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How to get over the fear of flying

There is nothing more intimidating than putting your own safety in the hands of someone else.  Especially when you are in a 640-ton aircraft, flying at 35,000 feet above land.  With the probability of 11 million to 1 of dying in a plane crash, 2.1 million to 1 of even being in a crash and still surviving, why is it that we are so afraid to fly, and how can we manage to get over the fear of flying?

Revisit the causes of your fear

We weren’t just born with this fear of plummeting to the earth while flying.  If anything, as a child flying was one of the coolest things you could do.  I remember watching planes in the sky as a kid and being completed amazed at how it could soar above me without falling out of the sky.

I took my very first flight at the age of 7 and I can remember being allowed to go into the cockpit to go and say hi to the pilots, and that was the coolest thing for me. I didn’t take my next flight until I was 25 years old, and I was “white-knuckled” scared to death!

So what changed during that 18-year time frame?

MEDIA! It’s funny how we can hear about car crashes on a weekly basis, and then go and jump into our own car and drive somewhere without a care in the world.

In fact, according to the Annual Global Road Crash Statistics1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, or 3,287 per day worldwide! But when we hear about a plane crash once or twice a year, that fear becomes instilled in us.

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We see these horrific crashes on the news where (when there actually are fatalities) planes plunge to the ground or water at exuberant speeds and shatter into millions of pieces. So from there, our minds become fixated on the fact that; any time we step onto a plane, there’s a good chance that we might be doomed to the same fate despite the known low probability of this ever happening.

So why is it? Is it because we have no control over how the plane is flown, or because we know that the pilots cannot just pull over to the side of the road if something goes wrong?

Things that go bump in your flight

Once I boarded that flight at age 25, and experienced the thrill of accelerating down the runway, and the stomach-drop of when you first start to ascend – I was hooked. The rest of that flight both to and from Toronto to Halifax was smooth sailing.  My next two flights to the Caribbean were the same.  I was officially a flying rock star.

That all changed though in 2012 when I took a flight to the Dominican Republic. We got bounced around the air in that plane like we were on a wooden roller coaster! My fear of flying had returned with a vengeance.

The following year I went on a trip to Cuba and was still a little fearful of my anticipated flight.  The first half of it was pretty smooth, and then all of a sudden we were jolted around so hard I thought I was going to fly out of my seat (it’s important to note that I was sitting at the back of the plane).

To make matters even worse, on the way home from Cuba on that trip, our plane was delayed 6 hours without explanation.  Once we finally got onto the plane, one of the flight attendants told us the reason for the delay was because “there was an indicator light on and they weren’t sure what it was for. So they had to get it checked out before we could take off”. Great. Now the plane is broken!! Fear of flying has now elevated to level 10.

So how is one to combat this fear of flying?

Well, clearly the general population cannot simply jump into flight simulators at any given chance to try to overcome their fear in a safe environment. So the next step would be Plan B.

Education

We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know of the unknown – Teal Swan

After my last round of turbulent flights, I knew that I needed to learn everything there is to know about planes, aerodynamics and especially turbulence. I researched and became educated on everything from why we experience turbulence, how the plane is affected by it, and what if any, are the repercussions on an airplane of flying through heavy turbulence.

By learning more about why and how we experience these nerve-racking wind currents, you can have a better understanding of how normal they are during a routine course of flight, and how safe you are when you experience them.

In fact, the only risk you ever face during severe turbulence is being bumped on the head or falling if you choose to ignore the seatbelt sign and continue to move about in the plane.  The majority of the of injuries sustained during turbulence is to the flight crew.

For a more thorough explanation of the details of how and why turbulence occurs, click here.

Find out what causes crashes

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I have recently become obsessed with the Discovery Channel show Mayday – Air Crash Investigation.  I know it may sound crazy to watch a show dedicated to plane crashes to help get over your fear of flying. But trust me, it works.

This show not only walks you through what happened during the crash in their reenactments but also explains why the crash occurred; whether it was a mechanical issue or pilot error.  They also describe how all pilots are trained to deal with a certain crisis and how their training advances after a crash to be prepared to handle similar circumstances.

They then explain how they determine what went wrong to cause the crash, and how the aviation industry changes to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. You also discover ways to prevent your own injury during a crash should one occur.  They explain the importance of “bracing for impact” and how important it is to know what to do during an evacuation.

By understanding why crashes occur and how the aviation industry learns and advances to prevent them, you gain a better understanding of how unlikely it is for a plane to crash, and an insight of how safe these aircraft’s really care.  You can then have a better understanding of how safe it is to fly.

Face your fear

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There is no better way to overcome your fear than to face it.  There is no point in allowing your fears of the unknown prevent you from living your life and seeing new and exciting destinations.

While there are a variety of medications you can get from your doctor to ease your nerves, the best thing to do is just relax, clear your mind and enjoy your flight.  You will soon discover that everything you were stressing about, was just all in your head!

