IFR training - and motion sickness.


Well-Known Member
I have just kicked off with my Instrument training. I have one big problem though and that is motion sickness. I am generally fine when flying VFR with my head outside the cockpit (although I am a lousey passsenger), but put on the hood/foggles and it does not take much before I am starting to turn green (at which point my capacity to concentrate and function is greatly deminished).

Have any of you seasoned IFR pilots had this problem? Will I most likely become less sensitive to the motion sickness as my training progresses?

I have been looking at a product called the "Relief Band" which sounds promising. Has anyone here ever used one while flying an aircraft?

Any advice would be most appreciated..

Hi Paul,

I am a seasoned veteran of the motion sickness crew, battled it all throughout my private but oddly enough never really got airsick during instrument training, go figure. I have used the Relief Band and I can say I never got airsick with it on, I don't need it anymore and will be selling it on ebay if you wanna check that out it's the one that you can replace batteries on. But besides that I would suggest you fly often and maybe try doing your initial training at night when it's less bumpy. Also a big thing is being really smooth on your controls, don't go crazy trying to correct deviations, instead accept the error and apply very smooth and gradual corrections, I'm training a friend of mine now who almost makes me airsick because he man-handles the plane a lot.

Only other advice I can offer is to really try to concentrate more on the flying itself and try to ignore what you're feeling, which is something you're supposed to learn to do as part of Instrument flying, but whatever you do don't give up on instrumetn flying, for me it's the most rewarding form of flying available, especially those first few hours you spend in the clouds with a big grin on your face.

If I can think of any other suggestions I will, the only other fix for motion sickness that really worked well for me was the non-drowse Drammamine, you'll have to double check the FARs but I used to take it when I back-sat when I still got airsick and it worked like a charm, as far as flying under any medication it's usually a big no-no but if you have a CFII with you it may not hurt to give up PIC privillages a few times to help you get through some instrument flights, again tripple check the FARs and ask your CFII to make sure it's not illegal

Last thought is maybe ask your CFII to skip over some of the hood maneuvers, maybe just do a few cross countries under the hood to get used to spending lots of time on instruments w/out doing lots of turns, climbs, or descents, ok that's all I can think of for now ...

best of luck with it, don't give up ...
^ Thanks very much for your reply, great info. Don't worry, I won't give up on it, I am just concerned that I am not getting as much out of my lessons as I could because my performance drops off once the nausia sets in...

yea I know 100% what you mean, try out a few things and see if anything helps, I know til this day I get a little queezy if I haven't flown in a while so make sure you don't go too long between lessons. Also one other thing I'd suggest is doing some work on a simulator to bring your instrumetn scan up to speed, it may make you more confortable in the cockpit.

Keep me updated on how your progress goes ...
^ I am booked for 3 lessons a week, so hopefully this will be frequent enough for me to get through this. I ordered a Relief Band today (arrives Wednesday hopefully). With any luck that will help me. With reference to using a flight sim, that is exactly what I am doing
. I have MS FS2002 and I fly the approaches on the sim before I go out to do it for real. My instructor seems impressed with the flight analysis print outs I give him before we take off and do it for real. There are a few glitches (like for example, the ILS glideslope and Localiser are at the wrong end of the runway for Port Columbus 28L with the glideslope positioned at the far end of the runway and the localiser near the threshold), but flying the procedures on the sim has really helped.

I will let you know how I get on. Thanks very much for the good advice.

3 lessons per week should do the trick, then again I used to fly twice a day during my instrument training, i'm sure you'll be fine. MS Flight Sim is great for getting familiar with approaches and helping your scan. Just make sure that you have a good scan strategy (i.e. you know how you want to scan the instruments) so that you can practice that and not develop any bad habits when your CFII is not around. I personally am a big fan of the 4-Step "Music" scan method outlined by Rod Machado, it's worked great for me so far, especially a few weeks ago when I caught the Attitude Indicator going South on me in IMC in a Duchess. If you need any more info with that scan technique just email me ...

good luck again ...
^I had my first lesson today using the relief band. Really happy to report that I managed the entire lesson with no nausia (this is 1.4 hours under the hood).. In fact the lesson flew by before I knew it.

I am interested in learning about the "4 step Music Scan"... I will send you an email tomorrow... Thanks for all your help, very much appreciated.

