Pilots Can Suffer From Airsickness

Motion sickness, or airsickness, is actually very common at the beginning of flight training. What is airsickness? It occurs because of the opposition between the information we receive from our eyes and the information we receive from our vestibular from our inner ear, so between what we see and what we feel.

Because these two contradict themselves they result in the confusion in our brain’s normal sensory awareness process. Airsickness is a real concern for pilots, for starters, it doesn’t make the initial training flights any easier. Furthermore, the symptoms can be extremely aggravating.

Photo: Motion sickness desensitisation training

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

  • General discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Paleness
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

How to prevent motion sickness during the flight?

  • Concentrate on flying tasks, keeping the aircraft straight and level or in a precise turn. It is especially useful to keep pitch and vertical changes to a minimum.
Photo: Gleimaviation.com
  • Focus on the horizon, if you have one. If in instrument flight, pay even more attention than usual to the Attitude Indicator, with its artificial horizon.
Photo: Gleimaviation.com
  • Open the vents to get some fresh, cool air on your face.
Photo: flightdeck737
  • Use supplemental oxygen if it is available.
Photo by Steven Chua

Adapted from “Health for Pilots” by Paul Gahlinger, MD, AME, surveys show that incapacitating airsickness occur in 29% of airline pilots. Seeing that human beings are exceptional, they have the amazing ability to adapt to anything. Since motion sickness happens due to conflict of senses, it will eventually go away once a person becomes used to the conflict and accepts it as natural.

Photo: aopa.org

There is also medication to help with airsickness, but it is not allowed while flying because they can cause drowsiness unless you are flying with an instructor. In that case, airsickness medication can be helpful while training since it will help the student get used to the sensation of flight without getting sick. But like I said it is completely normal to experience airsickness during initial flights, it generally goes away during the first 10 lessons. It is important to understand that experiencing airsickness does not reflect on a person’s ability as a pilot, eventually they overcome it, and they are highly trained to ensure a safe flight.

Photo: Turkish Airlines



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