NHL athlete trains like an F-16 Viper pilot

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

Scott Mayfield, professional hockey player for the New York Islanders, visited Holloman AFB Aug. 2-4, 2021. In his time here, he was able to train and fly in an F-16 Viper with his brother, Capt. Patrick Mayfield, 314th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot.

“When my brother brought up the idea of flying I was super excited,” said Scott. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was also interested in seeing how these guys train and how it compares to how myself and my team does it.”

To prepare Scott for the G-force capabilities of an F-16 and how to train himself to stay lucid during the flight, he visited Holloman’s new Optimizing the Human Weapon System program.

“I was able to experience a workout for pilot training,” said Scott. “It emphasized stabilizing your lower body and being able to push blood back up into the upper body, as well as working on neck and back exercises.”

The OHWS program began as part of Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander, Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5’s fifth tenet “Comprehensive Readiness for Aircrew Flying Training” initiative. It is a holistic approach to human performance optimization and targets the physical, cognitive and resilience domains.

“As a coach for the OHWS program, I think it’s interesting for athletes to see the similarities between the program we operate here and the program they use back home,” said Jeremy Graves, OHWS program strength and conditioning coach. “What we do here is treat the pilots as sport-specific athletes, basically in the sport of flying fighter jets.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the F-16 can handle about nine G-Forces, which is nine times the force of gravity; meaning pilots can experience large amounts of pressure while flying and a part of the OHWS program’s intent is to help pilots handle those effects in and out of the cockpit.

“We understand that pilots are subjected to high G-forces and we look at the injuries they typically sustain from that, which is neck and back related issues. So we train them for injury prevention in those specific areas,” said Graves. “We’ve also found focusing on the lower body and abs gives pilots the strength to push blood back up into their upper body.”

After his training and learning about the F-16 platform, Scott was able to fly with his brother and spoke about his experience.

“Pulling G’s is definitely the hardest part,” said Scott. ”That’s what we’ve talked about the last couple days, is how they need to train for that and get their bodies ready.”

Scott said he learned a lot from his trip about what Air Force F-16 pilots do and about flying and will always share his experience.