It feels a little weird.. but not at all painful. It feels stronger when you first put it on.. but once you concentrate on flying the plane, the feeling seems to ease.. but you can feel it pulsing gently on your wrist and hand.
I am also interested in the music scan; I read Machado's instrument book front to back (and back to front again) and don't remember anything about it (but maybe I skipped it for some reason).
I wouldn't call myself a seasoned instrument pilot, but I did finish up my IFR rating in February and I had and still have similar problems. For me, its mostly the air work both with the hood on and off that gets me ill.

I tried the "sea bands" which are the mini sweat bands with little plastic nodules that press on your inner wrist. I never got sick with those but I think that was more mental. Haven't tried the battery operated ones, but after reading posts about success, I might just try it. I also tried dramamine/meclizine with some success, you just have to be careful with how those motion sickness drugs affect you. The motion sickness has definitely gotten better as I get more experience, but I had problems just the other day.

I was flying a practice approach with my father in law as the safety pilot and it was a fairly bumpy day and we had just done some stalls for practice, but I thought I was ok. After completing the procedure turn inbound, I started to get that not so funny feeling in my gut and the cold sweats started. I got down to the MDA on the VOR approach and I knew it was coming so I asked my father in law to take over once we were over the airport while I grabbed the barf bag. I thought I was going to impress my father in law with my newly acquired skills (I flew the approach pretty well), but I don't think i instilled much confidence in him by losing my lunch!

During my IFR training, the only motion sickness problem I had was on the first day when doing steep turns under the hood. No other problems until the other day. I hope the wristband continues to work for you and good luck with your training. Hang in there, it does get better.
Hi guys, it's been a while been kinda busy finishing up all the instructor ratings.

I hope the relief band is working for ya keep us posted on your progress.

As for the 4-Step Scan. It's not on the Machado book, it's on his video and according to him it was developed by some hard core airline check captain dude. I live by it and it's saved my butt a few times flying in the soup with a dying Attitude Indicator. Anyway here's the jist of it:

Music Scan: for those who don't know this is simply the process of scanning 2 or more instruments with 1 of the instruments as the primary. The "music" part of it is that you will be counting just as if you were counting the beat to music, such as "One and Two and One and Two and ... etc" I'll explain this further in step 2.

So here's the 4-step scan:

Step 1
Set the attitude (pitch/power/trim/bank) using Attitude Indicator. This assumes you have a very good idea of the attitude that will give you the desired performance (aka knowing your airplane)

Step 2
Inverted Music scan the inverted V instruments (TC, AI, VSI). We do this to verify that the AI is giving us correct information. So we'll check any turning trend with the TC and any altitude change trend with the VSI. Here's how the "music" scan goes for this step. You will look at the VSI and say "One", then look at the AI and say "and", then look at the TC and say "Two", back to the AI and say "and", then to the VSI and say "One", and so forth and so forth til you verify everything is Kosher. Now what's the importance of this you ask ? Well think for a second, these three instruments usually operate on three separate systems, AI (Vacuum ), TC (Electric), VSI (Pitot-Static). So we can see how this will help us find problems with any of the systems. What do we do when the instruments don't agree ? Well then you have to think. In the interest of keeping this short I'll just list what to do:
- AI and TC disagree: Use the Compass to verify turn
- AI and VSI disagree: Pull the alternate static source valve and verify climb/descent
The reason for using the compass and the alternate static source is that you can't rely on any other instrument that is part of any system that is suspect of being in error

Step 3
Music-scan Primary instruments and trim the airplane. Not gonna go into this much because the primary/supporting concept is in just about every book out there. Just remember there's always 3 primary instruments, one each for Pitch, Bank, and Power. Usually the primary instrument will be the one that gives you a numerical value for the desired performance. So for turning to a heading it's the HI, for holding altitude it's the Altimeter, Airspeed indicator for a constant speed climb, etc.
Alright so we do the same thing, music scan the primary instruments against the Attitude Indicator, this will help you trim out and get the airplane set up properly. So just for example here I'll go through the music scan in this step really quick. We just got our final approach clearance, "81H, turn left HDG 060, maintain 2000 til established, cleared ILS 3 approach". Ok so our primary instruments are Pitch (Altimeter), Bank (HI), Power(Airspeed Indicator, this may be questioned by some but it all depends on how you like to fly). Okay so same as with the Inverted V we look at say the Altimeter and say "one", back to the AI and say "and", look at the HI and say "two", back to the AI and say "and", etc etc etc. (this is so much easier to expalin in an airplane, lol) The basic purpose here is to maintain the attitude with the AI while refining it with the primary instruments.

Step 4 (finally)
Circular-scan the big 6. Huh ? yea this is the easy one and what most of our scans look like when we start flying instruments. Here we basically go around the big six instruments checking everything and making little corrections as necessary, this is what you will do when you're cruising most of the time.

