900 pages must be memorized in three weeks. A passing grade on the subsequent test is 85 percent, and most score above a 95 percent. On just one section, a tiny mistake can result in instant failure. And that’s before you ever get in the jet.

Most people think being a fighter pilot is “cool” and “awesome” and “badass” and “the job every single child on earth dreams of, even for a fleeting second, at some point in their life.” But that’s mostly because they’ve seen videos of a jet spinning through the air, or heard one screaming overhead at an airshow. But the spinning and the screaming can not only be physically crushing, but mentally draining for even the sharpest of tacks.

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And that’s why this documentary series, Jetstream, is so good. It’s not some slickly-produced recruiting video, lasting an hour long and showing you a shallow look at how One Man Fights For Freedom™. It’s a multi-part series showing everything from a squad of Canadian fighter pilot prospects. Not only the joys (of which there still are plenty), but the stress, the teamwork, the degradation, the heartbreak, the math, and the leadership necessary to actually be a fighter pilot.

Part one is up top. The other seven parts can be found here.


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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