Yesterday, we had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Maj. Joshua ‘Cabo’ Gunderson, where the members in our community got a chance to ask him questions.
Maj. Gunderson is the United States Air Force F-22 Demonstration Team commander and a pilot. Here are all of the questions and answers.
How do you withstand load factors (G) and how does it feel?
The G Forces are something your body eventually gets used to but a solid amount of lifting weights for lower body and core helps a ton. There is a lot of pressure on your upper body and you’re trying to combat that with straining your lower body, it’s a workout for sure.
What would your advice be to an aspiring military pilot who would love to fly for their Air Force (Irish Air Corps)?
I would say the best piece of advice is to realize like any large undertaking in life, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Ensure you have a good work/life balance to always may you feeling excited about work. The daily grind can be challenging, so that balance is crucial.
Favorite Airshow that you’ve ever attended? Is every airshow different from one another?
My favorite airshow was when I was 11 years old and went to MacDill AirFest in Tampa, FL. I met the F-15C demo pilot there and we met 12 years later flying Eagles together. We are friends to this day.
Do you use Infinite Flight?
I don’t really play computer based or console based games. When I fly demos, I stay honed in with the team and executing the mission.
How do you feel doing stunts with hundreds of audience spectating?
I honestly don’t pay attention to the crowds during the flying because my focus needs to be on the demo. After that, I love interacting with the fans!
Did you go to college with AFROTC or did you enlist and then become an officer? Which would you recommend, as I am an aspiring Air Force pilot?
I went to the Air Force Academy. ROTC and Officer Training School are the other two options. I would say the academy (purely based on the percentage of students to pilot training slots) is your best bet.
So, pilots are officers, first and foremost. As I am relatively new to leadership, what would be your advice for someone starting on the path to the pilot slot?
Reference one of the threads above, but the short answer is having balance in your life to maintain the challenging demands of being an officer and pilot. The discipline to maintain that balance is huge. Best of luck!
If there was one person living or dead who you’d like to fly with, who would it be?
My mom, I never was able to take her flying before she passed.
Was flying for the Air Force always your dream job or did you have anything else in mind growing up?
Flying fighters was always it for me.
What are the most common issues you have to address for demo displays before they go ahead?
Continuing to stay balanced between work/life, it can easily become the focal point in your life and then leave you very little time for other things. I don’t like only giving something 50%, so it’s a struggle to carve out time for other things.
What are the most common issues you have to address for demo displays before they go ahead?
Just ensuring that based on each location having unique staff/challenges. I need to ensure the team is taken care of and have what they need to execute the mission.
Do you believe non-professional flights sims can play a role in flight training?
I don’t have much experience in this realm, but I’m sure it’s like anything else, if used properly as a tool to learn, it can likely be very useful.
How fricken cool is it to fly the F22 compared to any other jet?
The Raptor is great, but simply flying it isn’t why I enjoy it. The airplane is designed to be the most lethal flying machine in the world, I enjoy using it to hone those skills the most.
What is the coolest location you have traveled too for displays, and what is it like to serve in the Air Force?
My favorite place I have flown a show at was Melbourne, Australia. I haven’t flown many shows yet based on the current situation. It’s very rewarding because the team aspect of the military allows you to leverage everyone’s talents in the group and achieve some amazing results.
How was your journey to become Air Force Pilot?
Very rewarding and challenging, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Amazing friends and experiences.
Did you ever think you would become an Air Force pilot and what challenges did you face?
I always knew that was my goal and I wasn’t going to stop working until I achieved it! Too many challenges to type out, but that’s with everything in life! School, work/life balance, moving, studying and learning new tactics and about emerging threats, the list goes on. Wach day can be a grind, but the hard work always pays off and it is always satisfying to know you’ve given that day 100% and overcome challenges.
How did you acquire your nickname? Is your callsign also Cabo; if it’s different what is it?
My callsign is Cabo and it’s a long story, but it was from my early days as an F-15C Wingman. Each pilot gets a callsign early in their career and symbolizes their transition to a combat aviator.
I am a student pilot and have had some scary moments like my first power on stall which I am fine with now, but have you had any moments that you were very worried for your heart skipped a beat per say?
When the jet’s landing gear collapsed on landing and I had to safely recover the aircraft.
About half of commercial pilots are from the Military, Air Force, etc, what are your plans after you retire and why did you take the route you are at now?
Not sure yet, lots of different ideas and multiple things I’m passionate about doing in terms of giving back to others.
Often times I think pilot retire from the Air Force and head to other jobs with their time they earned, are you planning to do the same? If so, what sort of sector would you like to pursue in civilian aviation? Cargo? Maybe flying wild in Alaska? Would be cool to hear your perspective.
Not sure yet, I still have a ways to go. I do love flying in Alaska though!
How has Covid 19 affected your training?
We have adjusted local training to account for social distancing standards but continue to stay prepared for any world-wide deployments.
What advice would you give to someone who goes to USAFA and wants to get a pilot slot? Is it helpful to go into USAFA with PPL/IR? How does one get selected out of USAFA into a specific squadron and better yet into something like a demo team?
