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How could it have been so good and so bad?

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I turn 31 next month and since I was 20, I had promised myself to get my private pilot before I turned 35. Not sure if it was a fear for lack of accomplishment or what, but the date was arbitrary and represented getting old or something stupid, I guess.As a kid, my dad and I had a short foray into the world of RC aircraft. He had actually flown UH-1s in Vietnam and for some reason, I liked helicopters, even if I had never been on one. I've always had dreams of being in the air, flying. Dreams that plague me even after I wake up, convincing me that I knew what it felt like. I look up on cloudless skies and wish I were up there. I've been afraid of heights, but never flying. Vacations were always fun and didn't officially start until the plane ride. I've been afraid of rollercoasters, but never had a problem on the 'runaway bobsled' style, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain RR, or 360

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The first thing you must do is ease up on yourself. Apprehension and fear are absolutely rational responses to flying. It is not our natural environment. All of us who fly experience fear to some degree, but we do our best keep it in perspective. And for many of us that is a learned response. Without this natural fear we would not survive as aviators, or anything else for that matter. The good news is that humans are among the most adaptive creatures on earth, and we can relegate that fear to a place where it is no longer an impediment (well, for the most part). My father is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and veteran of Korea and Viet Nam. I grew up as a military dependent, virtually on the flight line and in base operations at various military installations. I have no memory of a time which did not include sitting in the cockpit of a T-33, a T-37, an F-94, and on and on, as a child. During all those years, we had, and still have, a Cessna 120, and we later added a 150 and a 206 to the stable. This was all great, as I was born with a passion for airplanes that was, and is, absolutely consuming. We flew all the time, taking long cross-country trips in the little Cessna, and I just never considered life to be any other way. I probably had 300 hours at the controls when I began my formal lessons at age 17. At about 4 hours I soloed

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Well, I've been badly scared several times in a light plane. But you know what? You get over it. For me it was -ve Gs in turbulence that got me, and my discovery flight was in 'moderate' turbulence (which is defined as 'the plane stalls from gusts from time to time, and is occasionally out of control', not a moderate experience at all). I've also been airsick while at the controls. But that passes. The important thing is to go back and try again.Honestly, you don't know yet if you can handle it or not. For me it took four or five hours in such conditions, accumulated over my first 25 hours of flying, before I wasn't panicing, and I can't honestly say I'm entirely comfortable now. That amount of panic is exhausting, and will drain your energy to the point where you just can't enjoy it. I got a really good instructor who recognised what was happening and just said 'Ok, no problem, we'll just keep your lessons short for a while so we don't wear you out too much'. So all my first page of my logbook is 0.6 and 0.7 hours. Never let an instructor rush you or keep you up longer than you want. Also, take your briefings on the ground so you can concentrate. Keep the cabin cool, it's better if you're a bit too cold.Most of what you describe is just the normal reaction of someone who has done a lot of simulator flying to getting into a real plane, and that will pass quite quickly. By that I mean, the 'head inside' issue, and so forth. Remember, so far you've been flying with a chunk of panel and a tiny little window in front of you. Your brain needs to get used to having all the rest of those windows around you, and at the same time feeling the dynamics of the aircraft. Your instructor isn't flattering you especially by saying you were flying well, you were if you were +-5 degrees and +-200ft. That's the simulator paying off. So, for you the challenge of learning to fly is in dealing with the physical environment and experience of it, not in getting together the skills. Same for me, and I'm getting there (even though it took me 36 hours or so to get the rudder sorted).You got stiff and tired because you don't have the feel of relaxing into the movement, something subconscious was tensing you all the time (and besides, flying is much harder work than driving anyway). That will pass with a bit of experience, and if you can manage to stay relaxed everything will feel a whole lot better. Try consciously staying that tense for that long; now, you're not going to feel good after that, are you?Did you get carsick as a kid? I bet you did. Well, that passed as you got used to the movement, and you need to do it again for the aircraft (and probably boats as well, right? I did). I don't think many adults would expect that. Remember what the trick you're told as a kid for getting over carsickness is? Look out into the distance, keep your eyes outside. Well, if you had your eyes inside, no wonder you felt bad. No amount of time as an airline passenger helps either, it's a different experience (although strangely, if you have some time in a light plane, you never feel sick in an airliner again, unless a smell gets you).I sympathise entirely with the phobic side of the experience, I can say that there have been quite a few flights I was glad to finish. But the good ones make up for that, and after a while you stop being worried by it all. Day before yesterday, I was up in some relatively strong turbulence, doing some training, and I suddenly noticed that not only was I not jumping out of my skin every time we flew into a bump, but I was just calmly fixing the upsets and going on with my training exercise. Even when we were gust-stalled on short final. In fact, I deliberately went and did a few extra solo circuits because I wanted to practice. But that's the first time I recall not even caring about the turbulence, and I've got 42 hours. Nevertheless, flying in turbulence is still exhausting; after my 1.2 hours I was enervated enough to just want to sit down with a cup of coffee for an hour or so and recuperate. Which is fine and normal, you just have to set aside that time as well. By the way, it's normal to feel very strange driving a car after flying, even the most experienced pilots report that. Noone I know will get out of a plane and onto a motorcycle, that just isn't safe (although helicopter pilots tend to like bikes).Personally, the biggest benefit I believe I've had from learning to fly is to know that I can get past the fear factor and learn some tricks to deal with the physical discomforts (acupressure can help a lot).I think by posting here, it sounds like you want some reassurance. Be reassured, it can be done, and I'm not hearing anything that would say to me you won't do fine. It'll be a bit of a battle, which will make the accomplishment even sweeter.

