Flight Training - March 2013 - 27

is as likely as a stranger showing up at
your door with a check for $10 million.
If the knowledge of how and why stalls
and spins occur doesn’t ease the student's
fear, only treating the fear with systematic
desensitization or cognitive behavioral
therapy will help.
Even if you’ve never heard of systematic
desensitization, you’re likely familiar with
the practice. This is a technique in which
a patient faces a specific phobia through
gradually increasing exposure. Let’s say
the patient is afraid of spiders. Step one
of the treatment may be to simply say the
word “spider” and visualize one. Step 10
(usually there are 10 steps) will be to actually hold the creepy, crawly buggers. Each
step represents an escalating amount of
exposure, although exposure isn’t the only
part of the treatment.
Clinical psychologist and flight instructor Michelle Kole says the patient must
address the physiological response as
well. “It takes a lot of work,” she said.
“You must practice deep relaxation
techniques.” And, honestly, most instructors aren’t professional psychologists.
But that doesn’t preclude us from
employing the basic technique of graded
exposure to stalls.
Just saying “stall” and thinking about
the outcome can be scary for some students. They may imagine falling out of
the sky or even dying. Talk through the
maneuver and then work up to maybe
demonstrating it with a model, and so
on—through videos, simulation, slow
flight, and finally a lazy, power-off stall.
The key is to slowly escalate the exposure
to the fear until you’re ready to try it for

“

WHEN I INTRODUCE
STUDENTS TO STALLS, THE
FIRST ONE IS A POWER-OFF,
NO-FLAP, STRAIGHT-AHEAD
STALL—SO GENTLE, THEY
USUALLY SAY SOMETHING
LIKE ‘THAT WAS A STALL?’
THEN OVER THE COURSE
OF TWO TO THREE MORE
FLIGHTS, WE GRADUALLY
WORK UP TO FULL FLAPS
AND A POWER-ON STALL.

”

real. Given the amount of work involved
and the techniques required, Kole doesn’t
recommend a strict systematic desensitization approach. She does recommend
slowly stepping it up, however.
Kole said cognitive behavioral therapy
is probably easier and more effective.
The concept behind cognitive behavioral
therapy, or CBT, is that one can change
behavior by a change in thinking. “Positive self-talk is key,” she says. Fear is often
defined as the distressing feeling we have
as a result of a real or perceived threat.
CBT is aimed at addressing the threat
and changing our beliefs to minimize the
body’s fear response.
One of the biggest things we can do to
address the fear is to acknowledge it by
“testing the evidence,” Kole adds. The
conversation might go something like this:
Instructor: “Why are you afraid of
stalls?”
Student: “Because I knew someone who
died on the base-to-final turn by stalling
and spinning.”
Instructor: “I can understand that you
would be afraid as a result. Let’s talk about
what happened and why.”
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to
instead say something such as, “Well,
that’s rare. I wouldn’t worry about it. Just
don’t think about it.” This type of response
is far from helpful because not only will
the student not be over the root fear, he or
she will feel weak and unprepared as well.
Over time, a proper CBT strategy will
work up to something that involves a
positive coping statement for the student
that might sound like, “I know the wing
can stall, but I know that if the ball is in
the middle, it’s impossible for us to spin.”
To get to that point, Kole said students
should visualize themselves in the situation, being calm and handling it with
ease. And that might mean slowing down
a bit. She recommends sitting calmly in
the cockpit prior to the flight and simply
relaxing, almost in a meditative sense.
Stop thinking about maneuvers and radio
calls and how you’ll pay for the next three
lessons, and instead sit quietly and focus
only on your breathing. Athletes get in the
zone. So can pilots. Kole does this prior
to flying aerobatics, and she said it helps

“

FULLY ARMED WITH
REAL INFORMATION, I
DEMONSTRATE THAT THE
AIRCRAFT HAS SIMPLY
ENTERED INTO A DIFFERENT,
NOT INHERENTLY DANGEROUS (SAVE FOR SPINS AND
RAPID DESCENT WHEN
TOO LOW TO THE GROUND)
FLIGHT REGIME. THUS, I
HAVE KEPT MY STUDENTS
FROM EVER BEING AFRAID
OF STALLS. THEY ARE JUST
ANOTHER PART OF THE
FLIGHT ENVELOPE.

