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Do you have a Fear of Flying?

If you don't have time to read the article below, if you are in a rush and really want to conquer the fear of flying right now, check this Self-study ways and lessons to conquer the fear of flying from a renowned pilot who will guide you and comfort you that flying shouldn't be causing you anxiety, stress and fear. Do it while you are still thinking about it...and travel the world!". See you on the plane!

Dying to see the world but fear is preventing you from doing so ?

Do you want to see the world but couldn't ~ because you are afraid to fly? Do you limit yourself seeing places that you can reach only by ground transportation?  Do you really want to see, explore and experience those places you've been reading and hearing about but you are getting anxiety just thinking about it?  Do you have tons of money to spend but could not - or would not dare go to beautiful countries and cities because you have to take an airplane flight to get there? Then you have a fear of flying!

OK, you may skip the rest of the article now and go directly to the solutions to your fear of flying

Do you have a fear of flying? Yes - you do,  and - you are not alone! I read somewhere that more men than women are afraid to fly. I also read several news article about this and that famous people are afraid to fly. I have been trying to find out who among the ex presidents are afraid of flying but could not find any info about that. Anyway, I am not a stranger to that fear. I have lots of fears, anyway - and - by the way - that's one of the character traits of people who are afraid of flying.  A person who is afraid of other things, have fear of other things and situations are more prone to have a fear of flying. More of that later.....

Why are we afraid of flying?

Let me count the ways.....

1) Negative thinking.

Before I worked for an airline, I really had no knowledge of what goes on in an airplane. I didn't know any of the airline terms, for example.  I didn't know anyone inside the airplane.  No one to talk to. Surprisingly, though, my first flight to the U.S. was thousands of miles - a "long haul" flight "over the water" - as they say in airline lingo.  That first time was the time that I left my parents and sisters from my country to come to the U.S. where I knew no one but a pen-pal. But anyway,  I was busy crying as soon as the plane took off, to the time I landed. I was 28 years old then,  single, coming to the U.S. to get married. I was so pre-occupied with a lot of things that I did not have time to think to fear about my flight - or not. This first flight story will tell us that, if we are busy thinking of "frightful things", we will not think of being fearful during our flights.  During my first flight, I went half-way around the world, over the water, on a packed 747 that stopped in Honolulu (HNL).  then continued on to San Francisco (SFO). My mind was so busy. No time to be fearful. Some people are afraid to fly because every time they are on an airplane, they thoughts are filled with negativity, i.e., the plane crashing, their plane dropping on the ocean and drowning, etc. I think the worst thing for any passenger could experience is people's fear of terrorists (and terrorism). After Sept 11, paranoia prevailed. Seemed like more and more people got scared of flying. I supervised a flight from a major international city going to Memphis (MEM), when I was informed by the captain that the flight was not going. I asked why and was told a passenger reported a 'suspicious' character on board. I informed the necessary departments, authorities, main operations control about the situation. When the airport were called, they immediately questioned the concerned passenger and narrated why she believed that the other passenger was a 'terrorist'. (I saw the gentleman, he was wearing Bermuda shorts and thong slippers. He was connecting from a trip from Honolulu (HNL). I looked at his Passenger Name Record (PNR), or also called 'itinerary', and I found that he was a frequent flier passenger who used his miles to fly from New Jersey (EWR) to HNL, and back to EWR through Memphis (MEM). He had below the shoulder hair and a long beard. The female passenger (whom I notice was now shaking), informed the flight attendants that she saw the gentleman "feeling" below the seat in front of him and thought that was suspicious. But of course, she was concerned because of his looks. He didn't look Middle Eastern to me, but I believe that because of his beard, he was mistakenly thought of as one. I interviewed the flight attendants, majority of them were not worried about the gentleman, but there was one flight attendant who acted so nervous and told me that she "wants the passenger off the plane". I believe that she was the one who asked the captain to get the guy out of that flight. While I was talking to the crew members, the cops requested that all the 'suspicious' passengers belongings will be inspected. They brought in a sniffing dog and found nothing. They sent his belongings back to the x-ray machines to be x-rayed; found nothing. I watched as the authorities combed through the passenger's belongings with a fine toothed comb - still found nothing. They patted him down, checked everything, found nothing. The gentleman was explaining to the cops and the captain that his daughter is waiting for him (it's her birthday -and that he was not a terrorist (I believed him!), but because of the concerns of a single passenger and a flight attendant, the Captain decided to delay the flight to get the passenger off his flight. I apologized profusely to the suspect passenger, and informed him that I would be putting him on First Class seat on a different airline. He was upset because of the disruption and the delay but of course, there was nothing he could do. The first airline had to pay for a First Class seat for him in another airline (what made the authorities think that putting him in a different airline makes air travel for that airline safer - I don't have any idea, but my hands were tied). I emphatized with the passenger on the situation that he was dealt with and he was appreciative of that. Actually, several passengers vouched for him and they were so mad at the nervous flyer for creating the delay (some passengers needed to be rebooked and accommodated on different flight because of the delay).  Some passengers even suggested to remove the nervous female, instead of the suspected terrorist male passenger. In this kind of panic situation, the Captain always rules! If the Captain had said OK after the suspect passenger cleared all the security checks, he could be back on board on the same airplane. But, he made it on a First Class seat in a different airline, but I am pretty sure he was so embarrassed. Personally, I would classify the nervous passenger as having some psychological problems, but, of course, I was not in a position to say anything, also because I was the designated General Security Coordinator for my airline (which meant I had to make sure that everyone is safe :-).

