Up until the age of 35, I had absolutely no fear of flying. Like many people, I would get nervous from time to time when there was a lot of turbulence, but overall I was fine. Something changed when I hit 35; I now struggle with intense fear every time I board a plane. Seeing as though I love to travel and visit new places, this new fear is not going to work for me. I’ve done a lot of reading and found some great tips that have really helped me deal with the fear.
The chances of dying in a plane crash is almost non-existent; about 1 in 5 million according to the Economist, 1 in 11 million according to some sources, and 1 in 29 million according to fearofflying.com. The chance of dying in a car accident is 1 in about 5 thousand; or 100 times more deadly than flying. Apparently, there is also an App called “Am I going down” that shows what the chance is your plane will crash. I personally have not tried this App, as I only want the results to be zero. However, as an example, a flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles gives a 1 in 4 million chance that your plane will crash using this App. So if you’re a numbers person, this should help ease your fear.
Logic does not always fully relieve our fears. Much of my fear is driven by a lack of control. I understand how safe air travel is, but would feel much safer if I was flying the plane (which in reality would be a disaster). This fear is particularly hard to manage. As I board the plane sometimes I just say over and over “I am not in control of the plane, and that is ok.” The pilots are extremely well trained and have thousands of hours of flying under their belts; they know what they are doing. Just because I am not in control does not mean things will go badly. Relax, read a book, watch a movie, take a nap; enjoy not having to be in control for once!
Regardless of how many statistics I read and phrases I chant, anxiety inevitably crops up during turbulence. When it does, it helps to put the turbulence in context. Envision yourself in a car driving down a bumpy road with a glass of water in the cup holder. The car jumps all over the place, and the glass of water spills all over the cup holder. Now, recall the last time you were on a plane with turbulence. If you’re anything like me, it felt as though the plane was falling from the sky and I was sure we were all doomed. Look at the water glass on your tray table and you will notice how little it actually moves. Most turbulence is not severe enough to make it spill. If you compare your car ride to your plane ride, you can better understand how little the plane is actually moving.
Another tip is if you are sitting over the wings, look out the window and see how much the wings are moving during periods of turbulence. Even during more severe turbulence, the wings stay pretty steady.
There are always those flights in which turbulence is particularly bad; drinks spill, luggage shifts, and passengers may become injured. However, even severe turbulence is incredibly unlikely to cause a plane crash. Avoid injury by heeding the fasten seat belt signs and listening to flight attendant instruction, and you should land at your destination safe and sound.
Mechanics meticulously inspect the plane before each flight. If that doesn’t ease your mind, all major systems on your airplane have a backup; some even have a backup for the backup. And if all systems fail, just know that the plane will glide and your pilot does know how to land a plane without computerized systems. Planes do not just fall out of the sky, even if if there is a mechanical issue. Airplanes are built to glide; that’s what those wings are for!
There is a great website called fearofflying.com that includes more detailed information regarding the mechanics of flying and why you should not be worried. The website also offer a free online class that I would recommend taking before your next flight. It helped me immensely when this fear starting cropping up.
Hopefully these tips help ease the mind of some of you nervous flyers. I’m writing this as I’m about to board a flight myself; 14 hours to Singapore (read about my trip here). If I’m smart, I’ll follow my own advice because I know it works.