Need advice from CFI's on how to deal with a fearful student

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Salty, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    Ok, so I know the first bit of advice is going to be tell the guy to go to a real CFI, which I've already done.

    So, this friend at work finds out I'm a pilot and comes to me super excited and wants to fly with me. I take him for a short flight and he's terrified the entire time. A bank over 5 degrees. A tiny wing tip from a mild gust at the tree line. Going above 1000 feet. All scared him. He handled the fear ok, in terms of not expressing it openly, but he didn't talk much, and he was white-knuckled holding on to anything he could the entire time. It was about as calm a day as you could hope for too.

    I honestly thought that would be that, but within a couple weeks he was begging me for another go. He really has a strong desire to fly, but he's terrified. I honestly think the second flight he got worse rather than better. It was another smooth day, but any tiny bump would freak him out, and a normal 10-15 degree bank to final about put him over the top.

    So here it is a couple weeks later and he's ready to go again. My thought is to take him up high and do steeper banks and see if he can get past it. Going out on beautiful days sure doesn't seem to be working. I was thinking maybe if he saw how much worse it can be while still being safe, maybe the mild stuff wouldn't bother him as much.

    Looking for ideas on how to deal with this one.
     
  2. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Are you saying what you're doing as you do it? New passengers don't know what is "normal" so they get a bit nervous. I had a friend that was fine with some some chop... enough that I slowed down for it... but the turn out after take off freaked him out. Maybe 20* max.

    I know I would have to leave out my usual comments like "That's never happened before", "I wonder that that gauge means", and "do you know how to land one of these things?"

    I've told it before, but learning steep turns my CFI I asked, "How you doing?" and I said not very good. He asked what I meant. I said I'm not holding the bank well and I'm losing too much altitude. He laughed. He meant to ask "How you feeling?" Communication.
     
  3. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    Yeah, I always talk through a flight with new people. And that did help keep him a little more relaxed. I tried to warn him of what was coming up next and explain what was happening.

    The second flight we had a mutual friend with us that's comfortable in small planes. I thought that would help relax him, but like I said, it seemed to be worse.

    Maybe I wasn't talking through things as well the second flight since he'd been with me once before. I'll try to remember to treat him more as a newbie next time.
     
  4. Cluemeister

    Cluemeister Pre-takeoff checklist

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    First time I took my wife up in the pattern, I waited for a calm morning. I wanted to make sure the flight was as bump free as possible. Turns out, bumps didn't phase her. But that first crosswind turn she got real nervous. Not what I expected. And then the first flight at a towered airport she almost freaked out, with the radio chatter making her think the skies were full of planes about to crash into each other. :) I guess my only advice is to ask him straight up, "I'm glad you want to fly, but when we go up you seem very nervous. Is there something I can do to alleviate your anxiety?"
     
  5. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    LOL I've had that conversation with him many times. Once on the ground he's very vocal about his fears. He doesn't want to bank, he doesn't want to go above 1000 feet, and he doesn't want any bumps. lol He specifically asked if we can land straight in from 20 miles away next time. ;-)

    I've explained carefully why we bank, and how it works, why we land from the pattern, and how it's safer, as well as why it's safer to go higher, and that bumps are natural, normal and aren't going to hurt the aircraft.
     
  6. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sounds like you're going about it the right way Salty. I don't know if a CFI can do any better or anything more. I like that you describe what you're about to do. Some folks just have a fear when they're in a small plane vs a large plane, like an airliner. If you know of a good CFI that may help him a bit, as he'll think the CFI is an expert if you get what I'm saying. Definitely no reflection on you Salty, some people just are reassured with a CFI as if they know everything. Again, you're doing everything I, as a CFI, would do, so maybe try a CFI.
     
  7. Half Fast

    Half Fast Cleared for Takeoff

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    Xanax with a whiskey chaser, maybe? If you like, I could take him for a ride on my Triumph and let him see extreme high-speed banking from a few inches AGL. Flights would be quite soothing afterward.

    Seriously, if he's willing to keep flying, time should eventually take care of it. Just a question of whether you're willing to put in that much time.
     
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  8. Bill Jennings

    Bill Jennings Final Approach

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    With some people it's a control thing. Best thing this guy can do is buy a discovery flight, get in the left seat, and go up with a CFI. After that he should know if it's for him or not.
     
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  9. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route PoA Supporter

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    If you really want to scare him, tell him how much your certificate cost and how much money you're wasting touring him around in straight lines at 1000'. :thumbsup:
     
  10. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    I've told him that, but he wants to get to the point where he is able to let go of the seat and actually hold the wheel before he does it. I had him fly for about 5 minutes and he kept letting go if we hit a bump. It was kinda funny.
     
  11. Sinistar

    Sinistar Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Did you actually let him fly it yet? Maybe he need to feel in control first and then learn how he is reacting.

    Edit: you just posted about this when I did.

