|By Nate Tennant
September 15, 2021
All too often, we hear horror stories of potential flight students going on their first discovery flights like this and getting sick. This is entirely normal and happens more often than you might think. Around 15% of new students struggle with airsickness at the beginning of their training.
Here’s what’s happening in your body. The brain, like an airplane, requires several different systems to deliver information. The system that controls balance is called the vestibular system. Located in the inner ear, this system is comprised of 3 pairs of semicircular canals and 2 sacs, called the saccule and the utricle. The semicircular canals hold a fluid that moves when the head turns. This means they are sensitive to gravity and tell the brain whether you are standing up or lying down. They send this data to the brain, but sometimes the brain gets confused.
In an airplane, you feel like you’re moving, but your eyes tell your brain that you don’t appear to be going anywhere. The opposite is true as well. After being on a boat for a while, you can stand still on dry land but still feel like you’re moving.
BUT THERE IS HOPE! It simply requires time for your body to get accustomed to these new, and often conflicting, sensations.
Airsickness affects everyone differently. Even highly experienced pilots may get airsick from time to time. Unfortunately, there is no overnight cure for airsickness, and most over-the-counter medications designed to treat it are prohibited by the FAA. But there are some proven ways to mitigate it as you progress through your aviation journey.
Your goal is not to win a fight with airsickness. Your goal is to complete your flight lesson without feeling nauseous to begin with!
Now that you know what’s going on and what you can do to fight it, don’t get discouraged. The worst part of airsickness is the fear of becoming sick again. This can make it hard to get back into the plane and keep training your body to get used to it. If this is something that’s happening to you, you’re in good company. Keep your lessons short, do everything you can to mitigate it, stay positive, and keep flying!