I got really scared this evening.

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Brayton Thompson, May 13, 2022.

  1. Brayton Thompson

    Brayton Thompson Filing Flight Plan

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    Im work on my sport pilot ticket. Just taking my time flying a few times a month currently at 58 hours. I know long but I still need to clean up a few things.

    so I was on a routine solo cross country I do of about 35 miles between two airports when I got hit out of the blue by a bad bit of anxiety. Honestly the worst I’ve ever experienced flying. I was roughly 15 miles from my destination at 3500.

    I stop short of calling it a panic. But my heart was racing pretty good and I kept thinking “what on earth are you doing up here”.

    I didn’t lock up or anything like that I was still able to make my radio calls and follow my checklists and all but i was scared and shaky the whole time. Most unpleasant and def took all the fun out. I did note that my voice sounded much more calm than I felt.

    Im not exactly sure why it happened but I have some ideas.
    It was very hot 90+ on the ground with a density alt of 2500. As such it was very hot in plane (no ac) stuffy/humid and felt hard to breathe (just like a really stuffy humid day not more than usual)

    Being hot there were a lot of thermals. Some so powerful that the controls took a noticeable amount of time to correct the upset. I really don’t like uncommanded movement and always get a bit anxious when it happens.

    I had just eaten a pretty big dinner at the local Amish restaurant with my wife (Thursday is date night, but was also the first day in a while without terrible wind). As such I felt really full like it was hard to get a deep breath.

    I think it was a combination of all 3. Maybe slightly hypoxic and with the humidity/ fullness felt like I couldn’t get a good breath in all while getting bumped around pretty good.

    I was able to get out of it by focusing on taking deep breath’s. After about 1 or 2 minutes a cold sweat broke out and the anxiety receeded.

    Im posted about it here to see if anyone ever experiences anything like it.
     
  2. mcdewey

    mcdewey Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Anxiety tends to produce hyperventilation. From random Internet place:

    What are the signs for hyperventilation?
    Hyperventilation
    • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, weak, or not able to think straight.
    • Feeling as if you can't catch your breath.
    • Chest pain or fast and pounding heartbeat.
    • Belching or bloating.
    • Dry mouth.
    • Muscle spasms in the hands and feet.
    • Numbness and tingling in the arms or around the mouth.
    How do you stop hyperventilation?
    Breathing methods
    1. Breathe through pursed lips, as if you are whistling. Or pinch one nostril and breathe through your nose. ...
    2. Slow your breathing to 1 breath every 5 seconds, or slow enough that symptoms gradually go away.
    3. Try belly-breathing. This fills your lungs fully, slows your breathing rate, and helps you relax.
    Sounds like you did the right thing by slowing down your breathing.

    I once had a solo time with low hours when I was on base, wind was gusting like crazy, bouncing all around in a Cardinal, and a direct crosswind across the runway. I thought, "What in the world am I doing up here??" Then I thought, "Look, I've been trained to do this. I know how to do this, so just do what I was trained to do." I calmed down and nailed the landing. It was definitely a learning moment, not the physical part of the flying, but the mental part.

    Good job. You never stop learning.
     
  3. Tools

    Tools Line Up and Wait

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    So there I was...

    I’ve had ONE full on panic attack in my life. It was in a “smoke room” during fire fighting training, which I had done a few times before, wearing an “OBA”, oxygen breathing apparatus. A US Navy rebreathing gadget.

    Turns out the canister didn’t activate and I was rebreathing my own air for quite a few minutes. I got CO2 poisoning. Had a monster headache for a day, and that was it.

    Just as I felt myself getting ready to collapse, I instinctively stuck my fingers under my mask and broke the seal. Despite how smoky it was, I got a whiff of oxygen and immediately cleared up, even saw the door, stood up and walked out on my own.

    But the 30 seconds prior to that, pure panic. The same “what was I doing” sort of feeling you describe. It was WILD! So some sort of oxygen deprivation seems plausible.
     
  4. Terry M - 3CK (Chicago)

    Terry M - 3CK (Chicago) Line Up and Wait

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    Do you own the plane?

    Open the vents/side window. Get a CO monitor too.

    I freak out before each flight. More so than your average joe, I believe. Once in the cockpit, I’ve been fortunate to mostly focus on the task at hand and contemplate afterwards.

    Good advice above on breathing techniques. Go up with your CFI again next. Work on emergency procedures and whatever you’re concerned about. Get your confidence boosted with a CFI and you’ll feel better.

    Happens to most of us. It’s unnatural to fly with birds!
     
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  5. WDD

    WDD En-Route

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    Heat, full stomach, turbulence, lots of noise - and you were probably dehydrated. Yep, that will do it.