2) Psychological Reasons.

According to the psychologists, any fear and panic attacks are symptoms, not cause.  For some people, the thought of being in an airplane for a long period of time, maybe over the water, the thought of being over the mountains, creates high anxiety.  The term for fear of flying (according to Wikipedia) is Pteromerhanophobia (wow! that's a long term!).  Like other panic attacks, it is the fear of the unknown that's causes a person to be afraid of things and situations which they do not know a lot about. This fear can also be attributed to claustrophobia (being confined in a closed space), because an airplane is a closed metal space. Or it may be because of a person's fear of heights (acrophobia). Another reason is being not be able to be in control of a situation, and if a person is used to being 'in control' he/she will not be in control inside the plane; the pilots are.

3) Past terrifying flying experience.

People (and so many of them), have had terrifying flight experience. Because of that bad experience, they have that unreasonable thought of having the same terrifying experience again. But having the same bad experience two times in your lifetime (unless you are really unlucky) - is so rare. As rare as winning in a lottery, or being hit by a lightning.

How can you conquer your Fear of Flying?

There are ways to conquer your fear of flying.  I know, because I conquered mine.  I conquered mine when I became an airline employee. But of course, if that is not what you want to be, there are other ways. After I joined airline employment, I learned so many things (and facts) about airplanes, weather, causes of turbulence, airplane crash, and anything and everything - all the tools that I needed just so that I can have a pleasant and enjoyable flight.  Flying and exploring various cities and countries is one of the benefits of airline employment. I felt like I would be missing on a lot of great benefits if I continue to be afraid of flying. 

I know you reached this point in your reading because you are interested in overcoming your fear of flying!  May be you are a management consultant who have to fly often to go to your consulting assignments (I know - I did that too), or maybe an airline manager who has to do the same. Or maybe you really want that job locally situated but you have to go the interview in their corporate and that involves flying. Fasten your seat belt because, you (common admit it!) and I know that your fear of flying can be killed (OK - conquered!). How?

Here are the ways the experts suggest to conquer that fear:

Turbulent flights?

Educate yourself. Learn, by reading, anything and everything about airplanes, weather, turbulence; what causes turbulence and "bumpy" rides. What are the different kinds of turbulence? Yes, there are various kinds and I believe that I have been in all of them.