24 thoughts on “How to get over the fear of flying

  1. Steven

    I remember my parents took us to outside the airport just to watch the planes take off and land- that was a spectacle.
    My first ride in a plane was exciting. I remember the sensation of taking off and then being in disbelief as I looked out the window to see the plane hoovering above ground and rising.
    Truly a memorizing experience.

    1. Nicki Post author

      Hi Steve,

      Yes, flying really is an incredible experience that everyone should have at some point in their life. There’s nothing like looking out the window and seeing sights over land and water that you could never see in any other situation.

      Funny you mention about watching planes when you were a kid because the main picture of the plane landing (and a few others on this site) was taken when I was in St. Maarten last year at their famous airport in Maho Beach. People actually visit there from all over the world to watch the planes land and takeoff over the beach. It’s quite a spectacular sight!

  2. Jeremy

    Really nice site. I am planning a trip to Hawaii next year. I am not very excited to fly. Your site was very refreshing to read. Your information was just what I needed to put my mind at ease. Your site has a very inviting feel to it, and is easy to navigate through. Thank you for the in depth in site to flying.

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks, Jeremy! It’s really great to hear when people have an enjoyable experience navigating and reading my content. This site is still a baby and needs lots of nurturing, but it’s getting there!
      I’m happy that my article has helped you some and I hope you really enjoy your trip to Hawaii! That’s on my list of places to go to soon – Maui! 🙂

  3. Daniella

    Hi there,

    This article is very helpful and convincing for people who has fears of flying! This is not the case for me personally, but it is for a good friend of mine. He practically never flies and when he does he need to take some medication in order to calm down. I will certainly show him this article, I am sure he will find it very interesting!
    Thank you for this excellent post!

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks very much for that Daniella! My dad is the same in that he is claustrophobic and need to take medication to ease his anxieties. I know lots of people who don’t have a care in the world about flying because they know that there is nothing they can do if anything were to happen, so they just accept that fact and hope for the best. That’s really the best way to be. We are our own worst enemies at times.
      Thanks for your comment 🙂

  4. Dan

    Enjoyed the article because I could relate somewhat.I had a panic attack on a flight back from Las Vegas, when I never had a problem before flying. I don’t know where the fear came from, but I did all I could to hold myself together through the flight. The next flight I took was to Germany and I spoke with my doctor for some medication to help if I had a panic attack on a 9 hour flight. Didn’t need it at all, the funny thing is I used the medication to fall asleep in Frankfurt due to how unseasonably hot it was and traffic noise.
    I think your advice on learning everything you can know about air flight, should really help. That can remove many fears just by information.

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks, Dan and I’m sorry you had to go through that on your flight to Vegas. I don’t know how I would be able to deal with a panic attack while being stuck in a tube for hours! I myself am slowly getting over my fear of flying, but I’m about to go on the longest flights of my life. I’m flying to Peru in two weeks (10 hours year away) and then to Australia in October (15.5 hrs and then 8hrs). So I am really going to have to take my own advice here to make sure I don’t freak out about being stuck in a plane for so long. 🙂

  5. Salvatore V Jenkins Jr.

    I remember my first time flying, I was in my early 20s and I had some anxiety. My girlfriend of the time decided to tell everyone sitting around us it was my first time flying and the guy next to me said ” I wouldn’t worry to much, if we go down there is nothing you can do about it”. Way to go I’m not sure that is something you tell someone who is already afraid of being in the air but stupid is all around us!

    I now can fly with little anxiety but there is still a part of me who thinks it feels unnatural but I tell everyone it is one of the best feeling in the world. I believe everyone should experience flying in an airplane at least once in their lives. Like everything it gets better the more times you do it and after awhile you might even enjoy it.

    We all do have to face our fears at some point!

    1. Nicki Post author

      Great point Salvatore, and I have read that remark many times too. If anything, it just furthers your fear of not surviving an accident. It’s like someone telling you that if you drive faster than 100/km, you’re guaranteed to be killed on impact. Talk about scaring people!

      And yes, the more you fly the more you become at ease with it. You can see that any anxieties are just in your head and you always end up making it back safely.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Candida

    Your article was very informational.. I have never flown so my fear of flying strictly comes from things I have heard and seen on TV because I have nothing else to go on. My husband wants us to take a trip to Hawaii but I just cant bring myself to get on a plane. we had talk about going on a short trip to get me some experience and then maybe try.. I may just have to give it a try and maybe quit watching the news for a while…

    1. Nicki Post author

      I understand where you’re coming from. Anything new can be very intimidating. I was scared to death to go on my first vacation because I didn’t know what to expect and I dreaded the worse.

      You might want to try reading up on flying and how safe it it. Read about all the training the pilots go through and the rigorous maintenance the plane has to endure. You can watch videos on YouTube about what it’s like during take off and landing.

      In all honesty, the more you read and educate yourself, the better you’ll feel. Anything in life can kill us and we really have no control over when our time is done. So try not to let your fears make you miss out on some of life’s best gifts – such as seeing the world first hand.

