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Please help me with this student.


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Ok, so I have this student that has a major fear of heights. I have a fear of heights and if I stand on the edge of a high dive or a tall building, I freak but flying I am fine. There were a couple times where I was soloing in the beginning and had some fear set in when really high up (cresting over a tall hilltop into a valley) but I don't remembering it being as bad. She has been jarred awake in the middle of the night with this height fear. If we are below 1000-1500'agl she is fine, its when we are higher than that (and sometimes our route to other training area takes us up there that) she freaks out. Once we went up to about 3000'msl (2500'agl) and she was terrified (we were that high clearing some hills). She let me know and we descended.

The other thing is that she has a lack of confidence that is of course expected at her level of skill (she only has about 10 hours). She is VERY concerned with the typical death grip and gets fatigue from it pretty quickly. I explained to her that it is totally normal and she will relax in time (lots of time) as she gets more comfortable in the aircraft and flying. These things are really discouraging for her and she is not in it for a career, it's something she is doing more for fun. She wants to re-evaluate her thoughts about flying at about the 25 hour mark (this was her plan in the very beginning). She really is doing a good job on the controls right now already! She is able to fly straight and level, do level turns well, maintain heading, ground track, keep it in trim and not fluctuate the power setting much at all (R22). She is pretty hard on herself and for some reason doesn't want to acknowledge that she is doing well. I tell her constantly because she really is but she is a harsh self judge.

Oh, on a side note, she is NOT comfortable with the "T" cyclic in the 22. She doesn't like the way it feels in her hand. I also told her that comfort would come with time and practice. I recall not being comfortable with the T cyclic either when first getting into it. I started with the 300cb, then the b206, and then the md500 before getting into a robbie.

What can i do to help her with these things? I don't want her to quit based on an unrealistic view of a lack of performance.

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Starting my training in july, but when I went on a demo flight I too had the death grip on the cyclic. My instructor told me that if you start training he has his trainees hold a pencil or two inside your hand while controlling the cyclic. If holding to hard the pencils will start to provide discomfort.

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Dont most people have death grip?? I never had it, untill FI mentioned let go of the PTT trigger on cyclic coming in to land and then I realised the death grip was there just to busy to notice, allways talk to my self as I start to let down kind of running comentery with a 2 part dialogue, Went something like lower col pull back on cyc , d*m not that much, woooops to fast , pull yourself to gether Donk brain. All this to a controle tower, much laughter and leg pulling

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One thing I do that I have found very helpful... *Make* the student hold the cyclic with their thumb and index finger (or maybe the first two fingers) and tell them you will watch to make sure. Procedurally enforce the technique until the student conquers the issue. Maybe demonstrate to them and make them look at your hand as well. Be nice about explaining how you're going to do this and why, of course. Why it works: 1) It gives you something to look at so you know immediately that they have a death grip without touching the cyclic, 2) it will make it painfully aware to the student that they can relax and nothing horrible will happen, and 3) it reinforces a good habit pattern as they obviously have a bad one. That is what our job is, to stop bad habit patterns and form good ones as quickly as possible. Explain of course you don't want them to hold it with their thumb and index finger the rest of their flying career, but you're using the technique to train them to relax.

 

Don't know if this idea will help in your case, but it has worked well with me in the past.

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I was very nervous until I got to the point where I had confidence that I could land the helicopter by myself if the instructor keeled over... Maybe she'll fell more secure once she's passed that point. I would suggest letting her talk it out as well as using the pencil in the grip technique. Also, with props to Witch for the idea, wiggling toes really does work when you're tense.

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The death grip is common. I remember learning to fly in the TH55, and having the diamond checkering of the cyclic head permanently impressed into the leather palm of my glove. It took awhile to get over that. The fear of heights, OTOH, may be fatal for learning. If she is that scared of heights, she may need to just give up on flying. She will likely never be comfortable flying, and thus never safe at it. Some people have a fear of heights and some don't. I've never been bothered, and I've worked on tall TV towers when I was in school, and standing in the door of a C119 or a C130 waiting to jump never bothered me. I have no idea why, but I know it's a good thing if you're going to be a pilot. If you're really afraid of being high, you'll never be successful at this, and should save your money for something you would be good at.

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One thing I do that I have found very helpful... *Make* the student hold the cyclic with their thumb and index finger (or maybe the first two fingers)

 

Amen- just what I was thinking. I can remember doing the death grip when hovering/landing but not with normal flight.

 

I too am deathly afraid of heights, thats why I fly helicopters !! No really, I do get a a quick queasy feeling when going over 1500 AGL or so....but yet when I am in a fixed wing I dont notice it at all...of course..you cant look down, only out !!!

