NOVA Online: Top Gun Over Moscow (see bottom of page for navigation)
see bottom of page for navigation

Good question! The idea of centripetal force actually has a lot to do with fighter pilots and their airplanes. That's because the effect that happens with centripetal force imitates what would happen if you were a fighter pilot flying at mach speeds and suddenly made a sharp turn or pulled out of a dive.

Once again, your body still is inclined to move in a straight line, but this time it's a plane, not a car, that makes you turn. The faster you are going before you change direction, the more you will feel pushed against the plane. This is the so-called G force. One "G" is equal to your weight, two "Gs" is equal to twice your weight, three "Gs" is equal to three times your weight, and so on.

G force, which can cause blood to draw away from the brain, can affect your body in ways that wouldn't be too cool if you were at the controls of an F-16 (you could faint or have trouble seeing). Air force researchers developed a way to test G force effects on the ground. What do you think they used?

  1. A centrifuge
  2. A merry-go-round.

Top Gun Home | In the Cockpit | Russian Air Force
Remembering Jeffrey Ethell | Pulling Cs & Gs | Links

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site

NOVA Home | WGBH Home | PBS Home
Search | Feedback | Shop
© 1996 WGBH