Fear of Flying - Valid Warnings or Much Ado about Nothing?

Fear of Flying – Valid Warnings or Much Ado about Nothing?

Admin Flex Air News

Despite a mountain of empirical evidence saying it has no real basis, fear of flying goes on and on. And on.

One indicator of its strength can be found in a Google search. Plug in keywords like “airplane fear”, activate the search, and over 35 million references appear. That’s definitely more than a few.

Some of those web references link to articles that concentrate on things that are statistically insignificant. In an article published in the Daily Mail and Reader’s Digest, for instance, Marissa Laliberte writes of the “5 buttons you hope your pilot never touches”:

  1. Engine fire handle – puts out engine fires.
  2. Ditching button – seals the plane’s underside in case of a water landing.
  3. 7500 distress code – puts the plane’s transponder in emergency mode.
  4. Passenger oxygen switch – drops oxygen masks if the cabin loses pressure.
  5. Emergency gear extension – deploys landing gear if hydraulics fail.

While these “buttons” are important, they are not used very often. Here’s how to put them in perspective:

First, learn the numbers. The Aviation Safety Network draws its data from a combination of domestic and international sources. One chart measures fatalities per million airliner flights over the past forty years. It graphs a clear downward slope from 4.25 fatalities per million flights in 1977 to 0.05 fatalities per million flights in 2016. That’s a 94.12% decrease over the 40-year period.

Second, assess the probabilities. According to planecrashinfo.com, a passenger’s odds of being fatally involved in a crash of a scheduled airliner are one in 4.7 million.

Third, do the math. At one in 4.7 million flights, if a passenger makes one flight a day, 365 days a year, it would take 12,877 years to guarantee a negative result.

Quoting safety statistics, however, is not enough. Darrell Davis writes in FlyFright.com that “. . . nearly 1 in 3 adult Americans is either:

Anxious about flying (18.1%); or, Afraid to fly (12.6%).”

Clearly, fear of flying involves something much more powerful than logic. Here are some theories:

Catastrophe. Aircraft accidents tend to be catastrophic, inhabiting spaces in our minds that disdain normal logic. As far as these brain-based trouble magnets are concerned, it doesn’t matter that 95% of people involved in commercial air accidents survive them. It’s still something to worry about.

Claustrophobia. Most commercial airliners are claustrophobic spaces, limiting movement and visual range, jamming strangers into confined spaces, interfering with their normal coping mechanisms.

Loss of Control. Flying in a commercial jet involves loss of control, which increases stress in many people. The leading suspects are those who are most “in control” in their non-flying lives.

Other Passengers. Even the calmest aircraft passengers can be infected by panicky or disruptive behavior in others.

Unusual Sounds and Sensations. Some industry experts believe that most people are unprepared for the sensations and sounds of flight, particularly new fliers. The bangs, booms, squeals and hisses can be loud enough to terrify.

Here are some remedies:

Be mindful of your state of mind. Acknowledge mentally when entering the plane that fears are likely to accompany you. Take some deep, cleansing breaths to relax and counter the stress.

Talk to yourself. Stop the fears running in your head by labeling them and reminding yourself that only good things are probable.

Introduce yourself to your seat-mates. First names, only, are fine. Establish a connection, facilitate ongoing communication and ease the tension of crowding.

Delegate control. If you value being in control, remember that a general is only as good as his/her ability to delegate key tasks. Give the Pilot and Crew their due silently as you enter the plane.

Avoid drama. If someone near you is getting hysterical, focus on remaining calm, while seeking help from a flight attendant.

Get some training that focuses on aircraft noises, motions, maneuvers and components. There are plenty of websites and courses that will provide you with this information.

The most important thing to remember about flying in commercial aircraft is how safe it is. Armed with this knowledge, and a few of the remedies listed above, you should be able to convert your fearful flights into enjoyable experiences.