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?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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 Jun 16 '15 at 23:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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 Jun 17 '15 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ 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 Jun 17 '15 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Jun 17 '15 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ More information required. How "wet' is the sneeze? $\endgroup$ – Skip Miller Jun 19 '15 at 0:43

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.


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...


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.