Holloman centrifuge takes last spin
By Senior Airman Sondra Escutia, 49th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 01, 2010
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Members of the Physiological Training Center concluded 22 years of centrifuge training at Holloman with its final spin Oct. 27.
The culmination of the centrifuge training mission at Holloman was directed by the Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure of 2005 which announced the consolidation of fighter acceleration training and aerospace medicine research at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where a new centrifuge is being built.
"The unique thing about the Wright-Patterson [AFB] device is that we're going to combine the aircrew training mission and the research mission into one, so we'll use the same device and the same mission at once," said 1st Lt. Jennifer Smith, commander of the Physiological Training Center.
Since the centrifuge was first certified at Holloman in 1988, it has been the only Air Force-owned human centrifuge used for this training. The centrifuge was used to expose pilots to a high level of G-forces -- a measurement of an object's acceleration -- which aircrews encounter in high-performance aircraft, said the lieutenant.
"We configured the centrifuge for anything from the T-38 to the F-22 and every high-G aircraft in between," she said. "The primary reason we conduct centrifuge training is to prevent G-LOC, which is gravity-induced loss of consciousness. It can occur when pilots are exposed to high Gz."
The aircrew centrifuge training program was first developed, executed and funded by Tactical Air Command in 1988. Under Air Combat Command, members of the Physiological Training Center trained their 30,000th student in January 2009.
According to Steve Arnold, who worked as a sight manager and field support engineer with the centrifuge from 1988 until February 2010, the centrifuge trained a record number of students and significantly reduced the amount of Class A mishaps due to G-induced loss of consciousness.
"Holloman trained more students in that centrifuge than any other centrifuge in the world combined," said Mr. Arnold. "We had the busiest, most-utilized centrifuge in the world ... It was an outstanding program. We trained the best pilots in the world and made sure our pilots were G-ready."
In October 2009, the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine took over the training mission in accordance with the BRAC. Upon its very last spin, the centrifuge had been used to train nearly 32,000 students, including service members from all branches, North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops and members of allied forces.
"[We had the capability to train] all of the USAF aircrew and NATO aircrews. We've trained folks from the Chilean air force. We've had folks from Italy, from Pakistan and most of our allied countries who don't have a centrifuge of their own," said Lieutenant Smith.
The last student to spin in Holloman's centrifuge pulled nine Gz in preparation for his upcoming assignment as an F-22 pilot at Langley AFB, Va. He said he enjoyed the ride and was also excited to be part of such a momentous occasion.
"It's a pretty cool feeling," said Capt. George Cannon, 48th Operations Support Squadron Tactics Division chief from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. "This centrifuge has a lot of history so it was a pretty cool thing to be the last person to go through, but I'm sure the new one they're building at Wright-Patterson will be even better."
Captain Cannon was one of many students who spent a few hours in a classroom and a few minutes in the centrifuge that day as part of the final class.
In contrast, many of the physiology technicians spent years teaching in the classroom and working with the centrifuge.
For them, the last spin at Holloman was bittersweet.
"The last centrifuge mission at Holloman is pretty unique in that we've been training here for over 20 years," said Lieutenant Smith. "I've only seen the last three years of it, so I haven't had as great of a tie as some people who've worked with it since it was put in the ground in 1988, but I'm really excited for the future of the centrifuge mission and the brand new device that's being built at Wright-Patterson [AFB]."
According to an article on the official Wright-Patterson AFB Web site, installation of the new centrifuge has already begun and construction and certification is slated to be complete in 2012. Until the device is certified, centrifuge training will be performed by contractors at existing facilities at Brooks City-Base, Texas.
Although the final spin marked the end of this mission at Holloman, Lieutenant Smith said a couple members of the Physiological Training Center will remain here to embark on a new primary mission focused on optimizing human effectiveness.
"We will be a two-man team to conduct the physiology mission as the Holloman Aerospace and Operational Physiology Training team," she said. "We will pretty much be the human performance gurus for Holloman so we'd like to integrate with different squadrons and see what we can do to help maximize human performance on the base."