looking left, good. Looking right, good. Got good ends, good highs, good lows, no lights out. Ready in the back? Ok let’s do it.” Then a quick salute to the ‘yellow’ jacket, jet shuddering against the holdback fitting eager to be freed, and you’d be off. Or you wouldn’t be, and likely wouldn’t understand this, unless you’re one of the few who gets to sit up front in a United States fighter aircraft about to launch via catapult, off the deck of an aircraft carrier. Today, it’s suggested that it’s a 100,000 to 1 probability that those who begin their journey to be naval aviators, and fly tactical pointy nose fighters for the US Navy, will actually succeed. It’s a daunting number, and a daunting challenge. Then again, it’s a brutal environment, the likes of which can’t be really understood without spending time doing it, or somewhat, being around the men and women who do it. (Video below)
No shortage of cool videos to be had from GoPro, this, like the pilots who take the jet, stands apart. It’s a video from inside the cockpit of an EA-18G Growler (F/A-18F Super Hornet variant), in a section takeoff from NAS Whidbey Island. We get to don a g-suit, strap an F/A-18 onto our backs, and immerse ourselves into these views. Thankfully for many, you don’t have to fight through the pain of the G forces themselves, or the years of education and training to earn that seat.
If you’re a photographer, you know the value of a good angle, and a good view – a novel view. I would venture to say there are few views that can rival in terms of exclusivity and awe, than that from the bubble canopy of an American ‘teen’ fighter from 5 thousand feet, and going 700 knots. Before the advent of GoPros, it was really difficult to get video from the cockpit. It was either from a big budget film or photographer who was rated to fly with the pilots, or low res videos from pilots who manage to juggle controlling a supersonic 40 million dollar jet, and use a camera at the same time. As such, they were few and far between. That’s changed, and we are all fortunate for it.
The video takes you inside this ‘Electronic Attack’ EA-18G as it’s put through its paces. While you’ll see fantastic scenery, notice the vapor coming off the airframe when the aircraft is under a high G load, as it literally squeezes the moisture from the air around it. You’ll also notice, at that point the camera shudders. One of the reasons it’s been so difficult to get footage like this before, is that under a high G-load of say 7G, a camera, and the photographer holding it will weigh 7 times their weight.
This makes it difficult to hang on to and control your body much less a heavy camera. Older cameras were larger too which made them hazardous for the reasons just mentioned. The GoPro managed to solve so many issues with its capability and size, and light weight. There are also aftermarket companies who create mounts for almost any type of scenario for the GoPro, so the aircraft don’t really have to be modified, which is costly. A short search on YouTube will provide you with many videos from cockpits from jets around the world.
If you have any interesting GoPro footage we would love to see. So happy ‘wheels up,’ don’t grab the striped handles, and make sure your lap belt is tight! Enjoy the ride. PS – there is no Kenny Loggins playing in the background.