 

She needs to fly more at 1500 agl and just get used to the higher altitudes...worked for me.

Edited by Goldy
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If I may;

 

First, for the fear of heights, try a cross country without the altimeter and a 200' ascent rate. She may just be seeing the needle going 'round and 'round and noticing that sets off the panic. Try covering the altimeter with a piece of paper and see how that works.

 

Second, the grip of death. Put the trim on and tell her to sing a song. A little distraction goes a long way to relaxing. If she doesn't want to sing, try a long drawn-out conversation about anything except flying...or football. This may get her distracted enough to forget about the death grip, or even get her to move her hands enough to loosen up. I know it sounds a bit unorthodox, but a little distraction does help in the flying. I know because if I concenterate on a manuver, I screw it up and crash. Don't think about it and I do fine. Kinda like Yoda said "Do, or do not. No try."

 

Another thing might be for her to fly left handed. I know it sounds wierd, but it can be a bit of a fun challenge.

 

Laer

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I was thinking about something a previous CFI told me when I had the "GRIP" in a hover to land.

1. Use the thumb index, idea..Like mentioned.

 

2. Try not to move the cyclic too much. The more you move it the more unstable the heli becomes. That statement clicked the light bulb on in my head. I think that has also been the reason several CFI's have told me I am very smooth with the cyclic, with low flight time and infrequent flights, could be the flight sim helping too, I guess.

 

3. He said watch and don't let go of the grip. I would be wobbling around and he put his one index finger on the center of the T bar and magically we stopped wobbling, he let go and we started again. After that for some reason I started getting over the Grip problem..

 

I find myself pushing harder on my theigh to be smooth, than gripping too hard.

 

Do you think maybe a few trips up in a High Wing where she could look down build up her courage about going to higher alt's??? I never understand people with height issues getting their pilot lic's.. Seems like water and electricty to me.

 

Later

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I agree with alot of comments here, but I did want to say this. I know you say that you don't want her to quit, but I have to say that flying is not for everyone. From what I am reading about her it really sounds like to me that it just may not be for her. But it's hard for me to say since I'm not sitting in the bird with her flying.

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Not sure if this applies, but if you have the doors off, it will freak some people out, even if they aren't afraid of heights. I always have the door on for them unless they ask to have it off.

 

Fly safe

Clark B)

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Is there actually a cure for the fear of heights??? I not sure...I think you just beat the fear down in your mind if you can.

 

I know I'll NEVER climb those tiny little spiraling steps to the top of the Statue of Liberty EVER again... :o ...don't think you can anymore anyway.

Edited by zemogman
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Thanks everyone for the replies. I am going to try some of the death grip fixes. As far as the fear of heights, like I said, I have a crazy fear of heights and it took some time but I got over it in the AC. I still can't do anything else height related or I freeze up. I have been flying low level with her at below 1000'agl and she does really well. The doors on/off definately seems to make a difference for her, good call.

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I'm writing to you because your story reminded me of myself. I have fairly many hours somewhere above 40 and I was scared of heights for awhile and even had the doors off which was really freaky, but not anymore. I think the more time you have in the less afraid you are because I am really not afraid anymore of being way up in the sky, we were doing auto's at 3,0000 ft the other day and it was fun actually, but I never would of felt that way at 10 hours. I remember flying with the doors off and flying straight and level and telling my instructor to bring me back to the airport I wanted to quit, my flight instructor was very patient and I think that is good because if he was pushy I would have definitely been discouraged. As for the cyclic just let her do what she feels comfortable I still hold it up in the air instead of resting on my knee but sometimes I will bring it down there. I feel alot of patience is the key to making her feel comfortable and not flying to long like 1 hour or less a day. I am also doing it for fun. Hope it gets better and hope she doesn't give up.

 

Rotorchic

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I wasn't really nervous in the aircraft, but I still had the death grip for the first 5-10 hours or so :).

 

I think some of it is just not understanding fully what inputs produce what reaction, once that is reasonably worked out, life is good. Sitting back, relaxing, looking-outside, and having a good time helps to.

 

Being scared of heights, and flying a helicopter, that doesn't really make sense and sounds like that student should consider another profession rather than creating a potential safety hazard.

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Is there actually a cure for the fear of heights??? I not sure...I think you just beat the fear down in your mind if you can.

 

I know I'll NEVER climb those tiny little spiraling steps to the top of the Statue of Liberty EVER again... :o ...don't think you can anymore anyway.

 

 

This is brutally simple. Zemo hit it on the head weather he realized it or not.

