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Overcoming Nerves: A Student Pilot's Journey

A guest blog post from one of our members.


Hello! My name is Hannah and I'm a student pilot, but more often than not, I feel like a nervous wreck. I recently started my flying lessons, and although my instructor tells me that I'm doing great, I can't help but feel like I'm about to fall out of the sky at any moment. I'm writing to all you amazing readers of QuizAero to ask for your help and advice on how to overcome my fears and enjoy the flight lessons.


Firstly, let me tell you a bit about myself. I have always been fascinated with flying and the freedom it gives you and now at 28 years old, I am finally in a situation where I can afford flying lessons. There is something so exhilarating about being up in the air, seeing the world from a different perspective. However, the reality is quite different from my fantasy. As soon as I'm up in the sky, my nerves kick in, and my heart starts racing. Every bump and turn sends me into a state of panic, and I find myself holding on to the controls with a death grip. I feel bad for my instructor, who is trying his best to make me feel at ease, but I just can't help the way I feel.

Student pilot

I know that being nervous is perfectly normal for a student pilot, but I feel like I'm taking it to the extreme. Even the slightest bit of turbulence or a steep turn sets my heart racing. And the worst part is, I actually screamed out loud during a recent turbulence episode. I know, how embarrassing! I'm surprised my instructor hasn't given up on me yet.


Sometimes I get so nervous during my flying lessons that I find it hard to focus on what my instructor is saying. My mind is racing with thoughts of what could go wrong and my heart is pounding in my chest. It's like my brain shuts down and I can't absorb any new information. I worry that I'm not learning as much as I could be because of my nerves. But despite these challenges, I'm determined to push through and become a confident pilot.


I think my fear might be amplified by the fact that I'm flying in such a small aeroplane. I'm currently learning to fly in a Cessna 152, which is a two-seater, and it feels like every gust of wind is trying to blow me off course. I can't even imagine how it's going to be when I have to do stall training. The thought of the plane falling out of the sky is enough to give me nightmares.

"I think my fear might be amplified by the fact that I'm flying in such a small aeroplane. I'm currently learning to fly in a Cessna 152, which is a two-seater, and it feels like every gust of wind is trying to blow me off course."
Cessna 152 approaching to land
Cessna 152

But despite all my fears, I'm determined to keep going. I want to hold a pilot's licence and be able to fly solo one day. I just need some help and advice to get there. That's where you come in. I'm hoping that some of you have gone through similar experiences and can share your tips on how to overcome fear and anxiety during flying lessons.


My instructor gave me some advice on how to manage my anxiety during flying lessons. One tip is to focus on my breathing whenever I start to feel nervous. I should take slow and deep breaths to calm my body and relax my mind. It might take some practice, but it's definitely worth a try. Another strategy my instructor suggested is visualisation. I can try imagining myself flying smoothly and confidently, without any turbulence or unexpected turns. This can help me feel more in control and prepared for the flight.


Another tip I've been given is to communicate with my instructor. Let them know how I'm feeling and what's causing my anxiety. They might be able to adjust the lesson or give me some extra guidance to help me feel more comfortable.


And of course, practice makes perfect. The more I fly, the more I'll get used to the feeling of being up in the air. It's like anything else in life - the more you do it, the more comfortable you become.


So, if any of you have any advice or tips on how to overcome fear and anxiety during flying lessons, I would be eternally grateful. And if you've had similar experiences, please share them in the comments below. It's always reassuring to know that you're not alone in your struggles.


In conclusion, I love flying, but my fear and anxiety are holding me back. I'm determined to overcome them, and with your help, I know I can. So, let's hear it - what advice do you have for a nervous student pilot like myself?


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Unknown member
Aug 30, 2023

I deeply sympathise with Hannah’s worry’s of what could go wrong.


Now, the following is heavily caveated that I have no relevant qualifications to suggest the following. Not that being blatantly unqualified to do many things has held me back, so here goes!


From Hannah’s description of her mind racing and going straight to all the things that could go wrong, this sounds like ‘Catastrophic thinking’ where you go from a minor issue and leap straight to the worst possible outcome.


If you can, challenge that thinking. A bit of turbulence – so let’s think – the plane is rated to withstand FAR more than you can throw at it, is there ANY evidence that this plane can’t handle this?…


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Unknown member
Mar 19, 2023

Hi Hannah

First of all I send you sympathy and solidarity. I have fairly recently got my licence but throughout my training and even now I still experience high levels of anxiety. I'm not sure I have any silver bullet answers for you but I do have one or two suggestions in addition to those in the comments above.

  1. Be comforted that you are not alone

  2. Don't fight it. There are days when I know I am too anxious to fly and days when I can do it. I have learnt to listen to my own wisdom about this. Especially if there are other stressful thing going on, or I am tired etc. What we are doing IS stressfu…

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Unknown member
Mar 19, 2023

Hi Hannah, I too am compelled to learn to fly but get a bit nervous at times. I've now been learning for a few years and have done about 70 hours in a C42, but, as yet, I have not gone solo. In fact, after a break of three months I recently spent a day flying with my instructor down to Goodwood and back to Headcorn and we arrived back on a perfect calm evening when there was little traffic in the circuit and he encouraged me to solo, but I didn't. My article for this site, Too Scared To Solo, explains my thinking a while back, but I have left it so long now that the irrational mental barrier…


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Unknown member
Mar 18, 2023

Great article, and I'm sure something that many (most?) pilots can empathise with. When I was learning to fly a helicopter, at first it felt as if the machine was literally seconds from disaster at any point in time. I had the usual problems of over-controlling, until I eventually understood how to calibrate / limit my inputs and that it's often the case that "less is more". I think some degree of anxiety is a good thing - it reminds us that we're doing something that is complicated and that has the potential for bad outcomes if we make mistakes. At the same time, too much anxiety and we go past the peak of performance and it becomes limiting. In…

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