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Michael Hsu How New Pilots Can Overcome In-flight Anxiety

by Radhe Gupta

Michael Hsu is a confident private pilot with his certification as an instrument-rated pilot. But, he also acknowledges that he has experienced a raised level of in-flight anxiety when flying through inclement weather. This fight-or-flight reaction of the nervous system is perfectly normal when faced with a possible life-threatening situation.

The fight-or-flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event perceived as stressful or frightening. Michael Hsu has discovered that the physical symptoms may include a faster heartbeat, increased blood pressure, cold sweats, and possibly trembling or extreme muscle tension.

Experience, experience, experience!

Oddly enough, one of the best ways for new pilots to overcome in-flight anxiety is to gain as many flight hours as possible. Nothing calms the nerves like knowing you’ve been through the same or similar flying scenario before and come out safely on the other side.

Much of flying has to do with following procedures, Michael Hsu says. So when fear kicks in, it’s always better to know how to react – automatically! Even better, experience teaches you how to recognize danger signs before they become a problem. And half the battle is knowing what may happen, even before it happens.

Understand your aircraft

If you’ve flown consistently in the same aircraft, then Michael Hsu says you should be familiar with the movements and the noises the plane makes. For instance, the sound a plane makes when the pilot reduces speed after takeoff can be jarring.

Likewise, wind shear, torrential rain, and other weather events can make your aircraft act in an odd but reliably consistent manner. Knowing your aircraft and understanding how it may react to different events is key to preventing anxious moments in light.

Reign in your imagination

If an emergency occurs while you are flying an aircraft, this is not the time to imagine what may happen. Stick to practices and procedures, and make sure you’re following every safety guideline you’ve been taught. A great way to calm devilish thoughts is to speak with an air traffic controller or another calming and experienced person.

Michael Hsu has experienced how an air traffic controller’s calm and professional demeanor can be just what the doctor orders to ease anxious thoughts.

In the end, if you trust your aircraft and have planned for inclement weather, there is no need to become anxious. And for inexperienced or new pilots, ensure you’re aware of possible weather patterns in your flight path and consider alternate routes before takeoff.

Michael Hsu believes that while some anxiety is natural and helpful, too much can compound matters. Staying calm helps you better observe your environment and make judgments based on facts instead of fear.

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