”

tremendously. “Either you can calm your
mind and your body will follow, or you
can calm your body and your mind will
follow,” she said.
Many people use systematic desensitization and CBT to overcome stalls,
whether or not they know it by the clinical
terms. We asked members of a few online
groups for their ideas on getting over the
fear of stalls and many of the answers
involve techniques that relate directly to
one of the two methods. And no wonder—
study after study has confirmed that both
systematic desensitization and CBT work
to reduce specific phobias. In the case of
stalls, these are mostly likely the fear of
falling or the fear of death.
Pilot Samuel Weaver is a perfect
example. Weaver said he was very nervous
about power-on stalls from the beginning,
but usually dealt with them fine. Then one
day, “I started to feel the left wing falling
and added right aileron. Oops, bad idea,”
he said. “The wings started to roll level
and then the plane suddenly dropped over
into an incipient spin due to the adverse
yaw. I froze on the controls. Back on the
ground, I told my instructor that that was
the first time I had been really scared in
an airplane.” Weaver’s instructor took him
up in a Piper Cub to practice spins and
he said that, thanks to information and
experience, he is no longer afraid of stalls
or spins. But most important, he said his
instructor never pushed him.
Ian J. Twombly is editor of Flight Training magazine.
MARCH 2013 FLIGHT TRAINING

/ 27



Flight Training - March 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - March 2013

Flight Training - March 2013
Contents
President’s Perspective
Right Seat
Letters
Not What It Appears
After the Checkride
How It Works
ASI News Action
Training Products
Since You Asked
Member Products Final Exam
Checkride
Flight Lesson
Flying Carpet
The "S" Word
Women With Wings
Problem Solver
Technique
Weather
Aviation's Glass Ceiling
Career Advisor
Tech Talk
Juggling the Airplane
The Known to the Unknown
You're Not Done Yet
Advertiser Index
Debrief
Flight Training - March 2013 - Flight Training - March 2013
Flight Training - March 2013 - Cover2
Flight Training - March 2013 - 1
Flight Training - March 2013 - Contents
Flight Training - March 2013 - 3
Flight Training - March 2013 - President’s Perspective
Flight Training - March 2013 - 5
Flight Training - March 2013 - Right Seat
Flight Training - March 2013 - 7
Flight Training - March 2013 - Letters
Flight Training - March 2013 - 9
Flight Training - March 2013 - Not What It Appears
Flight Training - March 2013 - 11
Flight Training - March 2013 - After the Checkride
Flight Training - March 2013 - How It Works
Flight Training - March 2013 - ASI News Action
Flight Training - March 2013 - Training Products
Flight Training - March 2013 - Since You Asked
Flight Training - March 2013 - 17
Flight Training - March 2013 - Member Products Final Exam
Flight Training - March 2013 - Checkride
Flight Training - March 2013 - 20
Flight Training - March 2013 - Flight Lesson
Flight Training - March 2013 - Flying Carpet
Flight Training - March 2013 - 23
Flight Training - March 2013 - The "S" Word
Flight Training - March 2013 - 25
Flight Training - March 2013 - 26
Flight Training - March 2013 - 27
Flight Training - March 2013 - Women With Wings
Flight Training - March 2013 - 29
Flight Training - March 2013 - 30
Flight Training - March 2013 - 31
Flight Training - March 2013 - 32
Flight Training - March 2013 - 33
Flight Training - March 2013 - Problem Solver
Flight Training - March 2013 - 35
Flight Training - March 2013 - 36
Flight Training - March 2013 - 37
Flight Training - March 2013 - Technique
Flight Training - March 2013 - 39
Flight Training - March 2013 - Weather
Flight Training - March 2013 - 41
Flight Training - March 2013 - 42
Flight Training - March 2013 - Aviation's Glass Ceiling
Flight Training - March 2013 - Career Advisor
Flight Training - March 2013 - 45
Flight Training - March 2013 - Tech Talk
Flight Training - March 2013 - Juggling the Airplane
Flight Training - March 2013 - The Known to the Unknown
Flight Training - March 2013 - You're Not Done Yet
Flight Training - March 2013 - 50
Flight Training - March 2013 - Advertiser Index
Flight Training - March 2013 - 52
Flight Training - March 2013 - 53
Flight Training - March 2013 - 54
Flight Training - March 2013 - 55
Flight Training - March 2013 - 56
Flight Training - March 2013 - 57
Flight Training - March 2013 - 58
Flight Training - March 2013 - 59
Flight Training - March 2013 - 60
Flight Training - March 2013 - 61
Flight Training - March 2013 - 62
Flight Training - March 2013 - 63
Flight Training - March 2013 - Debrief
Flight Training - March 2013 - Cover3
Flight Training - March 2013 - Cover4
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