Nose-down dive in a fighter jet - feel worse than a roller coaster?

For the few Dopers of us who have this experience - what does going in a nose-down plummeting dive in a fighter jet feel like? Does it feel even more unpleasant than the vertical dive of roller coasters?
(Whether this sensation is “unpleasant” or not is, of course, subjective.)

It should feel very much like lying flat on your back in the seat, as though the plane were standing upright on its tail. Maybe a bit heavier, depending on how much thrust the plane has, but flat on your back is the most comfortable position for high Gs. It’d probably be pretty comfortable, if you ignore that big round thing rushing at you that you can see through the window.

Going downhill itself is a nonevent in a jet.

I’m not a coaster guru, but “straight down” seems like an exaggeration.

As to the coaster, I’m not sure whether you’re talking about the process of transitioning from level at the top of a hill to steeply nose down. Or the part where you’re established nose down and just accelerating in a straight line.

Gotta run, will check later for more.

I think the OP is talking about the ‘stomach’ feeling when you suddenly shift to downward movement, like when your stomach is in your throat when the coaster drops.

The sudden transition gets a lot of people feeling queasy.

So if you don’t like your organs getting tossed around… I’m pretty sure when a jet dose a sudden nose over and dives that you won’t like the feeling.


Well, you can certainly experience negative g’s when you push the nose down. Roller coasters have inverted loops. (which I’ve never experienced) I’ll bet they offer some moderate negative g’s for the riders.

Blacking out in high speed jet maneuvering is a possibility: they mention in the wiki article that it is also possible on “extreme” amusement rides, but I’m willing to bet it is easier to do (and, naturally, more fatal) in fighter jets - because the alternative to making a high-speed maneuver may be to be shot down.

Pilots have G-suits that reduce this effect, so of course they get to experience more Gs.

That depends on whether it’s powered or unpowered. Unpowered, you’re going to be going in very close to a free-fall trajectory, so you’ll feel zero g, which is uncomfortable (at least until you get used to it, which takes a lot longer than a single roller-coaster hill). Powered, though, you’re under continual acceleration, and continual acceleration is what humans are already used to.

It depends on how steep the dive is, and how you got into it.

You really don’t want to just push the nose down. That will put negative G on the airplane, causing you to float in your seat, which I found unpleasant.

For bombing purposes, you usually get into the dive by “rolling in”–ie rolling the airplane in the direction of the target, and pulling the nose around, keeping positive G on the airplane as you go down the chute to the release point.

Another method, and one I usually preferred for photographic purposes, was the “flip flop”. This had the airplane line up with the target, then roll all the way inverted, pull the nose down–keeping positive G on the airplane, then flopping back right side up once the desired degree of dive was achieved.

Most bombing runs I filmed were either 30 or 45 degrees. A couple of times I chased an A-10 doing 60 degree dives. Those runs were…sporty.

I think there might be some variation here in how terms are being used. I interpreted “nose down dive” to mean “perpendicular to the ground, straight down”. Does that term mean something different to pilots?

It depends a lot on how it is flown.

In general, roller coasters are bumpy and noisy and put lateral g forces on you. They can also be very abrupt in their changes of direction. An aeroplane flown nicely is smooth with no lateral g forces and no abrupt changes of direction. Going straight down itself is a non-event it’s more about how you get to that position.

Way back when I was regularly flying aerobatics, I happened to ride a roller coaster that did loops for the first time. I was very disappointed. I found it to be unpleasant and unnecessarily harsh, totally at odds with what I was used to.

My experience was in weapons testing missions, where we had to hit pre-defined flight conditions in order to obtain the data necessary to certify the weapon for use in combat. As such, we always said something like “X degree dive at Y knots and release at Z altitude”. I never participated in anything steeper than a 60 degree dive for weapon release missions.

Look, when you punch the gas in a car, you feel pressed into the seatback. You hit the brakes and you’re jerked forward against your seat/shoulder belt. But when you’re at a steady speed, no matter what the speed is, you don’t feel anything. Same sort of thing for aircraft, unless you’re flying parabolic curves to simulate zero-gee.

You may feel some degree of discomfort pulling positive or negative gees, depending on how many gees you’re pulling. And you can black out or red out. Neither of which is a wonderful thing but red out is worse. Of course, this sort of thing generally doesn’t happen in airliners. We’re talking about stunt planes and, of course, military fighter type aircraft.

When you’re pulling positive gees, you move toward black out territory when the blood from your brain is pulled south. This would happen when you pull back on the stick to make the nose go up. Anti-g leggings and certain breathing methods can hold off blacking out. Black outs usually don’t last that long, as when one blacks out, they relax their grip on the stick and the gees fall off. You don’t want this to happen at a low altitude, but at a high altitude, you’ll probably come out of it with time/room to recover.

Negative gees happen when you push the stick forward and lower the nose. Blood rushes from your legs and lower torso north. This increased blood volume can damage/burst capillaries and cause injury. This is called red out. One wants to avoid this. So when a pilot wants to make a quick descent, he’ll roll his plane inverted, pull back on the stick to lower the nose yet get positive gees (doing the breathing and letting the anti-gee legging do their stuff) until he’s at the desired attitude (not altitude), then go to neutral with the pitch and roll back over to right side up. To level out, he’ll just pull back on the stick and take on positive gees again.

