Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
By Echo Delta
Flying under Pressure

Pilot X flies north on a business trip in his immaculate Saratoga – his first serious use of a beautiful aircraft. What could possibly spoil his carefully planned day?

Pilot X knew that, today, he had truly arrived in the world of aviation. Sure, there had been plenty of times over the last four years when he thought he’d made it: his first flight, his first solo, the day his PPL dropped onto the doormat and, recently, the day that he’d passed his IMC rating – but this was definitely it, the day that X arrived.
He took a few minutes just to stand and gaze at the gleaming, sleek lines of the Piper Saratoga, shining from the recent drizzle in the weak, February sun. It resembled some of the things that he’d flown previously but this aeroplane was just so much more. That long nose and all those windows tapering down to the tail – a real, go-somewhere aircraft. Last summer’s sun, which he’d been enjoying when he first read about the share for sale in this beauty, seemed a long way off – but the description of her as being immaculate was no less true. He’d fallen head over heels for her at first sight and felt the same again this morning.
Getting to know this aircraft had, in truth, been something of a love/hate relationship for Pilot X; he had great affection for her but the increase in workload that he’d found when transitioning from the Warrior he’d grown used to was massive. Not only was he now starting to really see what his IMC rating had been all about, he was also getting used to a constant-speed prop and a retractable undercarriage – wobbly props and disappearing Dunlops as the group’s almost tame instructor liked to call them.
They’d had an interesting time together, converting X to this new type. If he was entirely honest, there’d been occasions on which he thought that he’d overstretched himself just a bit…
It was after the very first trip that the headaches really started; he’d had something similar once or twice while doing the IMC rating but they were much less pronounced than of late. X was fairly sure that it was just down to the added pressure he was under. Even so, just before Christmas, with the headaches growing in intensity each time he flew, he admitted that he wasn’t getting any younger and visited the opticians for the very first time. A pair of reading glasses had eventually and somewhat grudgingly been ordered, but he was told that he didn’t need them for flying. The headaches must just be a matter of stress and the demands he placed on himself, rather than the onset of middle-age that he’d feared.

Whistling walkround
Today was going to be something different, though – his first really long-distance trip alone in the Saratoga: East Anglia to the North of Scotland for a business meeting, all in not much more than two hours. Already it was mid-morning and the meeting was at two; he found it stunning
that his planning had shown that this could actually work.
He whistled as he did his walkround and took his time running through the start, taxi out and pre-flight checks. Everything seemed just right, exactly as it should be and he lined up for his first real use of his share in this aeroplane. He knew that this was more aircraft than he truly needed today but it was the only one he owned; well, owned a fifth of, anyway. He tensed his right leg slightly against the rudder...
Climbing out at a smidge over 90kt the view forward was of a white overcast and in not much more than the time it took for the gear to show up and locked, the side windows turned white, too. Only a minute later he burst out into that brightness that only skiers and pilots know and he grinned to himself, even though he was still working hard. In what seemed like no time at all he was at FL85 heading for Ottringham and, with the endless white expanse before him, he relaxed and felt right at home.
The trip went exactly as he’d planned and even better than he’d hoped, though the clouds had unexpectedly risen up to meet him the further north he flew. He felt the first bead of sweat form on his forehead as he reduced power and rpm and set the mixture for descent; he knew what he’d been taught but it all still felt foreign – especially that extra lever to think of. The headache followed soon afterwards; at first there was just a dull ache above the left eyebrow, spreading to the right as he descended…

Searing hot poker
He was concentrating hard on the instruments now, screwing his eyes up against the ever-rising pain, trying to read the numbers through eyes wet from the sweat running down his brow.
A stabbing, twisting feeling at the bridge of his nose forced him to momentarily close his eyes against the burning sensation. He shook his head and blinked away hot tears as he tried to control his descent.
When he finally broke through the cloud everything happened a little bit faster than he would have liked and the agony was still corkscrewing through his forehead, but at least he’d made it. There’d been times, descending through that unending white, with the searing hot poker above his eyes making it almost impossible to focus on the instruments, that he thought he’d never get this far. Now it was almost over.
He was a little bit higher than he’d have liked and much too fast but, through the stabbing sensations, he managed to line up for what was a pretty much perfect approach – or at least the last few hundred feet of one.
The sweat was actually dripping into his eyes from the combination of concentration and pain as he rounded out. The aircraft sinking and sinking and sinking until it made contact with the runway, a screeching of metal and then a series of thuds as the propeller bit chunks out of the asphalt.
His heart seemed to sink right through his stomach and the sweat felt as though it had instantly frozen on his crumpled brow. Pilot X had arrived.

