Need advice -Wifes first time up

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Ron Stubblefield, Jun 15, 2022.

  1. Ron Stubblefield

    Ron Stubblefield Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi everyone,
    I'm looking for advice on the best way to calm my wife's nerves. In her own words, "I want to go places with you because that would be awesome, but even commercial flights scare the s__t outta me. I don't know if I can handle a small plane."
    How would you guys suggest I approach what may be the flight that either makes her or breaks her? Just one trip around the airport and back down? A 15-20 minute flight to a smaller airport? Dramamine or other nausea medicine? A barf bag well DEFINITELY be on board.
    I fly 172's in Birmingham, AL.
    BTW, my teenage daughters are looking forward to going up with me.
    Thanks for any tips.
    -Ronbo
     
  2. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    Make sure its not a turbulent day. Depending on how scared she is you might not want to plan on very many landings, maybe a local out and back with as much straight and level as possible.

    Then again, a destination can make it seem more 'worth it'.

    Don't show her your slow flight, steep turn, or stall skills.
     
  3. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach

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    Gradually.
    Pick a calm day, once around the pattern. Next time, short flight, preferably to someplace she might like. Depending on her reaction, let her "drive" from the right seat a little on a later flight. She might be comfortable know she can do that!
    What scares her about commercial flights? The answer to that might better guide our answers.
     
  4. L J Donelson

    L J Donelson Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Ronbo, about a year ago I posted the same question and response to me was see if she'd take a few lessons with a CFI to get comfortable. My wife was so nervous flying commercial or GA yet, when I mentioned lessons she jumped at the idea. First lesson and I took her to dinner that evening and she talked non-stop. She's been great since and has just a few actual lessons.

    BHM has a program called PitchHitters which is just that and it's been the model used.

    We've made several x-ctry trips since and she's paying attention to airspeed, altitude and radio calls. We fly from HUA.
     
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  5. somorris

    somorris En-Route

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    Some time sitting on the ground and explaining what you will be doing, how the controls will move, etc. might be helpful. Also when you take her up continue explaining what you are doing, such as I am going to turn left, so we will bank the airplane to the left a little. And, help me look for other airplanes (we call it traffic).
     
  6. Sinistar

    Sinistar En-Route

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    Launch about 1hr prior to Sunset where winds are coming back down and keep it to 30min or so. Just one takeoff and one landing. Sleepy airport with no delays. Give her the good headset. Lots of fresh air flow. Keep it simple. Encourage her to use the bathroom while you preflight.
     
  7. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member PoA Technical Administrator

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    For a really really nervous person, try an intermediate step of "exposure therapy", where you just go to the airport and sit in the plane. Don't start the engine, or anything. Just sit in it. She can get used to the feel of the (small) space. Breathe it. Imagine it. Feel the seats, the door handles, the windows. Let the heart rate come down, because we're not going anywhere today. Maybe you can explain a few things -- like which few of the dizzying array of dials and knobs are the only really important ones -- while sitting in there. Positive associations. 15 or 20 minutes or something. Then just get out and go home. Let that experience soak in overnight, or for a few days. Then, eventually, the "real thing" will start out from a familiar mental place, a familiar sight picture.

    I've done this for a couple of really nervous friends.
     
  8. Ron Stubblefield

    Ron Stubblefield Filing Flight Plan

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    These are all great suggestions, especially the part of just going out and getting in the plane, petting it and scratching it behind the ears. . All kidding aside, I did ask her what was it about flying that scares her. She said "I don't know...mostly I'm just afraid of heights."
    It's likely, too, that the mountain waves that our 737 rode out over the Rockies, on our 2019 return trip back from Cali, didn't help much. My kids loved it, she had an eyes-closed death grip on the armrests. She didn't panic after it was over. She dealt with the situation pretty well, all things said. We also had about 30 minutes warning of the event.
    Thanks for the responses, both above and any new ones below.
     
  9. Papa Pilot

    Papa Pilot Pre-Flight

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    This would be my checklist.
    > Little to no wind
    > Few to no clouds (high cirrus ok)
    > Not too hot - not to cold
    > Flying around sunset with the above will make for nice visuals/memories/something to talk about afterwards. (Wouldn't hurt to lay it on a bit, i.e., "That's a beautiful sunset. Watching the sunset from up here is one of my favorite things to do.")
    > Suggest she take a pic of that beautiful sunset.
    > Short flight 15 - 20 min: A square pattern with 5 min legs should suffice
    > Easy on the climb out: gentle rotation, don't pitch up too much, you'll only be climbing for a short while so no need to do max performance
    > Limit your climb - keep it to 1000 AGL if you can
    > Nice gentle turns (half standard rate)
    > No abrupt control inputs
    > Stay away from obstacles
    > ANR headset
    > Converse in a calm, reassuring manner
    > Let her know what you're doing/what's happening/noises she'll hear, but don't overwhelm her with too much information (KISS, "I'm going to turn left now.")
    > Best to do at an uncontrolled field as you can focus more attention on your passenger
    > If she wants, let her hold yoke and let her follow your movements
    > Make the best damn landing you've ever made
    > Right after shutdown lean over and give her a kiss.

