Top Gun: Polar Bears Need Not Apply

How did he ever pass flight school, much less become a top gun pilot?

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How did he ever pass flight school, much less become a top gun pilot? I’m talking about the mascot from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, of course. That’s right, the insane polar bear that hijacks an F-16 and rockets into space before each of the team’s hockey games (video below).

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks hockey mascot: Not your standard pilot.

Consider the facts: An adult male polar bear weighs between 750 and 1,500 pounds, and stands between six and eight feet tall. Can this unwieldy ursine even fit inside a (modified) F-16?

We looked to the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Florida, for guidance. The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations released guidelines (OPNAV instruction 3710.37A) in 2006 on the topic of “anthropometric accommodation in Naval aircraft.” The document notes: “It is essential to accurately match prospective and designated aviators to appropriate aircraft…. Because the consequences of assigning an anthropometrically incompatible crewmember to an aircraft can be both costly and potentially catastrophic, waivers shall not be submitted nor considered for prospective Naval Aviators/Naval Flight Officers. Designated Navy or Marine Corps aviation personnel identified with an anthropometric incompatibility in assigned aircraft shall be referred to Bureau of Naval Personnel…or Commandant of the Marine Corps…respectively for disposition.”

Characteristic postures of the polar bear. These poses seem at odds with the typical fighter pilot stance.

The document continues, “The minimum and maximum nude body weights allowed for those entering naval aviation flight training are 103 pounds and 245 pounds…. Certain characteristics of individual type/model/series aircraft, e.g., center of gravity limitations, or aviation life support equipment may result in further limitations.” A chart at the end of the document states that student pilots cannot be taller than 6 feet 4 inches. So while our polar bear friend might squeak by on the height requirement, he would be deemed “not eligible” for service based upon his weight.

University of Alaska at Fairbanks’ head hockey coach Dallas Ferguson referred us to Tim Bauer for a discussion of the mascot’s next career move. Bauer, the treasurer of the Face-Off Club (a group of hockey boosters), explained that the university has commissioned a new promotional video, which should be ready in late October. Sadly, the polar bear’s top gun days appear to be over. While we don’t know what his next occupation will be, it won’t include flying pointy jets.

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