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I'm really glad I posted, even if it is just to get a little reassurance. I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable doing it, and I'm sure it is still a little early to start scheduling ground school, but I'm sure a re-discovery flight will be in order - some time.The turbulence and winds were light yesterday, it really was beautiful. I think what I was feeling was just the natural motion of the aircraft. I know the wind will push you around a little bit, but it wasn't anything severe, probably nothing worse than going over some potholes or bumpy ground in a car for the rough stuff and the dips were no were than that drop you get when you are going a little fast on a slightly hilly road. I suppose a difference is you can see those obstacles and issues and your mind prepares you for it. It reminds me of an article describing how perception of pain/tickling differs for a person who is doing it to themselves vs someone else doing it.You are right of course, a monitor and flight controls can be good practice for the skills, but hardly the same sensations.Never got carsick as a kid, nor do I get seasick. I've always taken well to water. We had a boat as a kid and I got some certification when I was young from the Coast Guard that let me operate a boat. I was navigating the Chesapeake bay before I was in high school. A lot of the terms and pilotage for sea vessels is directly transferrable to the air and I've re-remembered a lot because of it. I'm also scuba certified for open water, although that's been a couple years.I think seeing in some of the forums that a lot of people have some instrument fixation issues helped me out, too.I'd do it again. Just don't know when I'll be ready.And I do appreciate your view that it might take a few hours to really know. With a commitment like this, it makes sense. I think I'll set up the system and recreate what I did yesterday. That might help with some perspective, too.

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You are welcome Mernya, and read Andrew's post a few more times. Andrew you are wise beyond your hours. I chuckled more than once reading your synopsis - remembering many of the same jolts and jumps - and the first rainstorm I encountered - HOLY COW!. Believe me, it gradually turns to pure enjoyment, and confidence abounds.Hang in there,Leon

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I remember my first flight in the left seat and trust me your feelings are not unusual. I did not get the sick feelings but everything else you described happened to some degree. You were on a kind of information overload. Almost every new student basically freezes up their first outing, there is so much you have to process including the importance of what you are doing. Most people go through the motions their first time out but they are completely on auto-pilot. Please do not give up yet, give it a little more time, most people are not equipped to handle the range of emotion that one gets on their first flight, especially if it is a life long dream. You are thrilled to be there, scared of something going wrong, scared of making an error, worried if you have to right stuff, fear of looking foolish, confusion at all of the new information you have to process, joy at doing certain things right, anger at your seeming inability to do everything perfectly, worry over missing a radio call, disbelieve that you are actually flying, and those are just barely a few of the emotions that you felt, right? Trust me, you went into over load and it is perfectly natural to break down afterwards. After my first flight I sat in my car for 20 minutes before I thought I could drive. I did not have the negative reactions that you did but those emotions were a shock to my system for sure. Please, please, please, give it some time, work into it slowly, try to get back out for another lesson and tell your instructor what happened, a good instructor will understand totally and can help you to ease into the cockpit. You can do this and you have a lot of people that will help you, just don't give up!Take care, Philip OlsonI'm the luckiest man in the world, my girl friend has a yoke and rudder pedals! Eat your hearts out!http://www.precisionmanuals.com/images/forum/supporter.jpg

