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Thread: Dealing with anxiety before flying

  1. #1

    Dealing with anxiety before flying

    I am a PPL that has returned to flying after a 40 year absence. I've spent about 20 hrs with an instructor getting back into the air and passed my BFR. I love flying and desparately want to continue but I can't seem to get the nerve to fly on my own. Any thoughts or suggestions for coping for pushing through the anxiety I experience before flying? Has anyone had that sort of experience where they went through a period that you found it very panic inducing to try to fly and how did you get through it?

    Thanks for your input.

  2. #2

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    Try shooting 2 or 3 takeoffs and landings with your instructor and then have them get out and immediately do 2 or 3 more. Don't. Think about just go do it and you will be fine. It is not unusual to be aprehensive after a long period of no flying. Have you discussed this with your flight instructor ?, If not perhaps you should. He or she may have some helpful ideas. It's like your first solo, once you do it you will begin to relax as soon as you lift off. Good luck and happy flying.

  3. #3

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    Have you always felt that way? I mean even 40 yrs ago?

    When I flew in my youth, I thought nothing of the dangers. But then, I was invincible.

    Somewhat different now. I understand things can go wrong and the consequences can be severe. Doesn't stop me from flying but I can see where it may be paralyzing to someone. If I don't feel I'm up to the task, I don't do it. If I feel there's too much risk, I find a way to manage it until I'm comfortable.

    It's not fun if you don't enjoy it. Keep taking baby steps....you can always ask the instructor to keep you company.

  4. #4

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    I'm sorry to hear about the condition you have but you are very couageous for bringing it up in a public forum and asking for help.

    What you are experiencing in general is so common, it affects millions and is not restricted by age or socio-economic status. Know that you are not alone. If you suffer from symtoms like anxiety attacks, panic attacks, obsessive worrisome thoughts, excessive self-conciouness or overwhelming fear, you may have an anxiety disorder(there are a number of types).

    You should seek professional help beginning with your family doctor. If he/she rules out a medical cause you will need to discuss next steps. Such steps may be treatment with therapy such as cognitive behavioural and/or exposure therapies with someone licenced to practice such. These therapies can teach you how to control your anxiety and overcome your fear.

    All the best, good luck!

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Floatsflyer View Post
    You should seek professional help beginning with your family doctor. If he/she rules out a medical cause you will need to discuss next steps. Such steps may be treatment with therapy such as cognitive behavioural and/or exposure therapies with someone licenced to practice such. These therapies can teach you how to control your anxiety and overcome your fear.
    Be very careful about this advice. Depending on how the therapist codes the diagnosis/appointment for the insurance company, it can bring an end to your third class medical. Your family doctor does not know about the implications of his/her diagnosis on your medical. If you are going to go down this road, check with an AME first to find out what should not be done before you see a doctor.

    Mental health issues are not well understood by the FAA at this time.

  6. #6

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    I felt some anxiety after receiving my tailwheel endorsement. We had used grass runways for the majority of the training, and of the few times we did hard surface work, one was a groundloop caused by a broken spring. So, the idea of ever landing a tailwheel aircraft on pavement by myself made me worry. I think 3 things were helpful:

    1. Find a "safe zone". I'm based at a sod airport. So, I could do a lot of take-offs and landings in my "safe" area, and I really got to know the plane and how it handled and felt more confident in my ability. What type of flying could you do for a little while, where you would feel some confidence and could build your skills? Maybe it is No Wind conditions, or maybe you just need some time in a slower aircraft that you can think ahead of more easily.

    2. Trust your instructor. At my next biannual, I went up with an instructor that had a tandem seat tailwheel aircraft so that I could get that experience. I was surprised when he took me directly to a hard surface runway with high winds. The first few landings were scary for me, but I noticed that I was able to do them without a problem. In fact, the instructor thought I did so well that we transitioned into training for some higher level maneuvers. The moral of the story is that my original instructor probably knew I was able (or he wouldn't have signed me off). Don't think you're invincible because of the sign-off, but trust that if your instructor thinks you're ready, they've thought it through.

    3. Prove it to yourself. Unfortunately, in the end it is going to take just going up and doing it. After a few times, you'll either prove to yourself that you can or can't do it (but you know you can because you did it 40 years ago). As you build your time, you'll regain your confidence step by step.

  7. #7

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    A minor note...you mentioned 'passing your BFR' - well, it cannot be failed. There is no such thing as failing a BFR. You just take it and that's it.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilfred View Post
    A minor note...you mentioned 'passing your BFR' - well, it cannot be failed. There is no such thing as failing a BFR. You just take it and that's it.
    Yes and no... if the instructor's not satisfied, it's just logged as dual instruction, not a BFR.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by FloridaJohn View Post
    Be very careful about this advice. Depending on how the therapist codes the diagnosis/appointment for the insurance company, it can bring an end to your third class medical. Your family doctor does not know about the implications of his/her diagnosis on your medical. If you are going to go down this road, check with an AME first to find out what should not be done before you see a doctor.

    Mental health issues are not well understood by the FAA at this time.

    Fair enough. But that leaves you with a bit of a dilemna. Is not dealing with the reality of a medical condition more or less important than the possibility of losing your class 3? What good is your class 3 if you can't solo?

  10. #10

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    First of all, stop and think about it. This is the same thing, to a degree that a first time student pilot feels.
    What was your recent flying like? If you are a student, you probably have dozens of patterns and as many landings before the CFI okd you to solo. AND WHO WAS DOING THIS FLYING? Most likely, if he was a good CFI, YOU WERE DOING ALL OF IT, 100% and he wasn't touching the controls at all.
    If that is the case, then you know how to fly, you have been doing it. The only difference is without him there it will be quieter and probably smell better.
    Flying a simple airplane in good weather is not very hard, almost anyone ought to be able to do it in 20 hours.

    Of course you could go to a shrink, maybe get some drugs that would disqualify you from being a pilot and then you would have a reason not to fly.

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