    I'd treat this like a first date - you're trying to make the best impression you can.

    Good Luck! Let us know the outcome.
     
  10. sourdough44

    sourdough44 En-Route

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    You need to go up during the edges of daylight, if not early birds, that means evening. I’d target the last hour of daylight, very light winds. Keep the flight under an hour, land at the home-drome.
     
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  11. Craig

    Craig Line Up and Wait

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    A trip or two around the airport right at sunrise. Coolest and smoothest time to fly and absolutely no other traffic.
     
  12. Hang 4

    Hang 4 Pattern Altitude

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    Objective is to be as boring as possible. Only add to what others have said is to see if you can include something recognizable from the air. Your house, a mall, a lake etc. Fly there and back. I would not just do the pattern, as you are constantly doing something. Rather show how straight and level flight is pretty uneventful.
     
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  13. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    Keep inverted flight to a minimum. Glad my wife LOVES to fly.
     
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  14. Patrick Murphy

    Patrick Murphy Filing Flight Plan

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    fly high
    My wife is a control person. She went to AOPA Pitch Hitter Course years ago. It was amassing. She is not a pilot but they teach how to land and details about what to do in an emergency. It made at the difference.

    AOPA stopped the program and the 99s picked it up. I do not know if they still do it. I saw a video but the hands on is the way to go.

    A friend had his instructor do it for his wife and it was a disaster. The instructor tried a pilot's lesson. They did stalls and scared her and she will not get in a plane now.
     
  15. manac

    manac Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Just asked my wife your question, “let her know what your going to do before you do it”
    I’d add make the flight about her. Liz loves lobster. Took Her to a lobster shack by the beach for her first flight. She’s been hooked since.
     
  16. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    Step 1: climb to 5280’
    Step 2: ____________
     
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  17. sarangan

    sarangan Pattern Altitude

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    Traffic patterns can be busy with lots of turning, banking and low altitude maneuvering which can unsettle a nervous passenger. Take off straight ahead and climb to a higher smoother altitude, make gentle turns, and make a long final rather than the usual traffic pattern.
     
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  18. Magman

    Magman Line Up and Wait

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    First date was a flight over Niagara Falls. She grew to like flying but wants
    NO DOORS OR WINDOWS!
    So it’s helmet, goggles and scarf in Wacos, Stearmans. and a BREEZY!
     
  19. Gary Ward

    Gary Ward Line Up and Wait

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    Couple glasses of wine first? lol

    My wife waited a couple months or so after I got my PPL. I took a couple friends up first. I think she figured since they survived that she would give it go. She did feel sick a couple times and I went back to the airport ASAP those days. She still does not fly with me that much and I warn her from staring at the ground too much and to look out towards the horizon more to help avoid air sickness.
    Stay close to home in case she starts to feel sick.
     
  20. Gary Ward

    Gary Ward Line Up and Wait

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    One time we climbed to 5500' and I explained it was time to join the club, she was not amused. Even said she thought it was not possible in a 172. LOL
     
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  21. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Early morning, smooth clear day, keep the flight short. If you screw this up and scare her, you'll regret it so cancel if the day is not perfect. Tell her about turbulence, assure it is normal before you go. But for the first ride, keep it short, under a half an hour, smooth and fun.
     
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  22. cfitzgerald

    cfitzgerald Filing Flight Plan

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    I think this is important. Sometimes it's hard not to give too much information. Example: She should know that she'll probably hear a little chirping noise right before you touch down and that it is normal. She doesn't need to know that it is a stall warning. Tell her on short final so she won't have time to ask questions about what the horn is.

    Something I don't think has been mentioned - be as smooth as you possibly can. When you level off, bring the nose down and the power back so slowly that it's hardly perceptible. Be gradual going into and out of turns. Keep bank angles shallow, especially to her side of the plane. Ideally, at the end of the flight, she'll say that was way smoother than a commercial flight.
     
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  23. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Bro do you even lift
    You guys got it all wrong. Make it a hellacious, hair raising event.

    That way she won't likely show up at the airport when you are taking your girlfriend up.
     
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  24. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    Well, at least one of you can join…
     
  25. Pi1otguy

    Pi1otguy Pattern Altitude

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    I took The Wife up for the first time earlier this year. i'd say:
    1) pick somewhere close but far enough to show flying can beat driving in some cases. (30 - 70 nm)
    1a) somewhere with a good cafe or view/activity
    2) pick a calm vfr day
    3) encourage her to ask questions or voice concerns in real-time (except for req quiet cockpit times)
    4) pre-announce "scary things". If approaching a ridge that causes minor turbulence, say "it might get bumpy in a few. It's fine."
    4a) "This might look weird but is fine" before forward slips.
    4b) "you might hear a buzzer (stall horn) before we land. That's fine."
    5) if a crash shows up in the news, talk frankly about it, if the probable causes apply to you, and that we pilots learn from the mistakes of others.
    6) Use phrases like "oh boy", "huh? That's odd." or "Where'd I put that airport?" at your own risk. BTDT.

