learning to fly feeling ill instructor

For most people, learning to fly light aircraft or helicopters is extremely enjoyable and exciting. But a significant minority of students suffer from airsickness during their early lessons, some even during their Trial Lesson. For some, it is only a mild problem which soon vanishes. But for others it is much worse, to the extent that they think about giving up flying training, convinced they will never make it as pilots. This is rarely the case, and there are many things which can be done to improve the situation.

Tell the Instructor about the Problem

Some people try to hide the fact that they’re feeling ill, worrying that their instructor will think badly of them. This is not normally the case – any experienced instructor will sympathise, and should be able to help.

He or she will try to help the student to relax, and this is often all that is needed. The instructor will make sure that the student only flies in light winds initially, and will make all flight manoeuvres gentle, until the student’s body and inner ear get used to the experience of being in a light aircraft…and they will become accustomed to it in time.

If the student is feeling ill, the instructor will let him fly the aircraft, or at least follow through on the controls, as this often settles things. And most instructors have a small stock of airsickness bags, should they be needed…because this is not an uncommon problem!

Remedies for Airsickness

As most flying students will know, medication and flying do not go together. Most conventional travel sickness remedies may have side effects, and they can sometimes affect concentration or co-ordination.

However, there are some natural remedies which work for many people. Ginger, taken either in slices, in tablet form, or even as the crystallised sweetened version (very tasty!) is often effective. A number of homeopathic remedies have been recommended, and it is worth trying Nux Vomica, Cocculus, or Tabacum. Wristbands are also available, which are said to utilize acupuncture points, and these work well for some students.

Practice Makes Perfect

It is important to remember that this is likely to be a temporary problem. For most people, feelings of nausea go away in time, as they become more used to flying. Those with sensitive stomachs might never manage to become hotshot aerobatic pilots. But they will certainly be able to obtain a Private Pilot’s Licence, and even a Commercial Licence, with no problem at all. The author speaks from experience!


Airsickness When Learning to Fly Small Aircraft: What Students Should do if Early Flying Lessons Make them Ill.


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