1 What might have been the cause of X’s headaches?
2 What should X have done when he first started to experience the headaches?
3 What could X have done when the symptoms started in this flight?
User avatar
By mo0g
To me it sounds like a classic sinusitis, or more specifically aerosinusitis.

He should have consulted his GP, or better an AME.

If you know it is sinusitis you can often prevent/clear the problem by holding your nose and blowing, to equalise the air pressure in the sinuses. Having suffered from this myself I would want to be on the ground as soon as possible - however if you get it during descent the obvious thing to do is climb again and then descend more slowly to give your sinuses more time to equalise.

You can also use decongestants like sudofed.
By chipmeisterc
Interesting TWD as I recently posted a thread concerned about the headaches I was experiencing post flight. This does sound a bit like sinistis. The solution in my case was quite simple, a pair of sunglasses. Hours of squinting out the window seems to have been the cause. Ever since wearing shades no issues! :D
I would also guess a blocked escutcheon tube or sinusitis. He should immediately have gone to a doctor rather than an optician and sorted the problem. Holding the nose and blowing mightve helped but it's not guaranteed.
Lowering the gear might've minimised future headaches!
By chipmeisterc
Charles Hunt wrote:And you finally look like a proper pilot!

:D Funny you say that, I left them in the aircraft when we arrived at Dunkeswell so when I walked in next to Yossi (passenger) wearing his Raybans and clutching his flight bag for the return leg..they clearly assumed that he was the pilot.

This was fine though...he was the one they made coff up for the landing fee :lol:
User avatar
By Gertie
Sir Morley Steven wrote:He should immediately have gone to a doctor rather than an optician


However, just sometimes, doctors can't sort headaches and opticians can. I had a very bad headache for weeks which the doctors couldn't do anything about, and which the optician sorted in a minute by bending my glasses back straight.
User avatar
By Jim Jones
I have suffered baratrauma. It was directly linked to my first flights in light aircraft when suffering from snuffles. I had persistent head aches which I put down to tight headset /noise/tension.

It peaked when a pax on Jet2 descending into Nice. The pain was excruciating and would have made landing a GA aircraft really difficult. Valsaver manoeuvre sorted it eventually but I had a dull ache for a week.

All the signs were there for pilot X and the IMSAFE mantra plus applying the knowledge from Human Performance may have flagged it up sooner. My GP cottoned on when he asked about hobbies and I said I'd been "doing a bit of flying."

Saved a referral to neuro and a scan.
User avatar
By Sir Morley Steven
Gertie wrote:
Sir Morley Steven wrote:He should immediately have gone to a doctor rather than an optician


However, just sometimes, doctors can't sort headaches and opticians can. I had a very bad headache for weeks which the doctors couldn't do anything about, and which the optician sorted in a minute by bending my glasses back straight.

Indeed. But, in this case, if you read it again, he concludes that his long sight wasn't connected to his headaches.
By johnm
Interesting I have a dysfunctional Eustachian tube and routinely have to perform the Valsalva manoeuvre when descending. It hasn't resulted in severe headaches though, so I guess that must be sinus related.
User avatar
By KNT754G
You can also use decongestants like sudofed.

I can't find the reference right now but I have most definitely seen an AIC in the past which specifically BANNED the use of sudafed with flying duties due to the side effects of pseudo effedrine hydrochloride.
By berbles
I reckon it could have been CO poisoning. That would have explained the failure to properly run through the pre-landing checks resulting in that noisy landing.....
User avatar
By tomshep
Agreed Berbles. Bad headache from the first trip, worse than those while under pressure of IMC training. It seems to tie to the aircraft. Ground run and CO monitor before it flies again. Maybe it isn't Pilot X's fault after all?