    My wife goes up with me because she doesn't want to be a widow. To some extent it's an excercise in trust on her part.

    But as men, it's our job to aggravate, provoke, and emotionally stir our woman. It makes them feel alive. Flying just let's us do it for $140 an hour.
     
  26. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member PoA Technical Administrator

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    The "almost-landing kazoo".
     
  27. Jackk

    Jackk Ejection Handle Pulled

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    If she doesn’t want to be included, don’t include her, have her educate herself of what actually kills people, how’s her diet and driving? It won’t be the plane that is probably what she should fear.
     
  28. Pi1otguy

    Pi1otguy Pattern Altitude

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    She wants to but is scared. Desire and fear aren't mutually exclusive.
     
  29. idahoflier

    idahoflier Cleared for Takeoff

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    +1 Early morning...
     
  30. Mxfarm

    Mxfarm Line Up and Wait

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    don’t ever turn the aircraft, it was all good until then...:rolleyes:
     
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  31. Mahneuvers

    Mahneuvers Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My wife, after a 20 year break, was fine with the flight until the pattern turns. Made me reconsider my aversion to straight in approaches.
     
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  32. Wagondriver

    Wagondriver Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My girlfriend was nothing but negative d was hen I was learning. Said she wouldn’t fly with me until I had enough hours to be a commercial pilot. I surpassed that by a factor if two. She went with me a few times. She once held the bottom of the seat with her eyes closed for an hour and a half. She enjoyed the camping and destinations. But she had difficulty getting in the plane, to get her out I would grab her and let her down.
    One day last winter she said she didn’t think she should fly with me anymore.
    We aren’t together anymore.
     
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  33. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard En-Route

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    Not all stories have happy endings, but this one did.
     
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  34. Doctor Bob

    Doctor Bob Pre-Flight

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    Way too funny.

    My wife was the same way. I had my instructor take her up the first time. That way she trusted him more than me, was less likely to hit him if she was scared, and then could focus on the flying and even take the controls.

    After that, we flew for years all over for 4-5 hour XC flights. She doesn’t like to fly unless we’re going somewhere.

    Pro tip- Tell your instructor NOT to grease the landing or you’ll be forever compared to them. My instructor did a really good rough landing and from then on I was golden. I once bounced a landing and she thought nothing of it thanks to him. He’s my hero!
     
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  35. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard En-Route

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    My wife's the same way as far as wanting to "go somewhere". She'd sooner go to the dentist than suffer through touch-n-goes.

    Fortunately I feel the same way. I'll do pattern work, if I feel I need to, and I do the necessary work to stay proficient with IFR, but I'd much rather be on a XC.
     
  36. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    Summer's coming up, days are longer. You could take her out for a light dinner on a calm afternoon, and bring her back in that glass smooth air just before sunset. Find a place not to far away, about 20-30 minutes max. Short walk to dinner and back to the plane. Then, take off and do a little sight-seeing on the way back.

    Gradually make your trips a little longer. Then, make an overnighter to somewhere SHE wants to go (yes that means you'll be carrying her handbag while she tries on ginormous hats and browses all the nick-nacks at the tourist trap gift shops).

    All of this is hard earned advice, learned the hard way by a young and dumb pilot (whose not so young anymore).
     
  37. L J Donelson

    L J Donelson Pre-takeoff checklist

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    After she had completed a few lessons my wife asked me to take her on a x-ctry for memorial day. I was about a 4-hour drive back to visit the parents graves and we made the flight in about 80 minutes, (I know, ground time was not in the calculation but let's not fuss over minor details). We land and pull up to the pump and when she steps out there is fuel dripping from the aileron opening. Was not in pre-flight, and did not the day before when I flew. I took a pic and sent it back to the club... long story shorter, she would not get back in that plane so I flew it home solo that evening. The club gave a different plane the next day so she could come back in it and she agreed. Yes, she was nervous, but the lessons help and she was willing. And I got 7hrs of x-ctry flying memorial day weekend!
     
  38. sourdough44

    sourdough44 En-Route

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    Non-pilots seem to worry about the ‘nose-dive’ at times?
     
  39. Gary Ward

    Gary Ward Line Up and Wait

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    My wife and I met a couple recently at a airport. He was the pilot and she said she under went training through AOPA to learn the basics so she would have better chance of landing the plane if something happened to her husband. I think she said she had 9 hours during the training?
    My wife liked that idea and wants to get a little training. I looked around AOPA website but did not see anything like that. Has anyone ever heard something like that? TIA
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2022
  40. Gary Ward

    Gary Ward Line Up and Wait

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    Don't tell her about the papi, you know, "red over white everything is alright, 2 red and your dead" Because as you know on short final it goes to all red, oh lord the first time she freaked watching the papi.
     
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