Monday, 4 July 2011

Fear of Flying - Part 3: Why You'll Be OK

After a bit of a break from this series (I have a good excuse, honest!), I've finally come back to it. Today I want to cover dealing with not being in control on the flight.

Firstly, I'm not always the most trusting of people, so I've in the past been a bit suspicious of allowing other people to be in control of my safety. What if the people who build and maintain the planes are lazy, or what if the pilots are dodgy? Well I looked into this and here's what I found...

Hopefully this kid is not flying the plane! 
  • To be a pilot on a major airline you have to have already flown thousands of hours.
  • Pilots are continously tested and retrained all the time to make sure they're still fit to fly (on a flight I was on the other week they actually had a senior pilot along for the flight to inspect everything the pilots were doing).
  • They have to undergo extensive and invasive medical tests every few months too.
  • Aviation authorities often do surprise checks of planes to make sure the mechanics are up to scratch.
  • Airplane manufacturers want to make money! If it got out that their planes were defective or unsafe nobody would buy them anymore, so it's in their best interest to make them properly.
  • Planes are made with a lot of back ups, just in case. For example, they usually have multiple engines, but they only need one to fly. There are back up electricity generators, and also there is a lot of excess fuel just in case the plane needs to circle the airport for a while or needs to be diverted to another airport for some reason.
If this doesn't reassure you much, and you still don't like not being in control, here are some things that you can control:
  • Which airline you choose to fly with - look up stats of the safest airlines here
  • Where you sit on the plane, apparently sitting at the back is the safest.
  • What you do on the plane: consider relaxation techniques, choose your thoughts (rational thinking about how safe pilots and planes are etc.), choose what you ingest (caffeine is an anxiogenic - it increases anxiety so stick to water), read the safety manual and take note of exits just in case.
  • Talk to the flight attendants and you can even ask to talk to the Captain about whether bad weather is expected and how safe things are going to be. Airlines are increasingly aware that people fear flying and if you mention you're uneasy they'll do their best to make you feel more comfortable. 
I have done all of the above to make me feel more comfortable - even including the talking to a flight attendant (I realised my mild social phobia for talking to strangers was less than my fear of flying) and I have to say it really did help me considerably. Most of these can also be generalised to deal with other fears as well. Hope this helped! Still to come are: why media reports on crashes are biased and some stats to reassure you flying is safe; and a bit on understanding how flying works and why turbulence and bad weather is not a problem. Stay tuned!

A lot of this information is taken from this wonderful guide by a pilot. I suggest you check it out.


  1. Wow that is a fantastic idea! When I was little I was so terrified of flying that I would work myself into such a tizzy the night before a flight that I couldn't sleep.

    My mom always tried to reassure me by telling me a human being is more likely to be struck by lightening then die in a plane crash. Well, then I saw that one movie about a guy who got struck by lightening all the time.

    Needless to say my mother's advice did NOT make me feel any better.

  2. Hi Lozzz123,

    I am a the wife of a major airline pilot, a captain to be exact! He has been flying for a major airline for 22 years!

    My husband was a "check airman" for years. Meaning he was the guy checking the other pilots and he is tough and "right down to business". He takes his job very seriously!

    I know what he goes through just to be able to sit in that cockpit and fly people from point A to point B. I know all the checks they do before every flight. I have sent both our children all over the world in planes. My daughter started flying across oceans when she was 11 years old, she has been to Europe twice.

    But with this all said, I know that the "fear of flying" is very real! I hope and pray that you will work through it! You seem to be approaching it in a good way! You understand what you have to do.

    I wish you all the best and if I can ever offer any words of encouragement, now you know where to find me!


  3. Yeah well since you are back on the ground and its only me who needs to fear the flight, I figure it's safe to share this post from a blogger I follow from a few days ago:

    Yeah. That is all I am going to say. YEAH!

  4. @Anide - YIKES. That is really horrible and scary, but also amazing that everything turned out fine! See how I positively reframed that? Hehe.

    Well now you should just go watch aircrash investigations as well and you'll be all set :S


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