  • Study the different functions of an aircraft. If you are very sensitive to "bumps" during turbulence, identify the sections of the aircraft where it is less bumpy (actually they all receive the same"bump" but in some parts, you can feel them than the other). Usually when you are seated at the tail section, you can feel the turbulence more than when you are seated in the middle of the aircraft.  However, some aircraft have their engines in the middle section, and it may be noisy for you. You just have to decide what's your priority. On one of my flights, I experienced what they call "wave turbulence" during take off. We were on a "baby bus" (the term they call the Airbus 319 - smaller than the Airbus 320), when an Airbus 320 that took off ahead of us created a "wave" that shook and rocked the "baby bus", first to the left, then to the right, during take off. That was scary! The good thing is it did not last a long time, but scary enough for me and other passengers. A few minutes later, the captain announced what happened in a very cool and calm voice.
  • Study the various aircrafts. In my experience, the bigger the aircraft, the lesser I feel the turbulence. Study your flight. Nowadays, when you make a reservation, you could actually see the seat map of the type of aircraft that will take you to your destination. If the aircraft is very small, and you prefer a bigger aircraft in anticipation of a "bumpy" flight (some places, like Las Vegas (LAS), located between hills, can have bumpy take offs and landings. I know - I've experienced that too!).
  • Before you book a flight, check the weather.  When the weather is OK - you have nothing to worry about. Actually, even when the weather is not good, you have nothing to worry about either. But, if you are really intent on avoiding bad weather, make sure that you make your booking  on the days that the weather is better.  I had an experience flying round-trip the same day for an interview. When I left, I knew that the weather will be bad later on my return but I did not change my flight. The wind gusts on my return was at least 58 miles per hours. That was such a bumpy, rocky descent. Fortunately, a 10 year old unaccompanied minor was sitting next to me and he was so calm, collected, and not bothered at all while he was playing with whatever electronic gadget he had with him. He actually inspired me! When we landed, everybody applauded. I know that in a lot of people's mind, they were saying "That was such a close call". But, as proven again and again (we were not the only flight that day; there are hundreds more!), the flight crew are so experts in their fields that they make flying on bad weather a piece of cake!.
  • Some "fear of flying" writers suggest that when you check in let the airline agent know that you have a fear of flying. It's OK if you would like that, but for me, that doesn't really make a difference. What's better is you start a conversation with the agent about your flight, about the weather. Show your enthusiasm and positive attitude about the flight (even though deep inside, you are really nervous :-). In doing that, you might be able to get some good tips and info about flying. Remember, airline employees usually fly for free (I do, in domestic flights :-). Remember, a positive attitude is contagious. Your positivism can even be contagious to your flight that the whole flight can be smooth.
  • Be positive towards the airline employees, the cabin and the flight crew. They are just human. Whatever you radiate will strike back at you. I notice that when the crew members are all happy, the flight seems happy too. The less problems you encounter in a flight, the better your flight is going to be. Take it from me! I've been there in both sides; I've seen that happen!
  • Choose your seat. The airline where you booked allows you to choose your seat in advance. If you feel that you need to be close to the flight crew, buy a First Class seat if you have the means to do so. If not, you can choose to be close to where the flight attendant sit (the jump seats). That way, you can chat with them (just don't chat too loud and don't make them your personal nurse or something - you know what I mean! :-). I do this often, try to seat next to the flight attendants. There are usually flight attendant "jump seaters" at the very back of the aircraft. The flight attendance seats are usually in front - at the First Class at the back of the cockpit; near the emergency seats area in the middle; and at the back of the aircraft. I watch their reactions to various situations all the time, believe it or not. That makes me feel conscious of my surroundings and situations, and it makes me busy and feel better about my flight. It is the knowledge and awareness  of what is happening that is creating this educated and confident feeling.

.Are you a "control freak"?

  • If you are a "control freak", and your fear flying is because you are no longer in control, ask for an exit seat. Sitting in exit seats give you some kind of responsibility that you are one of the people that the passengers can rely on in case of emergency. We all hope that "emergencies" do not happen, but just imagine being you conferring with the flight and cabin crew for emergency details and policies. When you feel that people will rely on you, you feel important. This feeling of other passengers' reliance will make you feel important and "in control". This is not me talking about people who like to take charge. This is me who have experienced the role so many times,not in real and actual emergencies, but the fact that I was one of the people who would be in charge of safety if needed, makes me feel in control. And you will feel the same way too.
  • OK - they say that anxiety and panic attacks are not physical, but more psychological. Fine. However, if you are really getting anxious, ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication. Just be sure it is something that will not cause you dizziness when you are ready to land. I remember one of the famous American actors did not like flying and had to take some medication. When he landed and was getting off the plane in Manila, his pictures showed that he was like groggy and drunk. Later, in the news, it was published that the famous guy had taken some pills to relieve his fear of flying. If alcoholic drink make you feel relaxed - go ahead take it, but be sure you take it in moderation.
  • OK - if all the above suggestions do not work for you, there are organizations and airlines that conduct "fear of flying" classes, workshops and seminars.  Contact the airlines, or contact the organizations that conduct these classes. Some of them go from city to city, and almost all of them were organized by pilots and airline employees who know a lot about the ins and outs of flying, and what causes the "fear of flying" that many people experienced. Good luck to you, and if you attend these classes, please send me a note and I publish them here so that the other people who are afraid to fly can use the information.

Please do not republish without Laurel Media's permission. Copyright protected 2009 - 2015.

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