You don’t need any flight training whatsoever prior to the academy. There is a long process to becoming a combat pilot in a squadron and you’ll switch every 2-3 years.
To be selected for the demo team, you have to be an instructor pilot in the jet you’re flying. That takes about four-ish years to even be eligible. There is only one pilot/commander/officer spot on the team and it rotates every 2 years.
How difficult was it to get enrolled in the AFA?
It’s a very lengthy process that I began when I was a sophomore in HS. It’s a challenging academic school plus you’ll need a congressional endorsement.
Does the USAF F-22 Demo team intend on doing any COVID-19 “salute to healthcare worker” flyovers/events like the USAF Thunderbirds and the USN Blue Angels have been doing?
Yes, we did one in VA two weeks ago. Pictures
What is your favorite Cookie flavour?
Cookies have carbs, carbs are bad. Just kidding – white choc / macadamia.
Is there anything in your Job, that you are still afraid of?
Letting the team down, that is always on my mind and pushes me to work hard.
What’s it like being an Instructor Pilot for the Raptor? Must be quite the challenge, as you’re I think bringing the Raptor’s future effectiveness out of those rookies.
It’s very rewarding to know you’re equipping them to fight/survive and take care of fellow servicemen and women. Humbling.
Did you go into the Air Force Academy with a pilots license already or did you obtain it through USAFA? Would going into USAFA with your private license have any benefit?
I did not get a pilots license before or during my time there and I don’t think it’s required. Other than being able to fly in your spare time, I don’t think it is going to make you anymore competitive while there or attaining a pilot slot after. The academy has a lot of pilot slots and the AF will teach you all you need to know, for free!
What is the hardest part about flying the F22?
Keeping up with all of the studying to stay sharp.
What is your favorite thing about the F22?
The engines, they are epic!
With the F-35 supposedly the new ‘quarterback’ for joint strike missions, how has the Raptor’s role changed with another 5th gen aircraft taking the lead? And have all of the secure communications issues between the two like IFDL been resolved or is that still an ongoing process?
I wouldn’t say your first statement is true. So the raptors role remains an air dominance fighter and depending on the mission will still lead the fight. I’m not familiar with what comm issues you’re referring to, Ok. think I’ve only flown one sortie in my F-22 career where IFDL didn’t work and that was a hardware swap.
What’s your favourite maneuver, and hardest maneuver to perform at a show?
The dedication pass is my favorite, the loaded roll is the hardest to fly really well.
What’s you’re favourite activity to do outside of flying?
What’s one airshow youre looking forward to the most to perform at once things are more normal?
Macdill in Tampa because that’s where my family lives.
What would be your thoughts on a flight-sim based Virtual Airshow?
I think if that is something you’re interested in doing, then you should pursue it! I haven’t the slightest idea of where to begin on a flight sim air show. I stay pretty busy with work/gym/family that I don’t have too much time to get into flight sims although I am sure it’s fun!
So in theory, if the USAF needed you guys for combat deployment, you guys would just head over?
Is it easier to become an Air Force pilot or a Navy pilot?
They are both very similar paths, so I would say both are challenging. I obviously haven’t been through a navy program so I can’t say for certain.
Why doesn’t America export their F-22?
At this point we don’t even make them anymore so it would be impossible. The only stealth platform we export is the F-35.
When you said you started the application sophomore year for USAFA, what did you do sophomore year? Any tips for someone possibly wanting to go to USAFA?
Truly, the application process begins as early as you decide that’s the path for you. I would recommend finding activities (sports, music, etc) to get into. This will establish a based of things to show you’re well-rounded. your grades beginning freshman year will impact your GPA and therefore your application.
What is your usual exercise routine?
Pick up heavy things and put them back down. But I also ride road bikes and run 4-5 times a week. Combination of distance and speed training for running. Usually middle distance and sprints through the week, long distance on the weekend. 50+ miles on the bike ~18mph followed by runs. Shorter rides are usually around 15-20 miles. I typically lift first thing in the morning and do cardio in the afternoon/evening.
What’s your average day like?
Wach day could be drastically different but it’s usually working with the team on planning efforts for shows/events, studying, instructing younger pilots in academic settings, simulator training, or flights.
Are you pilots of the Demo team “only” flying for that team or do you have other duties in the Air Force as well?
There is only one F-22 demo pilot at a time but I also instruct within the fighter squadron here in Virginia.
Did you need to get approval from the Air Force for participating in this AMA?
No approval necessary, just wanted to answer questions and help where I can!
What would you say is the most important thing you have learnt from your time in the Air Force?
That discipline and team work are the only way to succeed in life.
How much time of actual “work” would you say you have a day during the weekdays? Is work structured in M-F? How does your schedule work?
Depends on the day, some days may be only 8 hours at work and some may be over 14 hours. As the demo pilot I work whenever things come up like this event for example. We typical travel on Wednesday to shows and come back home the following Monday. Tuesday is “the weekend” and then back on the road Wednesday.
Have you ever been on a deployment if so where to?
Yes, multiple to the middle east and various work trips in Europe and Asia.
If you are interested in joining the United States Air Force learn more here. You can follow Maj. Gunderson on Instagram. You can also follow the F-22 Raptor Demo Team accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.