As a student pilot, it’s normal to have fears about flying. It’s a natural emotion to feel, especially for those who are in the early stages of their aviation training. They may be unfamiliar with the aircraft, cockpit procedures, or the sensation of flight. They might also not know what to expect during a flight. These factors can all be overwhelming and induce fear, which can impact one’s aviation career. It can impede one’s learning process and limit their career opportunities in the future. Additionally, it can affect an aviator’s decision-making in the cockpit, which is crucial for a safe flight.
That said, it’s important to address and overcome your fear of flying. You can do this by equipping yourself with the necessary aviation knowledge and skills while you’re in pilot school. You can also lean on the support of your instructors and ask them for guidance.
In the meantime, look for strategies to build confidence and make the most of your training. Consider these eight other tips you can follow to conquer your fear of flying.
Equip Yourself with the Right Knowledge
Most of the time, fear of flying comes from the unknown of what’s going to happen next. That’s why, in this case, knowledge is your most powerful tool. So, invest time in learning about aircraft, flight mechanics, and aviation terminology. If necessary, do additional research about flight procedures and emergencies, as well as how to handle them accordingly. Being prepared with these pieces of information can help you feel more in control and less vulnerable during flights.
Use Flight Simulators
Even experienced pilots can admit they had some fears when they flew for the first time. This is normal, as flying isn’t something you commonly do at this point. If you want to build your confidence in flying an aircraft, consider practicing using flight simulators. These sophisticated systems allow you to practice flying in a controlled environment. They also offer a risk-free space to familiarize yourself with cockpit instruments and procedures, helping you gain valuable experience and reduce anxiety.
Expose Yourself to Flying Gradually
As a student pilot, gradual exposure can be a highly effective tool for desensitizing any anxiety associated with flying you might have. That said, begin with short, familiar flights and progressively work your way up to more challenging missions. As you accumulate flight hours, you’ll become more comfortable with the experience.
Fly with a Buddy or Instructor
Flying doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor, especially when you’re still a student pilot. You can fly with a more experienced aviator, such as an instructor or a senior pilot student, to boost your confidence. Their presence can provide reassurance and support during flights, making the experience less daunting. They can also offer guidance that can help improve your skills.
It’s acceptable to feel some nerves when you’re doing something for the first time or not as often, like flying. The trick here is to shift your focus away from the fear and into something else. For example, visualize successful flights by imagining yourself behaving calmly and confidently in the cockpit as well as executing safe landings. Portraying your desired outcome in your head can help you overcome your fears. It also ensures you’re focused on the task of flying.
Do Deep Breathing to Stay Calm
Aside from visualizing a safe and successful flight, do deep abdominal breathing to clear your mind and calm your nerves. When you inhale, extend your abdomen inwards and outwards as you exhale. The deep inhalation helps draw your diaphragm out, creating a partial vacuum in your lungs that allow air to enter. Afterwards, the reverse the motion to push the breath out. When you do this breathing technique, make sure to make it gentle and rhythmic for better effects. Consider following a sequence and counting up to four when you inhale and holding your breathe for two counts. Then, release all the air slowly.
This conscious effort of filling your lungs with more air will allow your blood stream and brain to receive more oxygen. So next time, do this breathing technique before flying.
If at any point your fear of flying affects you physically, like when your legs shake uncontrollably, your palms become sweaty, or you start experiencing panic attacks, consider postponing. Flying when you’re under the weather or experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety can compromise your safety and the safety of others. It’s also best to consult with your instructor about your condition. They can help advise whether it’s necessary or not to reschedule your flight. Sometimes, postponing a flight offers you more opportunities to prepare and ensure you’re in better condition to handle the responsibilities of piloting an aircraft.
Seek Professional Help
Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from aviation psychologists or counselors who specialize in addressing flight-related fears. Experienced pilots and mentors can also provide valuable insights and support tailored to your specific challenges.
While it’s common to develop a fear of flying when you’re a student pilot, it shouldn’t stop you from fulfilling your dream of becoming an aviator. Doing necessary preparation will help you become competent and confident enough to handle the cockpit. Also, consider overcoming your fear by implementing the tips mentioned here. With determination and the right strategies, you can confidently take to the skies in no time.