Al Shinner from Rhosneigr is Squadron Leader of the tactical weapons unit (19 Squadron) at RAF Valley. He appeared in the BBC series Combat Pilot.

"I trained as a jet pilot at RAF Valley and I was married here in 1991 in the local church at Llanmihangel. We lived in Rhosneigr for two years, so for us it's nice to be back, though a little strange as last time we were here, we were newly married. Now we've been married ten years and we have two children.

It's a fantastic area for the family. We're two minutes away from the beach, and we have the whole of Snowdonia on our doorstep. The children love their school at Caergeiliog and my wife works in Bangor, so we're settled and we intend to stay here.

I''m now an instructor here at RAF Valley. I spent ten years doing air defence on the Tornado F3 aircraft, and I've been out to the Gulf, Bosnia and various other conflicts.

All fast jet pilots have to come to RAF Valley to be trained before they go on to the front line aircraft and specialise as a ground attack pilot.

The variety of scenery in North West Wales is fantastic. For us, the training is good because there's the mountainous areas, and also the coastal areas and some flatter, lowland terrain, especially when you get to mid Wales.

The training we do, certainly over the mountains, is as realistic as we can make it. We practise air defence and fly the aircraft with simulated missiles and we do some live bombing down at Pembrey. The aircraft we train on is smaller than most frontline aircraft, but it will carry all the same practice weapons as the combat aircraft.

Coping with G-force

"G-force is the pull you feel when you turn the aircraft. When you turn hard, you get forced down in your seat. It isn't the speed. You get used to that - about seven miles a minute - very quickly. That's just like driving fast on a motorway. You don't feel you're driving quickly because you're looking further ahead, and you see everything earlier.

Trainee and instructor return from a sortie

A Hawk pulls seven or eight Gs, so you become eight times heavier than your normal weight - so your head becomes eight times heavier on your shoulders.

You can struggle to stay awake as the G-force drains the blood supply to your head. The first thing that might happen is that you suffer from tunnel vision as the extremities of your eyes get blurred. You must fight back, because when you get to no vision at all, you're close to 'greying out'.

We wear a G-suit which has a blow up bladder clamped to your legs, and it forces blood back up through your body. We also do a rather embarrassing straining manoeuvre, when you tense everything up, hold your breath in short bursts and pull against it. You make your head feel a little buzzy, and it forces the blood back into your brain, and clears your vision.

If you do get G-lock, it can be very dangerous, especially if you're on your own. Some pilots pass out but aren't sure what's happened, and they can forget where they are and what they're doing - flying an aircraft.

The worst thing is negative G, when you're pushed to weightlessness. Everything's tied on to us so they don't float about, but a pencil would just float in front of you. If you push harder you then get actual negative G, which is like standing on your head. You get a really hot head as all the blood pours into your eyes.

If you were really aerobically fit like Steve Cram, it would be disastrous because your heart rate and blood pressures low. We train a bit like sprinters - weights and short runs and anaerobic exercise for short-term fitness.

Being a pilot really is a fantastic job."


 

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