Couple of things to keep in mind. Don't take everything literally, the purpose of the music scan is not just to say "one, and two, and, one, and , two, etc etc etc" The purpose is to force yourself to scan, it works trust me. A lot of times inexperience pilots have trouble with the scan because they don't force themselves to scan instruments, saying the one's and two's out loud or just to yourself helps you do this.

This method relies on the AI, this is why the inverted V procedure is so vital to seeing your grandchildren grow up. Why is it important to do this? well a lot of times when we get busy in the cockpit especially in single pilot IFR we will become overwhelmed with flying, navigating, communicating, etc, etc, etc. Using the music scan in these situations can really make your life simple. Say you're flying along and you start getting busy, everyone who's gone through instrument flight training has had the 90 degree heading and 300 foot altitude deviations when you go tune in the local VOR. Using the music scan, you will never be away from the attitude indicator for more than a few seconds when you accomplish other tasks. What I do is that I will be constantly verifying the AI using the inverted V scan. Like that when I get busy I can rely on my AI to scan against when I need to tune in a VOR or read a chart or anything else. You will basically music scan your "task" against the AI. So if you're tuning and ID'ing a VOR you will get the first few digits of the frequency in, then look at the AI and check your attitude, back to the VOR tuning, back to the AI, then back to the VOR to finish tuning or ID'ing, or getting the Ident from the chart, etc. If you find yourself staying on the VOR or any "task" for too long and your attitude changes, start saying the "one", "and", and "two's" out loud, it will remind you to go back to the AI

One other thought. This doesn't mean that you forget about al the other instruments, remember you still have supporting instruments and don't forget to monitor the engine instruments periodically. Just do what feels comfortable, this is by no means a complete explanation so if you want to try it make sure you understand what to do.

Alright my hands are very tired, I used to be a software engineer and typed all day but now I can barely type all this w/out my hands freaking out.

Hope this helped some. If you're interested get the Rod Machado video he explains it much better than this. I will also try to put this into a good document and e-mail privately to anyone who is interested but I'll shoot out an e-mail to Rod to make sure he won't sure me or something. J/K he's a nice guy....

Alright that's it for today, any questions or comments feel free to PM or e-mail me at hbenalcazar@yahoo.com ...
Yeah, you'll get over it too. I'm about 30 hours into the ir and am having a ball. I too experienced motion sickness and vertigo something fierce. With just just about every power and pitch change I felt like I was going to get sick....You will get over it. My instructor suggested that when I'm felling that way to look at the only at the AI for about 5-10 second. That really helped. Also, still on every flight for about 5 minutes I feel really disoriented and have to fight the feeling but after that I'm ok. Hang in there as things will get better and a heckofalot more fun. You CAN do it!

It's not on the Machado book, it's on his video and according to him it was developed by some hard core airline check captain dude. I live by it and it's saved my butt a few times flying in the soup with a dying Attitude Indicator.

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Permanent_Hypoxia, THANKS for the explainiation!!!! Now that I've read it... I do remember what you are talking about:

The gentleman who came up with the Music Scan is none other than Ralph Butcher; he is a retired airline captain who is a columnist in 'Flight Training', and he is the cheif instructor at a Southern California flight school (I got to fly with the guy once on my stage III private: GREAT pilot).

He has also written syllabuses (umm... syllabui???) and training overviews in very easy - to - read books; I acutally have the Private and the Instrument Books; they are both great, and the instrument book goes over the Music Scan.
Permanent_Hypoxia, thanks for taking the time to go through all of that! I will try out this technique on Sunday when I next fly.

As for the motion sickness, with the help of the band, things are greatly improved. I have started wearing the band but not switching it on until I start to feel the first twinges of queziness. Doing this I have managed to push out my tolerance level to about an hour and a half. With the band switched on at the start of a long lesson, I feel no nausia for the duration.

I am taking my Knowledge test on Monday, then it is just the 250nm cross country flight and brushing up on partial panel etc before preparing for the oral and scheduling a checkride.

Keeping my fingers crossed ......
Just use the relief band! I got airsick on my first flight ever and then again a couple times during the instrument ratings, especially while sitting in the back seat of an archer during steep turns and stalls. Even if the relief band is a placedo effect or if it works scientifically, whatever, it does work! Eventually you'll find you'll start using it less and less, and by the time you start shooting approaches under the hood all on your own, you'll probably be so busy you won't have time to think one second about air sickness! Good luck!