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Mernya, I started flight school in 1978, I was 26 years old. The Discovery flight scared me too. I did not expect to feel every little gust and every control adjustment like I did. I was especially terrified when banking for turns. It just was not natural. The CFI on that flight sensed my fear and offered to let me fly the remaining time. When banking he would say, "easy now, just five degrees for now," and then when coming out of the bank he would say, "slight pressure on the wheel, don't move it, just think about moving it". He encouraged me to look outside more often and that helped a lot. He told me that flying should be fun and if I was too worried about "getting it right" it would take the fun out of it. He also taught me that fear comes from not knowing. Banking scared me because I didn't know what would come from overbanking. It also scared me because I wasn't used to it. He had me do a whole day of easy, non-precision turns whlie watching out the window. "Don't worry about course or altitude or speed, just turn and turn the other way and roll and bank and have fun." That cured the fear of banking. Stalls were another big thing for me. I could recover fairly well but getting into the stall was always a problem as I would hesitate and not pull back far enough, or ease off just before full stall. I didn't know what would happen if the stall didn't occur just like it was supposed to. What if a gust pushed the wing over and I stalled in a bank? My CFI then showed me what would happen. Spins happen when stalling in a bank. So we spun on purpose, time after time, thirty or forty times, until I knew how to recover from spins. It was fun after I was confident in myself. I have been flying now for 26 years and have almost 1400 hours in small planes. Never had so much as an engine misfire in all those years. I don't fight the turbulence and I don't let it scare me. If you can anyway overcome the fear you had, if any of these replies can generate some "what the hell" in your mind, go back and explain your fears to the CFI you flew with and see if he can ease you back into the plane and take you on a "feel good" flight of gentle, easy maneuvres. If he is any kind of good instructor he's been there and done it before. There's nothing to feel embarassed about, you're not a pilot and don't have the training that overcomes fears like you had. But you can be.Try, try again. You won't be sorry.Glenn"If God would have wanted man to fly He would have given him more money"

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Maybe I can give you some perspective here. having the feeling of tunnel vision is perfectly normal during your first few lessons. That feeling will go away after a while. You'll get it again, make no mistake, but as you progress you'll deal with it and it will go away for the most part.About your car: I remember once leaving the airport I tried to set the transmission for 1000 RPM's (taxi speed)...lol. Then promptly entered the freeway at best rate (Vy) (75 kts), when I looked at the speedo I was doing about 86 mph.I'm not sure if you should gauge your first experience as an indicator of the future. It sounds like you just got a bit of information overload. Flying is like anything else in life, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk, and so on and so on. There were several points during my flight training I thought there was no way I should be flying, you'll have those days also.It also sounds like you built this event up so much during your life that all those feelings came to the surface at once. I would recommend taking another flight where the instructor does all the flying and you just sit back and enjoy the flight, then try flying after that.BTW, I've scared myself many times in an airplane, you'll do it to yourself in the future also, don't worry..lol. Hope this helps.