 

Zemo, those steps "connected" you to the ground, the helo does not. Think about that! They gave you a "visual" as to how far up you were.

 

I'm a certified rope rescue instructor, and I have to be honest with you all. I'm WAY more apprehensive hangin my butt cheeks over the edge of a 250' tower than I am at 1,000' AGL in a helicopter. Am I nervous on the rope? Sure! Am I confident I can do my job? SURE! I'm an INSTRUCTOR, and my butt cheeks pucker when I hang them off of a 1/2" line even at 50' AGL. I have literally over 1,000 hours "on rope", yet a mere .5 hours stick time.

 

Took me a long time to figure it out, but ya know what it is?

 

When we're flying, we're not "connected" to the ground. Like someone said earlier, the world literally moves beneath you. When you rappel, or climb a ladder, you are literally connected to the ground by a "support system". Up there, you're not. Think about it.

 

And maybe, just maybe, your student needs to find something else to do. "Disconnect" her from the ground, get rid of the Gorilla Grip, and give her a bit more time. If she doesn't come around, well then.....

 

I've rescued "suicidal" people off of cell towers well above 100' AGL. Height never crossed my mind at the point. I had a job to do. Bothered me afterwards, but I have NEVER been woken up in the middle of the night by it. That statement concerns me. She may have issues that you're not equipped to deal with. Do your best though!

 

Sounds like she has some Demons to deal with. Get her through it if you can without too much trouble. If not, it pains me to say it, but cut her loose. Flying really isn't for everyone. I've kicked MANY people out of my rope rescue classes for that same reason. I wasn't happy about it, but it needed to be done.

 

Once again, just my $.02 from a "newb".

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I'm a bit acrophobic myself. The first few hours in a plane and realising that there's nothing under the plane kinda makes you a little spooked. Then there's that 'What if the wing collapses?' thing in the back of your mind. What does one do?

 

I guess there's nothing you can do except enjoy the ride. Eventually you get those voices in your head to quiet down and flying is a lot better.

 

I'll stop rambling now.

 

Later

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When we're flying, we're not "connected" to the ground. Like someone said earlier, the world literally moves beneath you. When you rappel, or climb a ladder, you are literally connected to the ground by a "support system". Up there, you're not. Think about it.

 

Interesting...never really thought about that...I did some rappeling in Parris Island and it was only fun after I made it over the edge...the point of no return.

 

The whole "connected" theory is really good Fastlane...maybe you got something there. Do you know if there is there actual research on this or just your experience and thoughts?

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I've always thought it was strange that we, as a pilot community, all seem to be a little bit scared of heights. How about the first time you climbed a 300 or R-22 to 3-4k AGL, with no doors, and looked around? For me at least, it did'nt feel natural, and still does'nt.

 

I don't like being on top of tall towers, like at Six Flags. Or standing next to the edge of the roof of my house.

 

Maybe she needs a couple of flights where you just fly around a sightsee, to help her relax and get used the feeling?

 

At the risk of being politically incorrect, one of my first instructors told me to hold the cyclic like I would . . . . myself, gently with just 2 fingers, and relax. Of course that wont work with her, but you get the point.

 

Anyway, good luck. J

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Interesting...never really thought about that...I did some rappeling in Parris Island and it was only fun after I made it over the edge...the point of no return.

 

The whole "connected" theory is really good Fastlane...maybe you got something there. Do you know if there is there actual research on this or just your experience and thoughts?

 

AHHH! The "point of no return". LOL One of my favorite places to be. You obviously know what I'm talking about here..... 2 quick steps, and the world is good. LOL

 

I don't know if there is any research being done on it. In fact, I didn't even pick up on it until someone in another thread on this board posted "the world moves beneath you." Then I got to thinking about how you don't realize how fast you're moving at 100 KTS at 1000' AGL. I felt NOTHING but enjoyment up there. It was awesome, as we all know.

 

Then I got to thinking about all the places I've had my butt hanging off of a rope. I got to tell ya, I won't call it "scared", but let's say apprehensive. And that's only 60' AGL, up to (highest I've been) 320' AGL. So why do I feel comfortable at 1,000 AGL in a helo, but "nervous" at 320' on a rope? "CONNECTED" is the only thing I can come up with.

 

Got me to thinking, and the only thing I can come up with is the "connected" theory. I'm more "apprehensive" in the bucket of a 150' ladder truck (mathematics, 90' AGL?) than I am in the aircraft.

 

One more thing I've been giving some thought to along these same lines. 100' AGL cell tower and a 100' BGL sewage plant pit. I'm more comfortable in the pit. Same distance! What's the difference?

