How normal are nerves

Hello all, it’s been a while since I last posted. As of today, I just completed my first solo XC and have just logged a total of 37 hours at my local flight school. Just need some more solo XC, hood and all night flights before I’m officially able to take the checkride but will continue with maneuvers and traffic pattern before for I actually take the exam.

I still feel quite nervous when I’m when things get bumpy, particularly with takeoff / climb and during decent and especially landing particularly with crosswinds, so my question is with 37 hours is this normal? During my solo XC, as I descended (and climbed after each respective takeoff), the plane did shake a bit which makes me incredibly anxious / nervous with a tight “death grip” until cruise and not sure if this is normal for a student with less than 40 hours or should I have gotten over that by now? Did traffic pattern the other day and had to stop after 4 landings because it just got too much for me. Again my nervousness only really manifests with bumpy conditions (for me) during climbs and descents plus when I have a crosswind during landings. Outside of that, I don’t seem to have a problem. For context, the crosswind was only about 5-9 Kts (I know, probably a breeze for professional pilots) during my climbs, descents, and landings.

When I first started, I felt a bit motion sickness when doing steep turns and got super nervous the first time I did it with my instructor and as of last week I was able to do steep turns solo in the practice area with no problems. Today during my XC solo, I was cool as a cucumber during the cruise portion of the flight at 4500’ and 3500’ so I’m hoping just like with those scenarios I will just get use to it and perhaps many of you or your students have been in my same boat and at this point in my training, it’s nothing to worry about. Perhaps it is because I am solo with only 5 total solo hours? For the record, my instructor says I will be a fine pilot based on my progress but I do take what he says regarding this with a grain of salt since I am effectively his paycheck and he has every incentive that I keep training.

Thanks,
Sam

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Sam,

I think that at 37 hours, you should have gotten over the kinds of nerves that you are describing. Some nerves are of course normal, but having to suspend a flight because of turbulence or after just a few landings is a bit much. Having the death grip and nerves that you speak of can actually be dangerous.

I would encourage you to speak with your CFI and perhaps another CFI about this before you solo again. If you were my student, I would not sign you off for any more solo flights until this is resolved.

Chris

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Sam,

With 37 hours, I estimate that you’ve been up a total of approx 18 times over the course of 1.5-2 months, depending on how often you’re flying each week? You are still a relatively new pilot so there is still time to adjust to the turbulence. Because I don’t know you and we’ve never flown together it’s really hard for me to say whether or not your nerves are “normal.” What I can say is that turbulence is inevitable, and lightweight trainers do not handle the turbulence well because they are so light. The good news is that most trainers are extremely stable, meaning that the plane will have a natural tendency recover itself after being disturbed. I used to tell my students to “Ride the waves” if they were over-correcting for the bumps. You and your instructor will have to work together to best solve this problem. Best of luck.

Tory

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Hi.

When I started flying… I absolutely hated the bumpiness on takeoff, but later on I got used to it and it dosnt phase me anymore. Winds also made me feel weird, but again, with time, it didn’t phase me anymore. Especially after flying in gusting conditions and I handled it like a pro.

The death grip thing is also a problem I had when I started. I would hold it so hard for dear life, my wrist would be sore for a few days. The best thing to do is to put a pencil between your index finger and pinky, this will teach you to fly with only two fingers, so if you try to use a full fist, it’d be painful. Maybe this will help you?

They were a problem until I hit maybe 8 hours or so, and then it’s all gone. I have 50? Hours now and nothing phases me anymore. You learn to appreciate the invention of the aircraft and don’t get worried about anything.

I guess it’s different for everyone. Maybe you still need more time.

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Tory, I started my first flight training in Memorial Day weekend so it’s been about 3.5 months now. Most of that was actually in calm, no wind training and my instructor and I would joke frequently that “can’t get better than this”. Probably good at the time but also didn’t build familiarity and resiliency in the beginning of my training. The last month or so which is when I started sololing winds started to pick up at my local airport so I think I’ve done more non-calm conditions solo than dual which I’m hoping is adding to my unfamiliarity which in turn is adding to my nervousness. Good to know about the stability of the PA-28, defiantly will keep that in mind when having those bumps, thanks.

