Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Thu, April 25 2013 at 5:15 PM, Updated: Thu, April 25 2013 at 5:28 PM
While a fighter jet can be a potent weapon, an F-15 can also take a heavy physical toll on the pilots who fly them.
The 'Top Knife' training program at Kingsley Field is helping doctors provide better care for those pilots.
Major Eric Chumbley understand first-hand what it's like to fly in an F-15...
"I tell people it's like learning how to play a piano, while you're playing dodge-ball - and occasionally, you've got to stop and pick that piano up."
Major Chumbley teaches a medical training program at Kingsley Field.
"Top Knife is a program that we offer here at Kingsley Field." Explains Lieutenant Colonel Martin Balakas. "That gives flight surgeons the opportunity to come and experience the high 'G' forces that a fighter pilot exposes himself to."
Major Chumbley notes that those 'G' forces place stresses on the body that can even lead to unconsciousness...
"There's a host of things that fighter pilots face that people on the ground don't."
Doctors in the Air Guard can take some of the training online, which keeps costs down...and the in-flight training is a bonus for the doctors, and for the Guard.
"Plus, we have a lot more two-seat F-15's than any unit in the Air Force." Adds Lieutenant Colonel Balakas. "It allows us to maximize those seats and keep them full."
Major Chumbley notes that Top Knife got its start at Kingsley in 1990, and it's back after a seven year hiatus...
"It's the time of your life. It's a ton of fun. But it also tells you how hard these guys have to work to be able to do this."
About two dozen doctors are expected to take part in the week long Top Knife training program at Kingsley each year.
Governor Kitzhaber is a Top Knife graduate, having taken the training in 1995.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.
Lyle's job history is quite colorful. He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.
Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience. "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".
When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.