    Have him control it longer, just keep giving it back to him. Maybe try and go 20 minutes or so?
     
  12. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    LOL
     
  13. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    See my previous post to yours.
     
  14. N659HB

    N659HB Pattern Altitude

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    Not sure I'd want someone with "white knuckles" on the controls. Just saying. :eek:

    Edit: missed your post, Salty. Good thing he's releasing the controls. :D
     
  15. Half Fast

    Half Fast Cleared for Takeoff

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    The explaining and discussion stuff works well for rational fears. His are mostly irrational so I doubt whether they'll be overcome by anything except time and experience.
     
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  16. WannFly

    WannFly Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Ha, found someone like me. Sounds like he has desire to fly, but he doesn't want to bank, could be fear of fall, not height. Not being in control doesn't help either and some fear of unknown as well. Let him keep flying, that's the only way to overcome this. If he has strong enough desire, he will find a way.

    Here are 2 things that worked for me, might of might not work for him

    1. From straight and level flight, full deflection of aeleron on both side, then rudder, then elevator . All these were first demonstrated by my CFI, then I did it and realized, we aren't falling off the sky.

    2. Bank. My steep turns were 6 degrees max. That went away after some 60 degree banks. I needed to see the other side. Even today when I bank to 50 degrees to the left, a little voice in my head says, dude, u are going to fall off. I laugh at that voice and tell him to shove it. Doesn't happen banking to the right .

    Ahhh, turbulance, the first time I encountered it, I was in the pattern, I wouldn't bank and ended up in a nearby airport . Flying hell lot more in very bumpy days got that taken care of.

    Talk about drama queen pilot!!

    Anywho, if he is serious and enjoys flying, and seems he does, he will get over it. Might take time, but he will. My CFI tried a zillion things, nothing worked, I had to find my own way (rather pick one that suited me from the stuff CFI was trying)

    You are welcome to PM me, I can share my cell number and ur buddy is free to call me if he wants to hear from another guy who was in his shoes not too long ago.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
     
  17. Tantalum

    Tantalum Cleared for Takeoff

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    I overheard a CFI interview at our club a few weeks ago and this was a big topic of discussion in the interview.. not sure the outcome but the club owner I could tell was struggling to illicit a "satisfactory" response from the CFI interviewee about working with a student who wants to learn to fly but is scared to death

    Eventually the interviewer gave him the answer, and I thought it was interesting... maybe it will help you as well

    -try to get to the core of the fear... obviously they want to fly, otherwise they wouldn't be here taking lessons (or with you going flying).. some examples the interviewer gave
    --did something happen in the past that scared them? either directly or something they read, saw?
    --fear of getting motion sick?
    --fear of the engine quitting?
    --fear of wings falling off? (more common than I would have thought)
    --etc.
    Obviously the first response they'll give you is "I'm afraid of crashing and dying" - but if you can figure out what it is that feeds this fear, and then address that, then that may work. For example, if they're afraid of the wings falling off maybe walking him through the certification process and the abuse the planes can take? If they're afraid of the engine dying tell him that altitude is your friend and the planes actually glide pretty well, they don't fall out of the sky with the engine stops (contrary to common belief).. heck some planes don't even have engines.. maybe show him your log book and all your hours and landings?

    It also may sound like they just have a fear of heights, if they don't want to go over 1,000 ft.. those kinds of (irrational) fears are much harder to break, and generally you get there just by exposure.. maybe keep him distracted, or give him a small job so he focuses on that as opposed to "OH MY GOD WE'RE SO HIGH!" like... maybe he can read checklist items for you and you can say "check, fuel pump is on" and he can go to the next item.. or he can follow along on a sectional as a "navigator"

    Just some thoughts. My wife was nervous the first few times and it was a fear of motion sickness.. we eventually got over that by me basically trying to fly the plane as smooth as possible and keeping all the air vents on

    Just some thoughts...
     
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  18. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Even what I highlighted is progress. It helps him learn that the airplane always wants to fly. So if you're properly trimmed, him letting go of the yoke won't cause an adverse reaction like they show in movies or Bugs Bunny cartoons.
     
  19. Pnwannabe2

    Pnwannabe2 Pre-Flight

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    Yep. My first time ever in a small plane was 4/18/17. I was pretty nervous with banking and got vertigo looking down at the ground. By my 3rd or 4th lesson behind the controls, the fear was gone and now I’m a private pilot. Get your friend some time on the controls.
     
  20. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    good stuff guys, thanks
     
  21. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Bull Hockey. When the engine quits, the airplane goes into a nosedive and you can only save it by putting both your arms behind the yoke and pulling as hard as you can to level out so that as you crash you knock down buildings, trees, and earth berms. I know this for a fact because that's what always happens in the movies.

    Which could be part of the problem - too many special effects...

