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pre-flight anxiety

Old 17th Dec 2012, 09:30
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: london
Posts: 91
pre-flight anxiety

Recently I have started to get really bad pre-flight anxiety. It starts the night before - I have difficulty sleeping, feel anxious, cold sweats etc. So much so that sometimes I end up cancelling a flight in order to get to bed! As soon as I have arrived at the airport and started preping for the flight I am fine.

I can't really connect it to any specific incident or concern....I was wondering if anyone else has been through this?
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Old 17th Dec 2012, 10:55
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PPRuNe FirstOfficer
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Surrey, UK
Posts: 137

I can understand the feeling, I am starting training (again) and I do get some anxiety, and I cannot understand why.

I was learning to fly many years ago and I was fine, now I am trying to get back to flying, in the past I have booked some lessons but end up cancelling at last minute. I do not recall having any bad experiences when flying to justify this. Maybe because all my previous flying was done in smooth air, now my brain is wondering when I will get a bad day in the office, hence the anxienty... That is the only explanation I can think of, for me.

Last edited by FirstOfficer; 17th Dec 2012 at 10:55.
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Old 20th Dec 2012, 08:57
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: In the boot of my car!
Posts: 5,999

I used to race cars in my early 20s racing in formula ford, clubmans and formula 3.
The nerves you got before a race could be awful especially lined up waiting to go out onto the circuit.
As soon as the lights changed to green all the nerves and anxiety went.

You do not say whether you are a PPL or Student or the level of your experience.
Most fears are of the unknown or something you are not familiar with! The more you fly the more normal the whole thing becomes and the more relaxed you will get.

With any fears some are genuine some are what ifs and negative thoughts about what you are about to do.

Try and identify those negatives thoughts and replace them with something positive to you.

If its a fear of not impressing your instructor/Examiner see him as a mere mortal with his own problems and tell yourself if I mess up I mess up! so what?

Same with the flying whats the worst that can happen you get killed so what ? You will no longer have to worry about paying the bills or the wife etc
Anyway your superior skills will see you through

Talk to yourself and the aircraft. "I am going to enjoy this even examinations".
As for the aircraft??? " You damn B*tch I am in charge here you will do what I say "

Above all accept some nerves are normal and enjoy it


Last edited by Pace; 20th Dec 2012 at 09:00.
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Old 22nd Dec 2012, 13:18
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: huj
Posts: 66
Can I assume you're not an airline pilot?

Actually it's pretty common. I used to get it all the time. I'm not sure it was fear of flying as such but more a fear of screwing up. It's somewhat analgous to stage fright. Actors fear 'dying' on stage as it were.

The answer I think is to fly more. Easier said than done I know when you have to pay for it yourself. When every flight is somewhat of an 'event'. This only serves to increase the anxiety.

I was well cured of it once I moved onto flying for a living. 5, 6, 7, 8 hours flying in a day for several days in a row. I slept particularly well after days like that.

But I still frequently have a minor tinge of anxiety just before I climb into the cockpit. This is good, a complacent pilot is not a safe pilot. Disappears once the engine starts. My biggest fear actually is that after a long day and multiple take offs. I begin to lose the edge of anxiety and miss something. You don't want to be too comfortable.

So don't worry about it unless it's actually a fear of flying itself. Which is an entirely different matter.

Try and fly more often.
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Old 22nd Dec 2012, 20:22
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Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: london
Posts: 91
Thanks for replies.

I'm a it's not a fear of flying! Through my PPL I was fine, perhaps because of regular flying, perhaps because of the safety net of being a student.

I've had a busy couple of years so the number and duration of flights have been going in the wrong direction so I think this is where it stems from. I think I also need to get out out of the habit of the familiarity of the local bimble !
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Old 22nd Dec 2012, 21:43
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: gone surfin'
Age: 55
Posts: 2,332
If most pilots were 100% honest, they'd admit to feeling's like this at some stage in their career.

I used to get a bit shaky when I looked out and viewed the wheel of a C172, over all that space. After all, being very high in a collection of rivet's can be unnerving.

It get's better with experience, but can still catch you out after time.

If it's ongoing and disabling, try a look at online CBT programmes such as the Mood Gym. As someone who prides himself from sorting the wheat from the chaff, this sort of stuff does seem to work.

The usual warning, if it's unremitting or has an effect on how you control your aircraft, then talk to your AME.
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