    Next time, drink up on your cold water, wear loose fitting clothing, get a good noise cancelling headset, get some good sunglasses. For a bonus get the Relief Band. Yes, I know it is for nausea, but trust me - even though you didn't say you were motion sick, you were still getting that signal to your brain.

    Yes, it will get better - the desensitization to 3 D motions takes time - hint, it's not natural, and our mind needs time to figure it out.
     
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  6. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    Glad you made it back safely. It probably would be good to go with a CFI next flight JIC. More training is always a good thing. Maybe you’ll land and he’ll say you did great, which will be a big confidence booster.
     
  7. Brayton Thompson

    Brayton Thompson Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the advice.

    I am definitely taking an instructor up with me on the next flight.

    also I think I will try a landing first on my next solo. Something I have noticed about myself when just doing pattern work is that I tend to be pretty anxious until i get that first landing in and once I’m down that first time it all melts away and I start really having fun as I try to get the perfect landing. So I think a quick trip around the pattern a first landing my help calm me down before setting off x country.
     
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  8. Daleandee

    Daleandee En-Route

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    I learned to fly in ultralight type planes many years ago. I've had a few of them "up here wanting to be down there" flights. The older I get the more I don't like the rough and tumble but somedays you just gotta go play in it to build your skill & tolerance levels.

    Keep hydrated and maybe take along some ginger candy. But mostly just realize that folks have been flying airplanes for many years and the success rate for a favorable outcome is quite high. Mostly practice relaxing, breathing normally, and not fighting the airplane with a death grip on the controls and your feet trying to push the pedals through the floor.

    You'll get there soon enough ...
     
  9. WDD

    WDD En-Route

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    Great ad with the ginger. I mean to peppermint balls. The oil somehow calms things down.
     
  10. Pugs

    Pugs Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    And the bold is your problem. Go fly 2-3 times a week and the cockpit will feel like a comfortable slipper. Tasks will become routine. It's especially critical when you're learning new skills.
     
  11. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    You nailed some of the factors, and everyone’s advice above is great. I’d add sleep/rest and other stress to the list of things to try to get right.

    I used to do 1 touch & go before I headed off on a cross country. Something about practicing a landing a couple hours before I have to do it at a new airport just put me in a good place those times that I was a bit nervous.

    Have fun!!!
     
  12. WDD

    WDD En-Route

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    Nice catch. Yes - fly 2-3 times a week or you’re not going to get your mind trained. Like training for a marathon by running once a month. At that intensity you could do hundreds of hours but never get over the hump.
     
  13. rhkennerly

    rhkennerly Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I’d say you did well. You had an issue, trouble-shot it, thought your way out of it, & didn’t lose situational awareness. Navy SEALS say it’s fine to be afraid. The “sin” is panicking. You didn’t panic. Well done!
     
  14. rhkennerly

    rhkennerly Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Your situation turned out better than Mark Twain, the pilot cub, in Life on the Mississippi:

    "The growth of courage in the pilot-house is steady all the time, but it does not reach a high and satisfactory condition until some time after the young pilot has been ‘standing his own watch,’ alone and under the staggering weight of all the responsibilities connected with the position. When an apprentice has become pretty thoroughly acquainted with the river, he goes clattering along so fearlessly with his steamboat, night or day, that he presently begins to imagine that it is his courage that animates him; but the first time the pilot steps out and leaves him to his own devices he finds out it was the other man’s. He discovers that the article has been left out of his own cargo altogether. The whole river is bristling with exigencies in a moment; he is not prepared for them; he does not know how to meet them; all his knowledge forsakes him; and within fifteen minutes he is as white as a sheet and scared almost to death. Therefore pilots wisely train these cubs by various strategic tricks to look danger in the face a little more calmly. A favorite way of theirs is to play a friendly swindle upon the candidate.

    Mr. Bixby served me in this fashion once, and for years afterward I used to blush even in my sleep when I thought of it. I had become a good steersman; so good, indeed, that I had all the work to do on our watch, night and day; Mr. Bixby seldom made a suggestion to me; all he ever did was to take the wheel on particularly bad nights or in particularly bad crossings, land the boat when she needed to be landed, play gentleman of leisure nine-tenths of the watch, and collect the wages. The lower river was about bank-full, and if anybody had questioned my ability to run any crossing between Cairo and New Orleans without help or instruction, I should have felt irreparably hurt. The idea of being afraid of any crossing in the lot, in the day-time, was a thing too preposterous for contemplation. Well, one matchless summer’s day I was bowling down the bend above island 66, brimful of self-conceit and carrying my nose as high as a giraffe’s, when Mr. Bixby said—

    ‘I am going below a while. I suppose you know the next crossing?’

