View Full Version : Airsick students
15th Aug 2012, 13:56
I'm having some airsickness problem with one of my students. Every time we start our decent for landing/traffic pattern he starts to feel queasy and every time in the base/final turn he goes for the bag, followed by unwanted views of his last meal. :bored:
N.b. we have only had 4 flights so I was hoping that this was something that would go away, but now he's having second thoughts about his lessons. We are going to give it a final go this weekend but he said if he would get airsick again he would call it quits for now.
I've had airsick students before but that was more of a one-time-only incidents following some heavy air excersises, but this is more persistent
I feel sorry for the guy, he handles the plane great and has good potential, but his airsickness problems are getting in the way. He says he never gets sick while flying as a pax in small planes (which he has done a few times) so I'm thinking this is more of a psychological problem than physiological.
Any advise from you that have had airsick students? or are some just not "made for flying"
15th Aug 2012, 16:23
If it is exactly as you describe (I mean he is OK in the flight and only gets sick at the end, and always gets sick at roughly the same point), then I agree that this sounds more psychological than anything else.
But "psychological" doesn't mean "not real" - the evidence is in the bag so to speak! Probably he got sick on the first flight and this has become an unconscious habit.
You need to be utterly convincing and tell him you know how to help him get over it. Dont say anything else about it having become a habit. Try flying circuits a few times so he experiences the base/final turn without having time to get queasy. Then go off and fly the approach and landing pattern as an upper air exercise with him handling the controls, hopefully again he should be able to do this without being queasy. Then come back for a few more circuits without landing, then go for a landing without telling him which one you are going to land from.
The aim is to break the association in his mind that seems to be there between the final stages of the circuit and feeling sick.
I've no idea if this will work, but I reckon its worth a shot. Its what I would try in your situation.
Its worth not making a big deal about airsickness - lots of good aircrew can suffer from it.
hope this helps
15th Aug 2012, 16:42
A purely nutritional suggestion, eliminated any queasiness after my first lesson, though (and can be combined with any other approach): have him try ginger capsules.
15th Aug 2012, 16:47
Is the student flying the approach, or are you doing it while he watches and pukes?
15th Aug 2012, 18:52
Sounds as if it might be nerves ... if the approach to land is getting a bit stressful for him?
15th Aug 2012, 19:20
His behaviour is perfectly normal from a physiological point of view. Many patients after coming to the ER for something traumatic or stressful will toss their cookies once the treatment is over. Right down my leg if I'm not watching.
In the case of your student, he has anxiety during his flight, and then as he turns base, his subconscious tell his guts, "We're home safe soon boys, time to clean house!" and up it comes.
It sounds like torture, but encourage the kid to just keep flying over and over. Let it happen. Laugh about it. Like any other stimulus in life, soon we become accustomed to it and stop reacting as if it were the first time (no marriage jokes please).
Most important message to instill in this kid is that he is normal--his guts are hard-wired to clean house when he's stressed, and sooner or later, it will stop.
Yet another analogy is kids who throw up Christmas morning while waiting to open their presents... too much excitement!
Or my dog, who, no matter how long the car ride, throws up 10 seconds before arriving at any destination... right down my leg.
All the best.
16th Aug 2012, 00:12
Thanks for the replies,
Heston: Good advise, we'll try that and see how it goes. I was also thinking about flying to a remote, quiet airfield. We fly from a fairly large, international airport and I guess The radio-chatter and the stress of other traffic (boeing 737,757 and Airbusses) are just to much for him.
Dobbin: he just hands the controllers over to me to "do his business", I continue the approach and finsh the landing. I've asked him if he wanted the controls back but he really is unfit to fly for about 5-10 mins after his 'incidents'
Taras: I told him that we could fly as long as he wanted, but with each lesson costing him £120 and we're not making any real progress, his interest in flying is fading :(
I feel partly reponsible for his condition. He was so confident with the controls during the beginning of his first lesson that I tried talking him down for his first landing, I think I just overloaded him with instructions and with too many things going around, it was just too much his nerves to handle and now he assosiates landings with queasiness...
