Former F-16 fighter pilot Nate “Buster” Jaros takes us along for a ride in the Centrifuge and tells us what it is like to feel 9G’s crushing your body.

You are basically put into a small coffin. It swings a little as you enter, reminiscent of how a gondola swings on its wire, or how a Ferris wheel car wobbles as you climb aboard at the local carnival.

Except this is no carnival ride. If it were, it would be the worst carnival ride known to man.

You are about to feel pain like never before…in the USAF centrifuge.

The centrifuge seat is unlike an ejection seat and feels a bit odd. Immediately there is a sense of claustrophobia in this tight pod-like device. There are no windows in this ride but there is a faint smell of vomit, and sweat…or is that just fear? A worker comes to the hatch and makes sure you are strapped in, goes over a few reminders on safety, and gives a not-very-reassuring “have fun” before sealing you in the dark pod.

Alone and Unafraid Before The Ride

The door clangs shut with a loud and metallic clank. It’s immediately dark and warm. You notice a pocket on the side wall with a strategically placed and unused barf bag in it.

The inside of this coffin is metal. There is a side stick like in the F-16 and a TV screen in front of you. After a few minutes, you notice a row of small lights, positioned horizontally above the screen, as well as the camera staring back at you. The one dim light in the pod reveals a lot of Squadron stickers and “zaps” inside the pod from previous carnival riders who have had the experience. There is also a large LED readout panel. It currently reads “1.0” as this is your current G level.

The Holloman Centrifuge seat. Still gives me chills. Courtesy Holloman AFB
The Holloman Centrifuge seat. Still gives me chills. Courtesy Holloman AFB

Soon a voice is heard from the controller calmly asking if you are ready. You respond yes, but you’re also not quite sure about that. Since there are no windows, you cannot discern motion or movement outside your “death bobsled.” This is when the fun begins.

There is a faint hum, and suddenly you feel really dizzy. Your eyes ping left and right, in rapid-fire movement. It is apparent that you are now spinning in this pod, but without visual cues from the outside world, it just feels weird.