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Watch autopilot save an unconscious jet pilot from a fatal crash

Watch autopilot save an unconscious jet pilot from a fatal crash


When the human blacked out, the computer took over

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In newly declassified footage from the US Air Force Arizona Air National Guard, we see a student pilot undergoing training on an F-16 jet fighter. As the pilot attempts a roll, his body is subjected to about eight times the normal force of gravity, causing him to black out. The plane begins to take a nosedive toward the ground with its afterburner engine still firing at full tilt.

The student was accompanied by an instructor in a separate F-16 who then began to desperately shout commands to his unconscious student. According to a report at Aviation Week, the student's jet drops from an altitude of 17,000 feet down to 12,320 feet as the command "2 recover" can be heard across the communications link. Then again at 10,800 feet, we hear the instructor calling to his student "2 recover." The student's jet plummets another 2,000 feet down and the instructor calls again, before the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS), takes over and rights the jet.

It's a harrowing video, but luckily one with a happy ending. And it's a powerful reminder that while much of the talk about autonomous transportation is still theoretical, there are already systems in place that are saving lives. Recently a man claimed that his Tesla saved his life, driving him to the hospital after an embolism incapacitated him while he was driving on the highway. Incidents like these stand as a counterpoint to the first fatal accident blamed on an autopilot, which occurred in a Tesla on autopilot driving through Florida.