I admit it, I am afraid to fly. And I’m not alone, as many as 1 in 6 adults has at least some fears about flying. For me it’s definitely not a rational fear. In fact all my analytical and logical skills fly right out the window whenever I think about getting on a commercial plane. The most amazing part is that I grew up flying. My father owns a small plane and we would go flying every weekend.
In my preteen years I had an aborted takeoff during a commercial flight and while it didn’t scare me at all during the event, when I later found out that it had made the local news I began to see that this was perhaps a bigger deal (it really wasn’t but I was a preteen after all). I also began to recognize my own mortality and realized that I am a control freak and don’t enjoy the thought of putting my life in the hands of pilots I don’t know.
However, I’m gradually working my way out of my fears and back into a state of mind that is not afraid. It’s taking me a lot of time, but I make progress everyday.
My first technique is to get a large inside picture of a commercial plane (preferably one that I’ll be flying in soon) and make it the background image of my computer desktop. This way, every time I get on my computer I’m looking toward the front of an airplane as if I am a passenger. Initially this worked so well my pulse would race and my breathing rate went up. I’ve now conditioned myself to seeing that image so it no longer bothers me.
I also like to watch internet videos of planes taking off and landing. My favorite videos are those that are taken from inside the plane, looking out the window at the wing; hearing the roar of the engines and seeing the ground fall away beneath the plane as it rises upon takeoff. Sitting in my recliner with headphones on and watching those videos enables me to participate in a takeoff without actually being on the plane.
I can condition myself to the sights and sounds I would normally experience.
I’ve found several helpful online courses designed to give information to fearful flyers. I use them a lot as I get closer to departure, and I’ve bought every book I can find about conquering one’s fear of flying. I take them with me, I read them often.
I don’t watch news clips or specials about airplane crashes. The media sensationalizes airplane crashes simply because they happen so rarely. That also means they repeat that horrific story over and over, scaring the wits out of unsuspecting people.
There are dozens of helpful statistics about the safety of air travel; The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says your chances of being in a fatal plane crash are anywhere from 1 in 400,000 to 1 in 10 million depending on the airline you’re flying.
To someone who has a genuine fear of flying those numbers don’t mean anything when you’re locked in a steel tube with no way of setting foot on the ground until AFTER you’ve gone through takeoff, landing and turbulence.
I recognize that I need help and am trying to look at air travel from a logical perspective again. Each trip I hope to get a little better. If you are suffering from a similar fear, I encourage you to go through the various online resources available and seek additional professional help if your fears are strong enough and you are unable to get through them on your own. It’s ok. We can get through this and learn to enjoy (or at least tolerate) this means of travel in order to take that awesome vacation, see family or fulfill the requirements of a great job.