Handling Passengers Part 4: Sickness

Many people are susceptible to air sickness. In fact, it is a common fear that people have about flying.

The reality is that air sickness can affect anyone. As a student pilot you may have felt naseaus or dizzy practicing ground reference maneuvers or steep turns.

As you gain more experience flying you tend to get used to it and naseau becomes more rare.

However, your passengers have not become used to it and could become sick even on the calmest of days. Here are some tips to handle this situation.

Preventing Sickness

One of the best ways to keep your passengers from getting sick is by not mentioning it to them. Air sickness is often mental and it can be triggered by thinking about it.

However, you can look for subtle clues that someone is on their way to feeling bad.

  • Are they talking less?
  • How about their body language? Do they look frozen like they are trying to keep it together?
  • Ask, “how are you doing?”, or “So what do you think of this whole flying thing?” to try to get an idea of their sickness without triggering it.
  • Taking pictures through a camera can often cause symptoms so be especially vigilant if your passengers are doing this.

Handling Sickness

If a passenger reports that they are sick

  • Give them a bag, just in case. You should always have a bag, but if you don’t then offer them the window.
  • Tell them to look at the distant horizon. This can quickly clear up motion sickness and help your passenger to feel calmer.
  • Get some air flowing. Open windows or vents and give them some fresh air.
  • Fly gently. This is obvious but deliberately fly gently. If the air is bumpy use your turbulent air penetration procedure for best results.
  • Land the plane. Get back to firm ground so they can get out and feel better….this flight is over.

I have been extremely fortunate in all of my time flying to never have someone throw up in the plane. I have flown with people who began feeling sick and the steps above always made my passengers feel better. However, if your passengers are suddenly feeling ok again, I do not recommend continuing the flight. It won’t take much for their symptoms to kick back in.