Medical Handbook For Pilots Chapter 15 – Motion Sickness

Although motion sickness is uncommon among experienced pilots, it does occur once in a while. If you have ever been its victim, you know how uncomfortable it is. Most important, it jeopardizes your flying efficiency-particularly in turbulent weather and in instrument conditions when peak skill is required. Student pilots are frequently surprised by an uneasiness usually described as motion sickness. This is probably a result of combining a bit of anxiety, unfamiliarity, and the bit of bumping received from the airplane and is quickly overcome with experience.

Motion sickness is caused by continued stimulation of the tiny portion of the inner ear which controls your sense of balance. The symptoms are progressive. First, you lose your desire for food, then saliva collects in your mouth and you begin to perspire freely. Eventually, you become nauseated and disoriented. Your head aches and you may have to vomit. If the air sickness becomes severe enough, you may become completely incapacitated.

If you are susceptible to airsickness, do not take the preventive drugs which are available over the counter or by prescription (unless, of course, you are a passenger in someone else’s airplane). These medications may make you drowsy or depress your brain functions in other ways. Careful research has shown that most motion sickness drugs cause a temporary deterioration of navigational skills or other tasks demanding keen judgment.

If you suffer from airsickness while piloting your aircraft, open up the air vents, loosen your clothing, use oxygen, and keep your eyes on a point outside the airplane. Avoid unnecessary head movements. Then cancel your flight plan and land as soon as possible.