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Flying phobias in aircrew

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Flying phobias in aircrew

Old 6th Sep 2011, 16:11
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Flying phobias in aircrew

I guess this is probably a taboo subject, but any info would be very gratefully received.

AME's in the civilian world are starting to report more and more cases of airline pilots showing signs of stress, anxiety and burntout which, in a handful of patients, has resulted in a fear of flying and temporary/permanent grounding.

A colleague of mine ( ex-tornados ) said that, during his time with the RAF, he knew of a few pilots who had to stop flying due to developing a fear/phobia of their role. Some after seeing action, others after the simulated ' being shot down and caught by the enemy ' exercise carried out on some remote moor.

Any information, or links to information, about such cases which may shine some light on this problem would be very helpful.

I know, from his books, that an ex-RAF psychiatrist, Prof. Gordon Turnbull, did quite a lot of work in this area some years ago concentrating mainly on PTSD. However if anyone knows if there is publicly available case studies which might help civilian AMEs help their patients please would you let me know.

Many thanks.
Cruise Zombie is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 17:24
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I had a a phobia of flying above anywhere hot and dusty! shithole.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 17:34
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We had a few Lightning guys 'lose their bottle' while I was on the jet. I actually volunteered for a Farnborough AvMed 'random sample' pilot phobia survey while serving on 23(F) - must have been around '73 - (well, it got me a few days 'darn sarf'). Was much amused to see that some psycho-twit had written 'Are you afraid of Lightning' as one of the questions on a quiz paper (but missed out mother-in-laws).

It turned out that 'phobia' extended right across the spectrum, including Shack crews to my surprise.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 17:38
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Thanks BOAC. The feedback I'm getting from the AMEs I spoke to seem to suggest that the number of hours flown now ( right up to legal limits ) may be sending some guys round the twist. Flying phobia in fast jets must be caused by different stressors I guess. Interesting the way the brain works.

I wonder if any military guys on long flights ( i.e. reconnaissance ) suffered any problems.

Just out of interest how many hours do military guys fly in the different roles ( fast jet/transport ) ?

Last edited by Cruise Zombie; 6th Sep 2011 at 17:54.
Cruise Zombie is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 17:51
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All the time I was flying, although I never had any particular anxiety whilst awake, I had a nightmare, probably weekly, involving being in an aircraft which was being flown ridiculously low (under electric cables etc).

Funnily enough when I took up flying light aircraft many years later the dreams never returned, although I was probably at more risk flying a C172 on my own than I ever had been down the back of a Victor!

In answer to the hours question, we did around 30 hours (say 8 - 10 sorties) a month on average on Victor tankers - no idea what a comparable figure would be now.

Last edited by Tankertrashnav; 6th Sep 2011 at 18:42. Reason: additional information on hours, as requested
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:04
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One of the original B737 captains in Air Europe would never fly above 30,000 feet. A year later he left for a ground instructor job in the USA. Later he got a job flying commuter Bae 146's, which rarely reached his phobia altitude.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:07
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I am a pretty nervous traveller down the back. Much prefer to be driving up front.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:13
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Interesting Brakedwell, I know quite a few colleagues who worry about operations close to ' coffin corner ' after they've had one or two unpleasant CAT events. And the more hours flown, the more time to ruminate about such joys !
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:18
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You could land a job with BAE in Saudi as an IP then after a few years claim you are too stressed out to fly with Saudi students.

Do not pass GO, collect half a million quid and poke off to Australia, even though you were from Zimbabwe (and an all round sh*t by all accounts and personal experience).

True story:

On the freak out/ paranoia front. I lined up as number two. Lead made all the right signals. At the head nod, I was convinced something was not right and when he nodded for brake release I just called, 'Stop!'. No call signs or anything. He stopped after two metres, turned and looked, reflecting the raised eyebrow that hung over the Tower. Not sure to this day what made me say/do that. I think older generations called it 'collywobbles'. So I sat there for 10 secs or so before Guardian Angel implants top excuse: 'Soz mate, jacket got caught in the throttle friction.' Which is what I said.
Bit more finger waggling and head nodding and we were off.