 

I'm not sure how to describe it, but it is SO not the same. I feel MUCH more secure in an aircraft than I do on my ropes.

 

Just a thought! A thought that I'm going to put some more time on. ;)

 

Back to the original topic, this girl needs to give some SERIOUS thought as to what she's doing. This is a fantastic tool to slay her Demons, but I have my doubts.

Edited by Fastlane
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Guest pokey

I never really was afraid of heights, as a kid i used to walk across the beams of the bridges when they were building a new interstate not far form my house, loved climbing high up in the trees too. Not to say i didnt get that 'feeling' , but? i kinda liked it. Flying never gave me that 'feeling' , i guess its because your 'environment' is still the same 'altitude' in relation to you?--i dunno.

 

There were 2 times flying however that it did kinda give me that 'feeling' in the helicopter, and to tell ya the truth? i was kinda scared !

 

1 was we were testing microwave equipment in a class B airspace & had to go up t o 9 thousand feet (in a 300 with the doors off) We were a flight of 2 300's & i was following the lead ship. Finally we got clearance & were up @ 9,000 & after hovering there for a few minutes, my friend in the lead ship comes on the radio & asks me how i feel---i could tell by his voice he had the "feeling' & just as he asked?--i got i tooo Son of a !

 

2nd time was ( & ALL of you should try this). I was flying with a friend in his 300, we had the doors off, he was flying us at about 500' AGL & i decided to stick my arm out & feel the breeze at 80 kts. YIP ! that 'feeling' again.

 

Now that i'm not a kid anymore, it does kinda scare me.

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Ok, so I have this student that has a major fear of heights. I have a fear of heights and if I stand on the edge of a high dive or a tall building, I freak but flying I am fine. There were a couple times where I was soloing in the beginning and had some fear set in when really high up (cresting over a tall hilltop into a valley) but I don't remembering it being as bad. She has been jarred awake in the middle of the night with this height fear. If we are below 1000-1500'agl she is fine, its when we are higher than that (and sometimes our route to other training area takes us up there that) she freaks out. Once we went up to about 3000'msl (2500'agl) and she was terrified (we were that high clearing some hills). She let me know and we descended.

The other thing is that she has a lack of confidence that is of course expected at her level of skill (she only has about 10 hours). She is VERY concerned with the typical death grip and gets fatigue from it pretty quickly. I explained to her that it is totally normal and she will relax in time (lots of time) as she gets more comfortable in the aircraft and flying. These things are really discouraging for her and she is not in it for a career, it's something she is doing more for fun. She wants to re-evaluate her thoughts about flying at about the 25 hour mark (this was her plan in the very beginning). She really is doing a good job on the controls right now already! She is able to fly straight and level, do level turns well, maintain heading, ground track, keep it in trim and not fluctuate the power setting much at all (R22). She is pretty hard on herself and for some reason doesn't want to acknowledge that she is doing well. I tell her constantly because she really is but she is a harsh self judge.

Oh, on a side note, she is NOT comfortable with the "T" cyclic in the 22. She doesn't like the way it feels in her hand. I also told her that comfort would come with time and practice. I recall not being comfortable with the T cyclic either when first getting into it. I started with the 300cb, then the b206, and then the md500 before getting into a robbie.

What can i do to help her with these things? I don't want her to quit based on an unrealistic view of a lack of performance.

 

 

I'm a newbie here. Hi all! I don't fly helicopters yet (I plan on starting next year), but I've been flying gliders for a while, so I know a bit about aviation.

 

I'm just going to address the "fear of heights" issue. I've never had a fear of heights while flying myself. I'm not the most experienced on this subject, but I've read up a bit on it.

 

Let's see. Well first of all you need to pinpoint the fear. What exactly is she afraid of at higher altitudes? Is it that she fears that if the rotors suddenly broke, etc at higher altitudes, the impact with the ground is going to be worse? If the aircraft "falls out of the sky" at 500' or 2500' AGL, in either case pretty much the same thing is going to happen to it and the pilot (it's just like if you jumped from a 100' or a 1000' building, what happens to you will pretty much be the same thing), and that being comfortable at 500' AGL but freaked out at 2500' doesn't make sense. Flying at a higher altitude, if anything, is just going to increase your safety because you are farther away from obstructions on the ground, and you have more altitude for recovery from loss of control, engine failures, and more options for emergency LZ's. Explain to your student that if she's going to be afraid at 2500' then she should also be (more) afraid at 500'. Ideally, a pilot should get more comfortable with increasing altitude(to a certain point of course; I wouldn't say flying an R-22 at 10,000' is safer than 500' :lol: ).

 

Hope this is clear and makes sense.

 

JPDPilot

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