No offense to any pilots, I am a student, curious.

I just watched Spy (2015) and I was just wondering what happens if one of the pilot accidentally sneezes during a difficult maneuver.

one of the good guys sneezes during a critical stand-off

Jude Law misfires during a critical stand-off.

I mean what are the preventive measures taken to avoid this - the jet is obviously primed to be in best of its agility & stick-sensitiveness so can the pilots selectively decrease sensitivity of stick when needed?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What happens if a football quarterback sneezes during a play? Or if a racecar driver sneezes during a race? How often does any of this happen? Somewhere between "very rarely" and "roughly never." $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ Stay focused and don't tense up. Snot in your mask. Barf down your front. Sweat. Glare. Squeeze. Hot & Cold like an astronaut in space. Focus, focus, focus. And relax. $\endgroup$
    – radarbob
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the scene is realistic. I suspect it can't happen in reality. The reflex is somewhat controllable and I believe also suppressed in such situations (so is itching and even pain). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec: I believe so, too. During high-stress situations, our systems are flooded with adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, various endorphins and a lot of other wonderful substances that any street dealer would be proud of. You simply don't sneeze during stress. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ More information required. How "wet' is the sneeze? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 0:43

2 Answers 2


Evolution has created this wonderful thing called stress. We tend to think of stress as something negative that is to be avoided, and that is certainly true: prolonged periods of stress will do all sorts of damage to your body and mind.

However, for short periods of time, stress is a wonderful invention that lets us survive situations we otherwise wouldn't: when we come under stress, when that sabre-tooth tiger pops out from behind the bushes, our autonomous systems produce anti-inflammatory agents, dampen our pain reception, flood our system with performance enhancing drugs, improve our perception, shorten our reflexes, increase our energy levels … and, yes, also repress our sneeze and cough reflexes.

Have you ever had the experience that, after a long period of stress, just when you were finally looking forward to some well-deserved vacation, you get sick at the most inopportune time, right at the beginning of your vacation? Well, actually, you didn't get sick, you were sick all along, but during the stress period, your body suppressed the symptoms, and as soon as the stress goes away, the illness, wich may have been brewing for days or even weeks, breaks out in full.

So, to answer your question:

What if a aerobatic fighter pilot sneezes in middle of a maneuver?

He doesn't. Stress will prevent him from doing so.

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    $\begingroup$ stress prevents sneezing, really??? $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Jpe61: Yes. Adrenaline suppresses sneezing and coughing, among all the other cool things it does, like increasing blood flow, increasing oxygen flow, heightening senses and reflexes. Ever seen a theater or musical actor sneeze? I myself had the experience that I was recording songs while having a horrible cold. I had trouble breathing and had to sneeze every couple of seconds. And yet, as soon as the recording room door closed, my sinuses cleared up, and I didn't sneeze once while the red light was one. I lrecorded 3, 4, 5 minute songs and the second the red light went on, the "sneeze" … $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 9:56
  • $\begingroup$ … sensation was gone, I felt totally fine for the duration of the song, and as soon as the red light went off at the end of the song, I had to sneeze as if my life depended on it. But I never had to hold anything in. I just simply didn't need to sneeze while the tape was rolling. I was literally practicing the exact same song, plagued by constant sneezing, then hit the record button and playing the entire song without any interruptions as if I was completely healthy. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ I was kind of looking for a reference to a scientific study. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:21

As Ralph J alluded to it in a comment, I would guess this is extremely rare. I have never experienced this during any of my time. Maybe one of the higher time guys (Rhino Driver?) will pipe in here.

I guess if you did have to sneeze, let off the stick, sneeze, then clean your mask out (if you didn't already take it off). If you were in a critical phase of flight, then deal with it and keep flying the jet.

Nothing to it really...


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