Hopefully we'll make some progress this weekend!
16th Aug 2012, 03:40
I've suffered motion sickness all my life and had similar issues with my first few lessons especially once the flaps were down. If it was nerves it was more about being nervous about being sick rather than about flying.
I'm at around the same stage as your student, but last lesson I had control all the way into landing and felt fine. I figured it would be like how I never get car sick while driving. So it's a worry that he feels crook while at the controls.
There are always things like ginger tablets, herbal motion sickness pills or wrist bands he can try (medical motion sickness pills can cause drowsiness). Not sure how effective they are but they might have an effect even if it's placebo.
Interestingly, I put a photo of me in a turn, which my instructor took, on Facebook and my pilot cousin commented that I was leaning away from the turn, which he reckons causes vertigo. Might be worth checking that.
16th Aug 2012, 03:51
+1 for trying the ginger capsules.
Another thing I've had success with (three times) with sick passengers is rescue remedy, a Bach flower.
Scientifically, it doesn't work.
But it does.
16th Aug 2012, 08:08
Definitely this sounds like nerves/excitement rather than true motion sickness. He will by now be more nervous about being sick than anything else. Calm reassurance from you, and doing some of the lower stress things suggested earlier should help.
What are his motivations for learning to fly? If for leisure only (ie not for a commercial career) then making sure the lessons are fun, so he can learn to relax, is important. He wants to do it, and you don't want to lose a student. He may be putting too much pressure on himself at this stage (pressure is your job, later on) in his eagerness to make progress. If he has financial constraints that are driving you both to work really hard its worth remembering that people don't learn well when under stress - relaxing a bit will help and accelerate the learning process.
Best of luck, and let us know what happens!
16th Aug 2012, 10:17
It is often not realised that motion sickness doesn't actually need any motion. The eyes in perceiving motion can achieve the same result. I recall flying a simulator with no motion, I felt as sick as a dog afterwards. Head movement can also be one of the causes. Normally, people grow out of it and put it behind them. You can theorise as much as you like and take pills and potions but they seldom have any effect other than add to what you bring up. A full stomach helps.
16th Aug 2012, 14:24
Students I have had have got over it.
One that worked with one - all are individual - was to break the lesson into 30 min slots, since he threw up about 45 mins in.
Then, as we talked, we realised it was due to blood sugar control - so, a little counter-intuitive, he ate BEFORE the flight to stop being sick!
Nice brown bread sandwich and a full sugar Coke.
Reckon, but am no doc, that the adrenaline rush of the start of the lesson burnt up the sugar (hence the Coke) and then the adrenaline during the flight burnt up the brown bread (ie slow release carbs)
Anyway, it has worked for him and I have found it has helped with a few others.
Main thing is getting the student to feel they are in control, that you are listening and that you have ideas that you are fully confident in (ie the placebo effect).
17th Aug 2012, 09:02
About 30 years ago a chemist in a small seaside town in NZ which is know world wide for game fishing , decided to invent his own motion sickness pills after constant demands from charter boat captains to supply something for customers more effective than those sold commercial
The pills are so good that the little pharmacy sells them all over the world in the fishing charter boat industry. Unlike normal sea sick pills they wont make you drowsy..one of the two different pills you take from the bottle they supply keeps you feeling normal and the other controls the motion sickness.
Call them up and they will post you some. About US $15 for a small bottle. The place is called Paihia Pharmacy..I'm sure ot will be easy to google or find them in a NZ yellow pages. They have become so well known in the charter boat industry they even have their own name...they call them the Pahia bomb.
I've been giving them to passengers who get air sick for years ..not one person has ever got sick, even those who proclaim they suffer badly
17th Aug 2012, 09:04
Ph +64(9) 402 7034
17th Aug 2012, 10:20
I have had a number of students who used to through up but I made sure that they stayed motivated enough to continue flying just by telling them that it would go away with time and sure enough, away it went. One technique I particularly used was to note the exercise/stage/manoeuvre that caused the nausea/vomiting and repeat the same thing as close as possible to the previous flight parameters in the next and the next and the next flight till, finally, them all got used to it and stopping feeling sick.
