December 18, 2014

Thank You GoPro!

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A HUGE thank you to GoPro!

GoPro has donated two HD HERO2 camera’s to help Chelsea video document her training and overall journey as she works towards try-outs for the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team in 2013!  Check out her latest video (taken with an HD HERO2 earlier in the summer) and stay tuned for more videos and photos to come!  If you’re interested in helping support the journey please visit Chelsea’s fundraising page!

 

Chelsea sees the world from a different perspective!

 

A-LOC at 8 G’s

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Just breath. Focus on your breathing, be confident, and do your best. Stay relaxed. These are the phrases that were running through my head as I made the walk across the NASTAR Center towards the Phoenix Centrifuge. I was dressed in the CBAR (Chemical Biological Airman’s Respirator) under my helmet along with the Anti-G Suit, Torso Harness, Overvest, Maywest, and then the 02 Regulator Vest. It took three people to help me gear up and now I felt like a space invader! This was my third ride in the Phoenix since we had arrived this week, but this was different, this was a real test run, this was it.

 

 

 

Chelsea all geared up!

 

In all of this gear you can warm up rather quickly and you can hear your breath as it comes in and out through the regulator. Now I know how Darth Vadar must have felt.

 

Chelsea trying to pretend she's not nervous!

 

On top of all of this being new, the extended G, the high-G centrifuge rides, and the equipment, there was also the anxiety attached to the unknown. How was I going to perform? Was I going to be able to provide any useful data to the researchers and the Navy, because really, that is what I was there for? Was I going to be able to stay awake?

 

We had spent many of the days before, including this one, preparing and watching others go through familiarization flights and today, through actual test spins. The profile of the day was as follows:

 

The USN Profile modified slightly:

 

US Navy Profile - Gradual followed by rapid onsets starting at 5G's for 30 seconds and the rest for 15second each

 

One or two rounds (up to the test subject) of the Woody Profile:

 

The dreaded Woody Profile

 

And finally the USAF Profile:

 

USAF Profile - Rapid Onset to 7, 8 and 9 G's for 15 seconds each.

 

After getting strapped into the gondola the friendly “voice of god” from the control room rang through my helmet asking if I was ready to get started…here goes nothin’!

 

First run is just a conditioning for the cardiovascular system – gradual onset up to 7.5 G’s max, up to me how far I want to go. 2….2 and half….3….3 and a half….4….4 and a half….5….5 and half….6 and I came off the “dead man’s switch” – no reason to tire myself out right off the bat, and I was feeling good.

 

Next run, rapid onset (6 G’s/sec), otherwise known to 5 G’s for 30 seconds after a minimum of 2 minutes of rest. I rested a little longer than that then pulled the trigger and held on as I heard “G coming on in 5…4…3…2…1…NOW.” At 2 I’m tensing my legs, butt and abs and at 1 I take a deep breath and start the Hick Maneuver. This one felt great, and I was happy to survive the 30 seconds with limited strain because I knew there was more to come.

 

Next runs came rapid onsets to 6 G’s for 15 seconds, then 7 G’s for 15 seconds and finally 7.5 G’s for 15 seconds with a minimum of 2-minutes rest between each. I quickly discovered that taking a bit more time between runs allowing time for my heart rate and breathing to come down helped greatly. I found out one evening after the runs were done and we were buttoning things up that the only other place that heart rates as high as ours are seen normally is in power lifting! Goes to show how much your body is working under this much stress!

 

Then came a minimum of 5 minutes rest before the Woody Profile started. This one made me a little worried, it is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and a lot of G fast and in rapid succession. In my right hand I had the stick with my index finger on the trigger (dead man switch) which we hold down unless we want the G to come off (for any reason) or when we’re between runs during the profiles. On my left index finger is a pulseoximeter and in my hand was a button that we are supposed to press and hold with any light/color/vision loss and release once our vision is back to 100%. After I rested up I took a deep cleansing breath and squeezed the trigger in my right hand and in 5…4…3…2…1…bam! The G was on. My vision started to grey and tunnel slightly so I depressed the button in my left hand as I strained harder to get the vision back. As the G started to come off my vision popped back and I released the trigger. Yes, that’s right, the trigger, not the button in my left hand. And just like that my attempt at the Woody was over because I had gotten the buttons/triggers confused. I guess that’s what happens when you are struggling to provide your brain with blood – not thinking as clearly as one would hope!

 

Chelsea borrowing Patrick's helmet for a photo op.

 

The next run was the USAF profile which requires bringing the centrifuge to a stop, opening up the gondola and switching over to the positive pressure breathing regulator – it’s a great time to relax before the rapid onsets to 7, 8, and then 9 G’s each for 15 seconds on top. I made it through 7 and took some extra time to rest before pulling the trigger for 8. At this point I was tired. I was sweating. I was worn out but I wanted to keep trucking towards 9. About 5 seconds into the 8 G’s sustained my vision started to grey and tunnel, and then I started to realize I couldn’t control what my eyes were doing, and they were each doing something different. I could see, but my field of vision was reduced. Then I started to feel my right hand weaken, just around the time that the G was going to come off I couldn’t squeeze any longer with my hand and felt it start to slide down the stick and it started to shake. In my head I first thought, wow my eyes are being weird quickly followed by what the hell is my hand doing?! As the G came off I said, “Wow, I just A-LOC’d!” (A-LOC = ALMOST LOST OF CONSCIOUSNESS). From inside the control room they had an inclination that I had just because my eyes got a bit goofy, but in the observation room no one had a clue that I had until I said that. I was 100% aware the entire time, conscious of everything that was going. An amazing experience and something I’m glad occurred in a controlled environment.

 

My very own size chart!

 

So the chart was hung a little low (as I was just shy of 5'4" when I arrived - but you get a feel for how much I lost in one run!

I decided to not push on to 9G’s, I figured one round of getting that close to G-LOC’ing (GRAVITY-INDUCED LOSS OF CONSCIOUSNESS) was enough for me. So after I got out of the Phoenix and headed back to the briefing room I got out of all of my gear. I headed over the height chart that they surprised me with earlier that morning to see if I had compressed at all after the spin. Of course they had raised it while I was in the gondola so we all had a good laugh. But then they moved it back down to where it was originally (they had marked the wall) and low and behold (no pun intended) I was 3/8 – ½ inch shorter than when I went in. As if I wasn’t short enough already…I left just hoping that I’d stretch back out before I had to get back in on Monday!