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Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 9:45 am

Hi all,

Just curious about something that I've been wondering about for some time rregarding pilots and airsickness.

Okay, some of you may know that I'm hoping to become a pilot soon. I actually am going in for my medical exam on the 23rd (wish me luck on getting the 1st class). But a problem I have is that sometimes...but not always, I get motion sickness.

This usually happens in a car after making alot of turns at a medium rate of speed, such as driving through construction zones and whatnot, and frequent stops and accelleration just do me in. I eventually feel queasy, though I rarely know. I just get sick, and after a while it goes away.

I've taken two discovery flights so far. The first one I had absolutely no problem on, but on the second, the air was a bit bouncy and by the time I landed I was pretty queasy. Fortunately for me (and the instructor), it takes alot for me to get to *that* point, but I was still sick, and it did concern me. Because what bumps I experienced on that flight are nothing compared to what you might have in bad weather.

The first flight was flown under fair skies, with alot of cirrus, and haze in the valleys where I live. The second was flown in perfectly clear skies, in cold weather.

Now, my question is this:

If I'm going to become more than a private pilot, and try and make a go of an airline pilot career, how does a pilot...or a potential one, get over the occasional motion sickness that is bound to happen? If you're flying solo it's bound to be hard to deal with, but I imagine a private pilot can just land at an airport nearby (with ATC permission?) and rest for a while before continuing the flight. (Please correct me on this)

But on the airline flights that I've been on, all of which have been hops from SLC to various points in the west, I've encountered turbulence on all but two of them. I've been slightly queasy, but in good spirits, after approaches into LAX, and once into LAS, and the only time I was ever seriously sick was at cruise altitude in a DL738 from LAX-SLC in 2002, when we encountered some clear air turbulence that made the plane drop and climb vertically a number of times. I was glad to be on the ground after that one.

But I've never....oh heck I'll say it...I've never thrown up, and I don't think I will unless I encounter ALOT inflight...but the sick feeling after the flight is still there from time to time, and it can take out an hour out of your day if it's strong enough.

I'm sure I'm not alone. Passengers get queasy all the time from some inflight turbulence, my weakness seems to be sudden rises and dips in aircraft altitude. And if pilots are human, I'm sure they've all encountered their bouts of airsickness and motionsickness before.

So how do they combat the sickness, when at the controls of an aircraft on approach, during heavy, turbulent weather? How do you accustom yourself to the uneasiness of the air, to the point where you no longer get sick? how long does it take?

I've heard of people using those magnetic bracelets but I am extremely critical of those...they appear to be psychosomatic solution to the problem...i.e. you fool your mind into believing the magnet will make you feel better, and then suddenly you do feel better. All in the mind, but no real physical benefit.

And taking motion sickness pills has never been an option because they make you drowsy, and I love to fly, I don't want to be sleepy while flying, especially not while at the controls.

So, yeah, I am curious, how does a person overcome sickness in flight, and be able to have a nice, long, career flying aircraft through all types of weather? I do worry about this affecting my chances of becoming a professional seems my own stomach may hold me back.  Sad

What are your thoughts? I'm interested to hear your experiences and advice. Thanks.  Smile
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 9:54 am

Send me an email at
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 9:57 am

Hey there,

Please email me at

The only justification for looking down on someone is to help them up
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 10:25 am

I understand that this is a kind of sensitive issue, but still an interesting one. Can any one give a "generic" reply?

I sometimes feel motion sickness while driving a (small) racing car or even a racing kart. Sudden sharp turns and sudden decelerations. Very seldom anything in the air, though. The g-forces are a lot smaller than in race cars. Could it have anything to do with the not-so-perfect fitness of mine at the moment?

RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 10:36 am

I recently talked about this in Tech/Ops... - Again then...
Most people are not feeling "good" because their stomach is empty, since it is an erroneous idea that you get air sick and will throw up your meal... Even in the fighter planes, most pilots are careful to eat a light meal before a flight, as to avoid airsickness because of an empty stomach.
Airsickness, is generally a "nervous" problem... relax, you will not be sick.
Happy acrobatic contrails  Smile
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 11:09 am

Before spending a lot of time & money on pilot licenses, etc. spend a little money on an in-depth flight physical. Make sure the flight surgeon knows the history you've described in detail and your career aspirations. He/she should be able to determine if there really is a physical problem and if so, what if any treatment is available. If no physical problem is found, you've probably got a mental issue to deal with. i.e. you get sick because you're worried you'll get sick. Most commonly overcome by education (an aviation physiology course), desire and acceptance that you are a normal human being. Vast majority of "motion sickness" is actually vertigo --easily overcome with education and training.  Big thumbs up
*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 11:23 am

My flight physical is on the 23rd, with a doctor who can give me a 1st class medical if he wants...I'm hoping that goes well.
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RE: As Time Goes By: Many 767s Bound For Scrapping

Sun Sep 21, 2003 11:33 am

I was going to suggest skipping the first class medical and spending your money on more flying. The first class medical can wait--you'll have your fill of them by the time you retire Big grin. Get a third or second class medical unless they are all the same price.

Chuck Yeager got airsick the first several times(he did barf!) he flew. He overcame it. I get queasy sometimes when I'm not driving and we are on the 'twisties'. It's kind of unusual for the driver to get carsick, however. I have gotten queasy once or twice in thunderstorm turbulence--continuous jolts rather than waves.

If you get a third class medical, the doc will still be able to give you tips about it. I would talk to flyF15--if he is in fighters, he might have some good insight and tips to ease the problem. You may just "grow" out of it.TC
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 11:46 am

Flyf15 sent me an excellent email full of tips. Thanks! Big grin

About the medical: They're all the same price. 80 dollars. You tell the doctor what you're trying for, and he gives you a thorough physical, and determines whether you can have what you desire or not. Or that's basically a summary of what I was told on the phone. I spoke with the guy who is going to be my instructor and he suggested I try for a first class medical outright, since they're the same price.

I'm not officially a student yet, though, so the only way to do more flying would be to pay for some more discovery flights...30 dollars a piece.
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 2:19 pm

Aloha717200, in-depth flight physical.

I don't mean to go to an FAA Flight Surgeon asking for an "FAA Flight Physical." That's nothing but a basic checkup --yes I can hear, see, stand, talk, and listen. Seek out a qualified physician who understands the physiology of flight (especially the workings of the inner ear & vertigo) in an attempt to eliminate any physical reason for your motion sickness. If no physical reason can be found, you can be reasonably assured a little training in flight physiology and vertigo (a few hours is all that's needed) should render it moot.
*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
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RE: Pilots And Airsickness

Sun Sep 21, 2003 9:46 pm

I have read recently somewhere that when flying our eyes may be be fooled into thinking we're not moving when you actually are. And this could be a reason for airsickness. All the best for your pilot career. Kilavoud.

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