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I am not sure what you were doing on your discovery flight - staring at instruments and trying to be within 5 deg of your heading. A bit too early for that. You should have been enjoying yourself rather than trying to impress your CFI. Yes, I recall from my first few flights it took me a while to be perfectly comfortable in the air. But I never had a "phobia". If you have a will you can overcome it - unfortunately you are the only one who knows whether you have stamina to conquer it. In my case fascination with a flight ultimately overpowered any fear of being high in that tin-can flying box. I wish you luck. Some people are not meant to be pilots but if I were you I would take a few more lessons to be absolutely sure. You have nothing to loose but a few hundred bucks.Michael J.WinXP-Home SP2,AMD64 3500+,Abit AV8,Radeon X800Pro,36GB Raptor,1GB PC3200,Audigy 2, Omega 2.7.90 (4xAA 16xAF)

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I have some first hand experience in the field of depression and anxiety. What basicly happened is that you've lived up to this for so many years that you are not fully capable of handling the situation once it arrives. When the day arrived you probably felt things like "today it will finally happen" and "this will be the best thing in my life". When taking the control of the aircraft, things might change to "this should be great, but I feal fearful!" and "I'll never be able to do this". There's so much input that you can't fully comprehend the situation.Tunnel vision is normal, especially for flight simulator pilots. On the PC, we miss all secundary inputs like the feel of G forces, so we have to focus on the instruments to know what the aircraft does.Let me tell you about my first experience in flying a GA aircraft. It happened last year, when I got the chance to fly a Bonanza high performance aircraft. It was a once in a lifetime experience, since I won it in an auction. I lived up to that moment, but I was very very scared. I felt I had to prove that I could do it. The day before my flight I was devestated. If a person can crash as badly as Windows can, he would look like me. I was unable to work and took lots of sedatives. I made backup plans, planned the route to the airfield, double checked the aircraft specs, created an emergency toolkit with a lot of sedatives and a bottle of water. What should be a fun day was turning into some kind of major standoff. It would be all or nothing! Thankfully, when I took control of the plane things went great. I made some instrument approaches and landings myself (I have prior experience in sailplanes), but mentally I was totally wrecked. The whole experience of weeks of anxiety took its toll and it took me weeks to recover.The bottom line is: Never trust what you feel when you are not relaxed. If you take a few more of these introduction lessons, there will be a lot less expectations and other background ideas and issues. Only then can you really make a desicion if you want to continue or not.

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Again, I'd like to thank everyone for their comments, suggestions, and experience.I did refly the area on FS9 that I did in the real thing. I think it helped me put things in perspective and gave me a better understanding of where I was and what I was doing. I'm trying things with the VC more and more now to get my attention out of the plane, at least on the sim.Odds are I will try again. I don't know when, but I think it will happen. The day after my flight, I was out cutting the grass. I live in the pattern (Final Leg) of KBWI. Each time a plane went by, I was still looking up and wanting to be there. There wasn't fear. I think that's a good sign.Jeff, thanks for the notes about driving. It made me laugh and feel a little more comfortably about that part of everything.Michael, I don't think I was tring to impress the CFI. I think I was just too afraid to do anything wrong or make things 'bad.' My wife was in the back seat (I wanted that, since it was her gift to me, and I wanted to share it with her). If I was trying to impress anyone, it would have been her, but frankly, doing 'great' was the last thing on my mind. I was trying to stick to the numbers and do things right because I didn't want to freak anyone out, including me (any more than I already was). I figured if I made my turns and stuff correctly, it would be a more comfortable experience. I do agree that some of the precision was uncalled for, but for some reason, it was something that made me feel better.metamarty, I think I need to agree with most of your points (except maybe the order of my emotions). It makes sense and corresponds to what everyone else has been saying, what I remember and felt. I was a little jittery that morning and didn't start to calm down until I was at the hangar. Once the plane was in front of me, I was fine. I was calm, but excited, all through the taxi. The take off was great, too. I think I was caught off guard with being given the yoke while still in the climb and that precipitated some of the panic. I hadn't had a chance to get a feel for the motions yet under someone's experienced control, and I kept thinking my 'improper' inputs were responsible for the natural motions of the aircraft. That led to doubt and fear. There was a point of relief when I looked down and thought that the heights were not bad at all. I'm beginning to think that is more of a falling/vertigo issue than actual acrophobia.Thanks again everyone.

