Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Say what?

This is the backside of an F16, the teeth in the local air-to-air defense here.  Several times a day, a pair of these monsters take off and run off somewhere to do something.  We are in a combat zone, and they take off with fire - afterburners on - and everyone on base, and for miles around can see it and knows it. 
The sound is deafening.  It is a crescendoing thunder which rattles the windows, shakes the doors, and culminates in - depending on your distance from the flight line - profound ear pain, prior to decrescendoing as it pulls miles above and away from us.  I have grown to learn why I have so many deaf retirees in my clinic back in San Antonio.  Now, those on the flight line have fancy ear protection and often have their hearing screened to prevent a mirroring debt to the one we now pay.  I can imagine that the first days of the modern fighter at the end of Vietnam left many without this sense.

When I sleep during the day, the earplugs and rain machine usually prevent me from waking from the avionic earthquake, but this is undoubtedly a learned response, for the daily sorties woke me up for the first month I was here.  Lack of good plugs or the white noise, however, and I cannot be deep enough into REM to avoid return to consciousness, immediate panic as the uncertainty of my surroundings, and then a minimum of 30 minutes of recovery from the catecholimine storm prior to return to slumber. 

I have been told by the more savvy flight buffs that this noise is but a pleasant hum compared to some of the USAF's arsenal.  The F15, for example, has not one, but two Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofans and F229 afterburners.  Double the auditory fun?  I am not sure, but clearly louder; as is the B1, and F18.  Some claim the low roar of the cargo planes - the C5 and ANT 225 - do the most damage, but the pure noise acceleration from zero of the fighters is the most shocking to me.  [Imagine the splendor of a seaside mountain in Patagoina as more impressive to behold than a taller Himalayan giant arising from hills already elevated over 4,000 meters].

No comments:

Post a Comment