I know it sounds like a punishment but it worked well and them all recovered from the problem and continued flying.
I remember an airsick student who was good in flying but I found him unable to focus/concentrate on the lesson right after take off as he seemed preoccupied with the impending vomiting and the subsequent distaste/discomfort caused by a lost/wasted lesson. He had to be told, look, your problem is to concentrate on flying and not on avoiding the vomiting; luckily, he understood and in time, overcame the sickness.
17th Aug 2012, 18:14
I am very, VERY susceptible to motion sickness, woe to the silly decision that made me go on "Mission To Mars" at Disney World....
Some things that help me;
No skin lotion; helps body remain cool.
No powerful odors; cigarette smell is the worst, perfume, BO and foods follow.
Cool to cold environment.
Ginger ale or ginger. Never tried capsules.
Breathing exercises; in 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds, hold for seconds, repeat.
Sitting as close to the front of the airplane (pilots win this condition!)
high wing harry
17th Aug 2012, 18:42
A couple of suggestions:
1. Note the time he is sick and shorten the lesson to 10 minutes less the next time (to avoid any "I've been airborne for 40 minutes so it must be time to be sick" habits)
2. Let him fly the approach. After 4 lessons he should be capable of following your instructions and, if necessary, you can always take over at 100 feet if it gets a bit scary!
3. Try him with different situations - fly after eating, fly before eating etc
4. One of my students once cured this by chewing gum constantly
5. Head movements to a minimum, eyes on the horizon, lots of air in the cabin
If no change - some people find those wrist bands very effective (it may be mind over matter but who cares if it works?)
If not - he should consult his GP who may have some suggestions.
On top of all of this - just talk to your student about it. He probably feels very stressed about it on many levels (getting in the way of learning, embarrasment etc etc) so an open dialogue may ease his fears. He isn't the first and certainly won't be the last!
18th Aug 2012, 14:24
Halve the lesson's duration. Even less if that's what it takes to avoid the ill feeling prior to vomiting.
Fly only when it's dead smooth, so early morning. Also only when there's a clear horizon.
If it's nerves about the arrival & landing then on each flight do a couple of circuits before departing for the training area.
Keep the cabin cool and with the fresh air vents open.
If it seems to be stress from the lesson then reduce the learning curve gradient ie introduce new skills & complications later & more slowly.
18th Aug 2012, 19:22
Great news after todays lesson :D He was able to hold it in for 2 landings today!
We started out with a long and easy briefing. I told him I was dithcing the lesson plan for today and we were just going to have a nice, easy flight around the area, maybe check out a small airfield nearby with little traffic. I also told him that it was most probably his nerves that were affecting him and he could overcome that by taking control of his nerves and relax.
We started out easy in the air, flew around and talked about football, ladies and other stuff. I just wanted him to feel comfortable with the controls and in the cockpit. Then we started doing some light excersises, subtle climbing/descending. At 1500'agl (no runway in sight) I asked him to bring the power back and start a slow descent, adding flaps on the way, and two left 90 degree turns. We continued to 100'agl before going around. He had no idea what we were doing, so you should have seen the look on his face when I told him we just finished a traffic pattern without him feeling sick at all :ok:
With that victory in the bag, we continued to a small runway and did one pattern. I talked him through the descent and with a little help he was able to land. After that we continued to homebase were we did the same thing. He was able to land almost by himself! He admitted thought afterwards that he was right on the edge of reaching for the bag, but he was able to hold it, convincing himself that he wasn't sick and focusing on my instructions.
Huge relief for the both of us after today and hopefully we will be able to continue. The smile on his face when he left the airport was indescribable :)
Thank you all for your replies, they were all really helpful :ok: