Nothing but a G thing

The New York Times has an obituary for Earl Wood, the man who invented the G-suit, the pressurised suit for fighter pilots that prevents them losing consciousness when g-forces drain blood from the brain.

The problem became apparent as fighter plane technology advanced to the stage where they became so fast and manoeuvrable that pulling tight corners or sharply accelerating put huge strains on the pilots’ bodies.

The acceleration temporarily impedes the heart‚Äôs pumping power and cuts blood supply to the brain. A tight turn might cause the pilot to lose consciousness briefly, leading to a crash…

To counter a precipitous drop in blood pressure, the team designed a suit that placed air bladders at a pilot’s calves, thighs and abdomen; a valve inflated the bladders as G-forces increased. Constriction of the bladders on the arteries raised blood pressure and helped keep blood flowing to the brain. The suit’s prototype was tested successfully by Dr. Wood and others in a dive bomber on flights that involved steep descents.

At the same time, the Mayo team developed an exercise, called the M1 maneuver, in which a pilot would shout or grunt under G-force conditions. The grunting compressed arteries and tensed muscles and was at least as important as the revolutionary suit for resisting G-forces.

Link to obituary for Earl Wood, G-suit inventor.


  1. Posted March 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that info, I didn’t know anything about the suit. I’d read about fighter pilots in WWII briefly losing consciousness, or at least sight, because of G effects but I didn’t realize it had been addressed subsequently.

  2. Posted March 28, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Rapid accelerations in the horizontal or verticla plane even induce out-of-body experiences in fighter planes pilots.
    And, of course, my condolences to the family and friends.

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