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September 22, 2023
You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, but knowing that you’re not alone probably does little to help you feel any less nauseous as you reach for the infamous “barf bag” mid-flight.
We’re sorry you’re suffering from airsickness, but it is not hopeless - far from it. Let’s talk about airsickness & motion sickness in pilot training.
Nausea in the cockpit, or airsickness, is a type of motion sickness that’s experienced while traveling by air.
Do pilots get airsick? They can! Both pilots and passengers can suffer from airsickness.
Just like other types of motion sickness (seasickness, carsickness, space motion sickness, virtual reality motion sickness, etc.), the root cause of airsickness is a miscalibration between the fluid-filled canals of our inner ears’ vestibular system and our eyes.
Our bodies feel the acceleration and gyroscopic movement that, especially if we are not flying straight and level, are mismatched with what we see.
When what we see doesn’t match what we feel, our confused brains have no idea what is going on. They can only assume we’ve ingested some sort of toxin that needs to be expelled – cue tossing cookies.
Other airsickness-inducing factors include:
Airsickness symptoms are different from person to person. Once they start, they usually continue to worsen. The most common symptoms of airsickness are:
If you are a student pilot experiencing motion sickness and worried about how it might affect your training, you’re probably wondering how other pilots deal with motion sickness.
You may even have worried that the urge to grab the little white sickness bag as soon as you’re airborne means you are permanently blacklisted from your dreams of aviation.
So, what’s the verdict? Does motion sickness disqualify you from being a pilot?
Thankfully, in most cases, the answer is “no.”
The good news is many pilots, especially early in their training, have suffered from airsickness. Most of those pilots have gone on to adapt and excel in the air (as one of the experienced CFIs from Thrust Flight Academy shared with his YouTube channel.)
Here’s what you can do to help minimize, prevent, and recover from airsickness:
If you’re familiar with common motion sickness medicines and they’ve helped you with other types of motion sickness, you may have wondered, “Can pilots take Dramamine?” or “What medicine is approved for pilots to take for motion sickness?”
Unfortunately, but understandably, the FAA doesn’t allow any medications that could make you drowsy – say goodbye to gravol, regular Dramamine, meclizine, scopolamine, promethazine, and trimethobenzamide.
So, what’s left?
Honest answer – not a whole lot in terms of pharmaceuticals. You can take non-drowsy Dramamine (which is basically a ginger supplement).
When you’re looking at airsickness medication you can fly with, make sure the formulation is non-drowsy, and when in doubt, clear it with your CFI.
Pro Tip: Many student pilots report good luck with Seabands or a ReliefBand instead of pharmaceuticals.
What if you’ve tried the tips above and are still getting sick? Is there anything else you can do to stop it altogether?
The long term-fix for new pilots who get airsickness is usually to just keep flying. In fact, student pilots who feel sick their first few times in the air often adapt and develop a tolerance in as little as 3-5 flights.
Remember, nerves and anxiety are common triggers for airsickness with new pilots. Military pilots dealing with motion sickness are trained in progressive relaxation techniques involving diaphragmatic breathing, muscle tensing, and visual imagery.
Extra training is another way to boost confidence and reduce nervousness or anxiety.
If you’re like most student pilots, radio communications are one of the biggest sources of uncertainty and nerves.
Instead of waiting to practice your comms skills until you’re in the air on a training flight, why not develop the muscle memory faster by supplementing with ground-based realistic aviation radio communication from PlaneEnglish?
You can master aviation radio comms in just minutes a day by practicing our app-based simulated communications between yourself and ATC. With our ARSim aviation radio simulator app, you’ll experience the same FAA and ICAO standards-based comms trainer used by the United States Air Force, and you can even earn FAA WINGS credit.
Airsickness can be stressful and demoralizing as a new student pilot, but it isn’t a reason to give up on your aviation dreams.
Keep flying, try the techniques that have helped other student pilots manage airsickness, and in the meantime, if you do need to get sick mid-flight, remember to use the provided bag – your CFI will thank you.
June 21, 2023
When you close your eyes and imagine the career of your dreams, what does that life look like?
For many pilots, the perfect job is sliding behind the controls as a pilot in command of a scheduled airline flight or charter.
March 22, 2023
You’ve made the bold leap and are chasing your dream of becoming a pilot. Congratulations – we know how it feels to count down the days to earning your wings.
Today we’re talking about the timeline from starting training to earning your certification, plus ways to shave time off that journey while maximizing learning. So, how hard is it to become a pilot? Read on to find out.
Are you ready? Let’s get you up in the air!
March 22, 2023
Nevermind thunderstorms, gusty crosswinds, and the ever-present potential of an inflight emergency. What really puts many student and low-hour pilots on edge is radio communication, especially when they have to interact with ATC in busy airspace.
PlaneEnglish created this blog to provide aspiring and current pilots a resource for all things related to aviation radio communication.
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