    Took a young lady flying once who was convinced that power off would result in a loss of control - so I gradually eased the throttle back and after a while: by the way... Point out that if you couldn't control the airplane without power, you couldn't ever land?
     
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  22. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    This
     
  23. Tantalum

    Tantalum Cleared for Takeoff

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    Which is why Airplane! was ahead of its time. The scene were Ted Striker is dripping in sweat.. I took that as a subtle satire that the only way to land a plane is by crapping your pants and have a life/death struggle
     
  24. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    It is a fear of not knowing hat to expect and what the acceptable envelope is.

    I took a family on a XC trip and let the 16 year old son ride shotgun...no fear of flyin but I let him take the controls and had him follow the curvy coastline and hold altitude. As soon as he took the controls he turned into what the OP's PAX was experiencing. He was so nervous HE was gonna "crash" the plane and every slight move was stressful for him.

    So I took the controls and said "OK, watch what this thing can actually do "...and did a bunch of steep turns, dives and pretty aggressive maneuvers. Once he saw that nothing HE was gonna do was gonna crash the plane he was freakin lovin it. He just had no reference of experience other than his perception starting out hence his fears.
     
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  25. Tantalum

    Tantalum Cleared for Takeoff

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    Another thing to show, that may be a little less fun, but also less potentially scary for pax, is to trim the plane out and show how well it flies hands off "look I don't need to be actively working to keep it airborne"
     
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  26. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    Reminds me of this guy...

    "TURN THE F@#KING PLANE ON!!!!"

     
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  27. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The video that Shawn posted had the scared passenger holding a Sic Sac envelope.

    DON'T do that to a nervous passenger. Having them psych themselves into being nauseous is the wrong thing and they will do that. Handing them the plastic bag just increases the chances they get to experience lunch a second time.

    As ambassadors for aviation, we need to make the experience fun and positive. Have them help with checklists, do a bit of flying, take selfies with you, help follow/navigate along on a paper sectional, and more. Even give them a index card with the radio call script and let them make the "ready for take off" request to the tower. If you're taking them to lunch, tell them that if they can spot at least 5 other airplanes, you'll pay for their food.

    The more we can make it fun and positive, the less they will be fearful. And we can win over another person to our side.
     
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  28. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    You've done all you could. You took him up multiple times on a decently calm day and flew him gently around. If you send him to a CFI, he might do stalls and spins with him to show him what the airplane can do. Can you see that's a bad idea?

    Some people just aren't meant to fly airplanes, ride motorcycles or even climb a ladder. Leave him on the ground, he's safer there.
    There, somebody had to say it.
     
  29. WannFly

    WannFly Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    It's a terrible thing to do who is already scared. In my discovery flight , an year before I started flying, the dumb a$$ young CFI did aggressive power on stall and zero G, I didn't turn back to the airport for a whole year.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
     
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  30. WannFly

    WannFly Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    If my CFI had that mentality, I will still be on the ground, looking at the sky

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
     
  31. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    Now I am afraid to return to flying.....:lol::lol::lol:
     
  32. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    Taking your friends up flying........fun

    Having them scream like a little girl and recording said screams.......... priceless..!!!!

    And no I would not do that to a non friend passenger and possible student.
     
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  33. HAPPYDAN

    HAPPYDAN Filing Flight Plan

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    And there might have been far fewer US military aviators than there actually have been. Thankfully, that was not the case.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  34. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Says me bleech! I do this for fun. If the guy is that big a pain in the six he can stay on the ground.
     
  35. danhagan

    danhagan Cleared for Takeoff

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    ASPCA outlawed Bull Hockey years ago. Too many injuries, they couldn't hold a stick or goalie worth a crap, it was just plain ugly:D

    As far as the "nose dive" above, I think that is Best Glide for a lot of pilots:eek::confused:
     
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  36. TommyG

    TommyG Cleared for Takeoff

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    Have you let him control the plane?? If not let him on the controls and do baby steps.
     
  37. dmspilot

    dmspilot Pattern Altitude

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    Where are their parachutes?
     
  38. NHWannabe

    NHWannabe Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The 5 Whys
     
  39. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    I think he is setting himself up with the 1000 ft limitation. All the motion based sensations are amplified at low altitudes, get him higher and I bet he won't mind banking so much. Get up to even 2 or 3k and you can't tell how fast you're going.
     
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  40. StevieTimes

    StevieTimes Line Up and Wait

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    I think some people also think the plane is WAY more susceptible to falling over, and then out of the sky, than it really is.

    I've asked people to hold the yoke for a minute while I grab a chart or whatever, and some were SUPER worried about making the plane fall out of the sky.

    Maybe reassure dude that the plane is definitely not going to fall out of the sky, it doesn't work like that, and even if it tried to, you are very confident that you can make everything right and avoid hitting the ground. You learned how to recover from unusual attitudes that would turn dude white, and have every confidence the plane is solid and sturdy.