Can’t add much to what the other flyers have said. I won’t say fighters never use negative Gs, but that’s darn near true. The one feeling you won’t have in typical aerobatics or combat-style flying is that going over the hilltop & down the precipice with your stomach up in your throat feeling that’s so much a part of coastering.

As to coasters there’s one other factor nobody has mentioned: The length of the train decouples the along-track speed increases from what your body expects based on your attitude (uphill, level, downhill). Which also means the ride feels a lot different from the front seats in a coaster versus the rear seats. And the longer the train, the weirder the two ends feel versus the middle.

I’m pretty sure this is what OP and most people are wondering.

What you say is certainly true but only observable in multiple trips on the coaster (in normal circumstances).

Many people, like me, will never repeat the experience if at all possible, but a significant “different” effect, I would think, on a single ride is the visual cuing on all sorts of levels.

You mentioned “length of train” which made me think how watching the front car do x while your body just got y’ed adds to the [nausea/vertigo].

Which is a case of why if you’re getting carsick, as a passenger, they tell you not to look in the near-field.

Not sure how that idea how of visual hygiene plays out with pilots. Indeed, with low-slow props and jets in the blue yonder the need and procedures must be vastly different.

Parting, related question: So don’t pilots get airsick?

Visual hygiene:

When you’re doing normal flying yourself it takes care of itself pretty well since you have to be mostly looking where you’re going. A co-pilot or navigator or such can get goofed up because his/her attention may legitimately be directed elsewhere for an extended time. Not that that leads to airsickness so much as to spatial disorientation (AKA vertigo).

In air combat maneuvering even the pilot is doing a lot of head swiveling & you can have moments of eye / ear / brain confusion. But by the time you’re doing that stuff, you’re pretty advanced in the training program and can process it pretty unconsciously.

Most aerobatics & combat maneuvering is done in clear air away from clouds. So there is no near-field / far-field issue; everything you can see is far-field. Spatial disorientation is mostly an issue in solid clouds where there’s also no near-field / far-field issue; everything you can see is smooth gray except the instruments.

The intermediate case, busting in and out of raggedy differently lit different density clouds while also maneuvering aggressively is a recipe for severe spatial disorientation. Not so much for airsickness. In this context it’s not so much visual hygiene as it is deliberately keeping your head physically aligned with the aircraft, and aggressively force-feeding the instrument picture into your brain’s state vector to override your butt’s / ears’ inputs. Skip either of those steps and it gets … interesting.
Pilots and airsickness: In USAF pilot training, substantially 100% of new trainees get airsick at least once. Between the heat, the bondage claustrophobia of a helmet, oxygen mask, parachute, belts, & gloves, the stress, and the aerobatic maneuvering, it’s a bit much for everybody at first. This despite the fact (in my era at least) that every trainee has already solo’d a light Cessna through one preliminary training program or another.

Yep; you’re doing (simplified) aerobatics on your very first flight. it’s fundamental to the military POV that there’s no such thing as a direction the airplane won’t go. Straight up or upside down is not unnatural or scary; it’s simply another useful direction within our 3D medium.

Some percentage (5%?) cannot beat their airsickness and wash out after a couple weeks. Me? I barfed some on my second USAF flight and that’s the last time I’ve felt queasy in an airplane. Which is really the typical experience.

Civilian pilots who’ve never done aerobatics may have felt queasy a time or two in early flight training. But in most cases their job’s not on the line; this is them trying out a hobby that might catch their fancy & turn into a job or a calling. The ones with weak stomachs tend to drop out rather than persevere; barfing’s not fun.

Civilians who take up aerobatic training have another opportunity to experience lunch. And again, most are doing it to expand their hobby. So if airsickness is an obstacle, they drop that part of the hobby. If they get past it quickly enough, they go on with aerobatics.

The “stomach in throat” feeling doesn’t actually require negative Gs: Positive Gs smaller than what you’re used to (i.e., less than 1) can also trigger it. Roller coasters also almost never produce actual negative Gs, as a safety measure: The red-out effect isn’t dangerous for the short time intervals you’d find on a coaster, but if the harness failed, it could mean throwing passengers out of the car. Plus, on some coaster designs, it’d also mean the car would be separating from the track. And smaller positive Gs are also something you can experience on a plane. In fact, most of probably have experienced it at some point due to turbulence.

Test drive a Tesla, and floor it from a stop in Lunatic Mode. You’ll be shoved back into your seat at more than 1 g. Made me feel nauseous almost instantaneously.

While I don’t doubt that the engine in a Tesla is capable of that, I’m surprised the tires are. The maximum acceleration you can get from a car, in gees, is equal to the coefficient of friction of the tires.

2 or 3 places have tested it, including Consumer Reports.

It’s called ludicrous mode, but lunatic mode might be more accurate.