    This was almost an affront. It was about the plainest and simplest crossing in the whole river. One couldn’t come to any harm, whether he ran it right or not; and as for depth, there never had been any bottom there. I knew all this, perfectly well.

    ‘Know how to run it? Why, I can run it with my eyes shut.’

    ‘How much water is there in it?’

    ‘Well, that is an odd question. I couldn’t get bottom there with a church steeple.’

    ‘You think so, do you?’

    The very tone of the question shook my confidence. That was what Mr. Bixby was expecting. He left, without saying anything more. I began to imagine all sorts of things. Mr. Bixby, unknown to me, of course, sent somebody down to the forecastle with some mysterious instructions to the leadsmen, another messenger was sent to whisper among the officers, and then Mr. Bixby went into hiding behind a smoke-stack where he could observe results. Presently the captain stepped out on the hurricane deck; next the chief mate appeared; then a clerk. Every moment or two a straggler was added to my audience; and before I got to the head of the island I had fifteen or twenty people assembled down there under my nose. I began to wonder what the trouble was. As I started across, the captain glanced aloft at me and said, with a sham uneasiness in his voice—

    ‘Where is Mr. Bixby?’

    ‘Gone below, sir.’

    But that did the business for me. My imagination began to construct dangers out of nothing, and they multiplied faster than I could keep the run of them. All at once I imagined I saw shoal water ahead! The wave of coward agony that surged through me then came near dislocating every joint in me. All my confidence in that crossing vanished. I seized the bell-rope; dropped it, ashamed; seized it again; dropped it once more; clutched it tremblingly one again, and pulled it so feebly that I could hardly hear the stroke myself. Captain and mate sang out instantly, and both together—

    ‘Starboard lead there! and quick about it!’

    This was another shock. I began to climb the wheel like a squirrel; but I would hardly get the boat started to port before I would see new dangers on that side, and away I would spin to the other; only to find perils accumulating to starboard, and be crazy to get to port again. Then came the leadsman’s sepulchral cry—

    ‘D-e-e-p four!’

    Deep four in a bottomless crossing! The terror of it took my breath away.

    ‘M-a-r-k three!... M-a-r-k three... Quarter less three!... Half twain!’

    This was frightful! I seized the bell-ropes and stopped the engines.

    ‘Quarter twain! Quarter twain! Mark twain!’

    I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do. I was quaking from head to foot, and I could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far.

    ‘Quarter less twain! Nine and a half!’

    We were drawing nine! My hands were in a nerveless flutter. I could not ring a bell intelligibly with them. I flew to the speaking-tube and shouted to the engineer—

    ‘Oh, Ben, if you love me, back her! Quick, Ben! Oh, back the immortal soul out of her!’

    I heard the door close gently. I looked around, and there stood Mr. Bixby, smiling a bland, sweet smile. Then the audience on the hurricane deck sent up a thundergust of humiliating laughter. I saw it all, now, and I felt meaner than the meanest man in human history. I laid in the lead, set the boat in her marks, came ahead on the engines, and said—

    ‘It was a fine trick to play on an orphan, wasn’t it? I suppose I’ll never hear the last of how I was ass enough to heave the lead at the head of 66.’

    ‘Well, no, you won’t, maybe. In fact I hope you won’t; for I want you to learn something by that experience. Didn’t you know there was no bottom in that crossing?’

    ‘Yes, sir, I did.’

    ‘Very well, then. You shouldn’t have allowed me or anybody else to shake your confidence in that knowledge. Try to remember that. And another thing: when you get into a dangerous place, don’t turn coward. That isn’t going to help matters any.’

    It was a good enough lesson, but pretty hardly learned. Yet about the hardest part of it was that for months I so often had to hear a phrase which I had conceived a particular distaste for. It was, ‘Oh, Ben, if you love me, back her!’"
     
  15. Terry M - 3CK (Chicago)

    Terry M - 3CK (Chicago) Line Up and Wait

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  16. rhkennerly

    rhkennerly Pre-takeoff checklist

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    yeah, I think of it sometimes when I fly. When I’m a little confused about landmarks or procedures. We’ve all had to face down our own moment of fright. And I worry about people who haven’t.
     
  17. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    ABC

    Always Be Cool
     
  18. RonP

    RonP Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I remember back during my solo and solo flights afterwards I almost had to force myself to make the takeoff knowing I had to land, my weakest link. However one day when I was lacking confidence I borrowed my instructors confidence. By that I mean if he didn’t have confidence in me I never would have gotten this far. I considered his opinion on my skills better than my own assessment. After that every flight was a joy.
     
  19. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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  20. RonP

    RonP Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Anyone have any insight to how this helps the OP?