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>metamarty, I think I need to agree with most of your points>(except maybe the order of my emotions). It makes sense and>corresponds to what everyone else has been saying, what I>remember and felt. I was a little jittery that morning and>didn't start to calm down until I was at the hangar. Once the>plane was in front of me, I was fine. I was calm, but excited,>all through the taxi. The take off was great, too. I think I>was caught off guard with being given the yoke while still in>the climb and that precipitated some of the panic. I hadn't>had a chance to get a feel for the motions yet under someone's>experienced control, and I kept thinking my 'improper' inputs>were responsible for the natural motions of the aircraft. That>led to doubt and fear. There was a point of relief when I>looked down and thought that the heights were not bad at all.>I'm beginning to think that is more of a falling/vertigo issue>than actual acrophobia.Panic and Anxiety feelings are always expressed by a large amount of adrenaline. Because of this interconnection, it's not uncommon to feel anxiety and panick in stressfull situations... As you get used to flying, the adrenaline drops and the anxiety is much less. I think you underestimated the "feeling" of flying. You are constantly bouncing up and down, something completely missing from flightsimulator. It's caused by unstable air and there's not much you can do about it. It's also a good idea that a well trimmed aircraft does not need much input to keep flying, unlike a helicopter :-rotor, so there's really not a lot you can mess up! Instructors also like to surprise you in handing over the controls when you least expect it. In my case, the instructor surprised me on the ground, saying that if I wanted to fly, that I should start the engine, taxi and do the takeoff. Well at least, he didn't catch me in flight! :-zhelp :D

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Could I suggest not being so hard on yourself? I'm going to guess you expected real flying, and your own piloting, to be a lot like what you do in FS. I also think you had a perfectly normal reaction when you expected one thing, and experienced something else.I'm a private pilot and earned my instrument rating earlier this year. I'd say the for the most part, you'll need to 'unlearn' what you do in FS while getting you private. It's good for learning navigation, but that's about it. But don't worry - your instructor will be there to help teach the rest.Next time you go up (and I'm confident you will), keep your eyes completely off the instruments and instead keep them out the window - that's what VFR is all about. Your instructor will help you learn what to watch (e.g. keeping the horizon level and at the same height on the windshield).Also - don't judge your real life flying to what you can do in the sim. You're holding yourself to an unnecessary standard (especially at this point). Just go up and have fun without any specific expectations on how you'll do.And don't worry about being nervous - that's perfectly normal. Even with something over a hundred hours I still get slightly nervous, but it's what keeps me on my toes, reminds me to fully plan out my flight, and do a careful preflight. It's a normal part of being a pilot.

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Mernya,First, don't throw anything else away! :) If anything, put 'em on EBay!My first flight was pre-TOPGUN and I couldn't get enough books or videos. I was a junior in college and went for a Cessna Discovery flight ($25). I knew what was going on from preflight to takeoff. We took off and I was instantly sick, like you. For that 30 minute flight lasted 29 minutes too long. After we landed, I paid my bill, chatted a bit and then left. In my car, I SWORE that I had to be crazy to do this and I woulnd't want to do it again. Then Topgun came out.My last ride was a trip to the southwest for an unusual attitude course. The weather was perfect, the plane was cool and the ground instruction was absolutely phenomenal! The flight started out great and my mind buzzed with realizations and learning. It wasn't until we did turning stalls to upset was when it ended for me. at one moment I was at 3000feet, pulling and using too much rudder. Oops! As in the class, ground became sky and sky disappeared. I looked up and saw nothing but desert. We recovered the airplane to level flight with the instructions from the class. I never recovered from that flight. Something went click. (looking back, it was kinda cool and wish I had my camera)There was about 150 hours between both. A drop in the bucket compared to some. Alot of great memories and friends over the years. Flying is what you make of it. Go for a second ride but before you do, talk to the CFI about your concerns. I always felt comfortable flying with older CFIs. Also, stop putting pressure on yourself with timelines and goals. You hopefully have 50-60 more years to get that license.There were two "rules" that fighter pilots used to say about flying:"It looks cool and the chicks dig it..." Flying is cool and obvioulsy your wife is behind you (no pun intended; 172s are cramped). To be a safe pilot is probably the best thing in the world to be.Never say never. If you've had this level of interest up until that flight, there's no doubt the flying bug has got you. Read, watch videos, research on the internet. Flying is safe, but working in three-dimensions can add to the workload (physical, mental and emotional).You and your decision will be in my prayers. Good luck!JimNew Jersey

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