Chris, I think it may have stemmed from early in my training when I was “blessed” with mostly calm, no wind conditions when dual with my instructor which is creating my nervousness now during my solos. Completely understand about the death grip being potentially dangerous which is why I mentioned it. Thanks for your input. I’ll definitely discuss this further with my CFI.

Thanks for sharing your insight. I’ll defiantly try the pencil idea. Do you position the pencil in such a way that your holding the yoke with your index and pinky fingers your your middle and ring fingers?

Sam

Sam,

My question is what is your fear regarding the turbulence? Is it a lack of confidence in your abilities or more of a basic fear of flying?

If it’s confidence, while I do feel at this point you should be feeling better, you are still relatively new and as you gain skill that should pass. If however you’re thinking the wings are going to fall off or you’re going to fall out of the sky that’s a problem. 5-9kts is actually considered breezy. I’m going to disagree with Tory on this one. While turbulence might be unpleasant, light trainers actually handle it quite well.

I’d obviously encourage you to hang in there for a bit but if things don’t improve you might need to rethink things.

Adam

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Adam,

I think my fear is 2 fold. I have zero fear of flying itself, as in a passenger in the back of a Boeing for example. Even at altitude a few thousand feet up I think I can get control of the plane in an emergency which is why I don’t get anxious after I reach cruise.

I admit, part of my fear does stem from a little bit of a lack of confidence on my landing abilities, which should hopefully go away as I get better at landing, especially with some crosswinds. The second is, as irrational as it may be, while I don’t think at all that the wings will fall off, I do fear that in turbulence, with my plane being relatively low to the ground during climbs and descents/landings that either the turbulence or bumps gets so bad that they will cause my wings to suddenly bank 90 degrees or a sudden microburst or the like will suddenly slam my plane down from my nice steady climb or descent during takeoff or landing down to the ground. Either scenario resulting in a crash. I fear I just don’t have the altitude to recover, thus my uneasiness until I level off with several thousand feet between me and ground.

Sam

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To clarify what I meant by light trainers not handling turbulence well, I agree, they are more than capable of handling turbulence. What I should have said is that a light trainer is easier for turbulence to disturb because they are so light. The turbulence intensity felt in a light trainer will feel more uncomfortable than on an airliner.

Tory

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Sam,

Next time you are out flying in turbulent conditions, pay attention to your changes in vertical speed, altitude and airspeed. By how much do they change? For how long? Is it momentary? Prolonged? Can you even notice?

A gust of wind could cause your wings to bank without pilot input, but a bank due to a gust doesn’t necessarily mean you are in any imminent danger. I encourage you to crack open your books and review static vs dynamic stability. Also review dihedral vs anhedral wings. Remember, light trainers have forward CG, which make them great for training because they will have a natural tendency to recover from a disturbance.

Tory

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Sam,

There’s a reason why I twitch when people tell me they KNOW they’d be a great pilot because they love sitting in the back of a Boeing. It simply ain’t the same thing as sitting in the front of a Piper. While you might not have a fear of flying, it sounds like you must definitely have a fear of crashing.

As for the scenarios you describe I’ll ask you another question. Ok, if either the microburst or sudden bank happened what would you do?

Adam

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I would simply level the wings as best I could and continue the climb and if I was in a descent, I would add full power and do a go around. By then, I’m sure I’d be more than shaken though. More to the point, I’m sure I and the plane would be ok. I’m just hoping you’ve all seen it in either yourselves and/or past students where it goes away with more repetition, success, and experience which in turn leads to confidence and therefore elimination of the nervousness. I understand people’s experience differ, but was hoping there was not an insignificant amount of student pilots who faced similar challenges whom you’ve met during your career who went on to be great pilots.

Sam,

Exactly, there’s always an out, that and microbursts generally don’t appear out of nowhere. So you know what to do, what’s your concern? Do you not think that plan will work?

I stick with my original statement. Hang in there. Either you’ll gain confidence and comfort or you won’t at which point you’ve got to do some soul searching.

Adam

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