It was like when 'someone walks over your grave' type of moment. Perfectly routine and normal yet that one, for some reason, didn't seem right, yet it clearly was.

I think all of us here will have a recollection of that horrible, nauseating feeling that something really crap is about to happen, even though all indications are normal.

Actually, that's a good idea for a new thread: 'Everything was in the Green, then....'

I don't know how to do it, so, good night.
Monty77 is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:27
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What about specific destinations?

Only four of us were detailed to fly to Samos in early days with my Co.(easily the most dangerous airfield at which I landed); more to Funchal - the old, short rwy (now it's much easier).

One of the others told me that he didn't sleep well before a Samos.

Others spring to mind in the civvy arena but no military stuff that I remember.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:31
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I don't like heights. Flew a gazelle with the doors off recently and it felt awful. Totally irrational, but a feeling nonetheless. Doors back on and problem went away...
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 18:36
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The only phobia I ever remember was fear of ground tour or being posted to CFS!
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 19:36
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I have flown with those who cannot be bothered about flying but are too lazy to try anything else.

I have flown with those who do not like flying but will not do anything else because it will not pay the bills.

I have flown with those that are afraid of flying; you can see it in their eyes.

They are the ones I used to be afraid of flying with.
Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 19:47
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I know of one bloke on my Sqn who had a session with the trick-cyclist due to an 'out of body' experience whilst night flying.

My only phobia was 'spiceyphobia', a fear of a very cheap happy hour down in the south Atlantic...
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 20:37
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My old Boss, a very long-time helicopter man hated having to do air test height climbs in the Whirlwind - 10,000' IIRC. Problem at that height was speed at 65 kts felt like a hover and induced vertigo His remedy was to imagine the most ginormous set of swept wings attached behind his sight line ... and then he could cope
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 20:41
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Our AEO in 1964 developed a phobia and withdrew from flying. He had already done one tour on Vulcans which of course had a bad reputation for rear crew survival even then. He was then re-roled to the Mark 2 and to the new low level role. Shortly thereafter he withdrew. I think he lasted less than 3 months out of the OCU.

As it was shortly after WW2 - 19 years - consider GW1 was 20 years ago - he was lablled 'chicken' and talked of having LMF. I believe he joined another air force as an ATCO.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 21:11
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Not sure if it's quite the same thing, but there was a Harrier pilot on one of the Gut squadrons in the mid 80s who walked into the boss and (not sure of the phrase) stood himself down. Felt he was right on the edge on every sortie. I sem to remember he was respected for his honesty- not like the bloke PN referred to eh?

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Old 6th Sep 2011, 21:17
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Do not pass GO, collect half a million quid and poke off to Australia, even though you were from Zimbabwe (and an all round sh*t by all accounts and personal experience).
I can think of 2 people that might be ..... but I wasn't aware such a thing had happened! Interesting .....
MrBernoulli is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 21:28
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I was flying a helicopter on an IF training sortie once where the lower half of one side of the windscreen was covered with a screen, so we had a crewman in the back covering the lookout on that side.

We were in and out of puffy Cu doing an NDB approach as I recall, when the crewie came up on the ICS and said in a kind of funny voice something like "I'm sorry, I don't want to be up here any more. I need to land."

Not those exact words probably, but that was the gist. So we landed and he went to the boss and withdrew himself from flying duties. He couldn't really explain it himself, and had previously had no troubles doing all the whacky things crewmen are required to do, hanging out on the hoist and all that stuff.

I don't know if it was that particular sortie that set him off, or a cumulative thing that caught up with him.
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Old 7th Sep 2011, 07:54
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For 38 years I have flown upright and inverted in fixed wing, helicopters and gliders and never had an irrational moment. I have even thrown myself out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane, yelling a happy native american warcry, without the slightest hesitation. Ask me to climb a ladder a few feet, however, and I turn into a gibbering wreck! I hate walking on narrow cliff paths and as for treading on that glass floor at the top of the refurbished Blackpool Tower - No Way!

The way the human mind works is sometimes mystifying.

Anyone else relate to this or am I in a minority of one?
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