      And once you find the courage to get on the plane, and after you land, you’ll realize that all of your fears were just in your head! 🙂

  7. Jenny

    Glad I came across this site. I could relate to it as when I was younger I was not afraid to fly and I loved it and then years later when I became an adult I went on a plane again and as soon as it started taking off i had this huge panic attack like I have never had before!
    I wondered why I was scared but then like you wrote maybe it is because of the media.
    You have some great advice on how to overcome the fear of flying, especially the ‘find out what causes crashes section’
    Definitely going to bookmark this page for when I travel again
    Thanks

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks Jenny, I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks agian for sharing your own personal experiences.

      Funny little side story about “finding out what causes crashes”. As I have mentioned, I watch a lot of the show Mayday, and that can be a good and bad thing as well. After just flying on 4 seperate flights to go to and from Peru, I found myself paying too much attention to how the pilots were flying the plane lol. That in itself almost made me a little nervous, but then I just told myself to relax and everything will be fine.

  8. christinamk

    It is interesting that many more people die in car crashes than on planes yet we are afraid of plan rides and never think twice about getting into a car. I wonder if it has anything to do with how frequently we ride in a car. Many of us ride in a car multiple times a day and only rarely if ever have we ever gotten into a crash. Yet we go on airplanes so rarely. I wonder if we start to believe cars are safe since we have so many experiences in them without anything bad happening. Great idea to learn more about turbulence and what causes airplanes to crash, that will definitely help alleviate fears of flying.

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks Christina! You are right! It’s so funny how we always hear about things that are far more dangerous than flying, yet, a lot of us are still very fearful of it. Same goes with swimming in the ocean too I guess. Not very often do people get attacked by sharks yet, I know it’s always a fear of mine anytime I step into the ocean!!

      Cheers 🙂

  9. Gina

    I want to do a lot of traveling in the future with my boyfriend but he’s afraid of flying. I mean, I’m kind of scared too but it wouldn’t stop me from traveling by plane.
    I should tell him to start watching that Discovery Channel show. Maybe it would help out a little.
    Sending this to him! Thanks!

    1. Nicki Post author

      Hey Gina! Yeah, I can see how that can hold you back from wanting to travel – it’s a big fear for a lot of people. After my first flight since I was a kid, I loved flying. But then I had a couple dicy flights which brought that fear right back on. Now that I’ve been on around 20 flights over the last 5 years, I’m slowly starting to relax a little. I am about to go on a really long journey (Australia) which will require 25 hours of time in the air, and I’m a little nervous about that. But really, you can’t let your fears hold you back from doing the things that you want to do. Life is too short to let the fear of the unknown prevent you from enjoying life! 🙂

  10. Jo Jo

    I commend you for not giving up! I like that you mentioned education as a way to get rid of your fear of flying. I’m not afraid of flying, but my sister is. And I feel if people know what transpires during a flight, it may alleviate some fear. It’s funny how our fear for a lot of things come from the television. Your post was very informational, and I feel it can help out lots of people. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks Jo Jo!

      Yes, T.V can definitely make you fear more than you should about a lot of things! It’s always better to educate yourself more about why things happen to see that it is very rare that anything fatal happens on flights.

  11. Nemira

    Hello here. When I read your article I remebered comedy French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Like. She was so afraid to fly that she let her fiance to fly alone to the Paris. Of course Paris is the city of Lights and love. Meg Ryans character finally got over her fear and flied to Paris. If you saw this movie it is a great scene when she sits with Kevin Kline and airplane starts to move. She so scared and her companion teased her all way along till airplane ascended. She was occupied with other thoughts and did not feel any fear for the first time.
    Maybe people could close their eyes and think about pleasant things when they are afraid?
    Your article will be helpful to those who afraid of flying because the right information clears all fear clouds.
    All the best, Nemira.

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks Nemira!

      I have not seen that movie but it sounds good and like something I would enjoy given my past fears of flying.

      The key is always to distract yourself. You’ll do more harm than good focusing in on negative thoughts of what “could be”.

  12. Marlaine

    It’s funny how you can suddenly start to get nervous about flying! For me, I flew without fear, and even enjoyed it for many years, but just this past winter I went on a trip for the first time in 5 years and was totally nervous on the flight BACK! (The way there was fine, oddly.) Like you, my nerves were due to the unexplained 5 hour flight delay they said was “just computer issues they didn’t understand”. Oh dear!! When we finally got underway, there was a bunch of turbulence and my heart was jumping in my throat!!! My thoughts kept going to my two kids at home and what would happen if their dad and I were in a flight crash… yikes! I just couldn’t get calm until we were on the ground.
    It’s a good idea to educate yourself on turbulence and to also just trust that the pilots DO know what they are doing! And to remember that it’s THEIR lives they’re putting in jeopardy too when they decide the plane is fine to go! That did help me. 🙂

    1. Nicki Post author

      Thanks Marlaine! It does help to realize that it’s not only your life that they are responsible for, but I’m sure they are not about to risky their own lives. That’s a very good point to bring up and something that I’ve found reassurance in as well. It’s funny how one little scary flight can change your whole outlook on flying. But also, the more scary flights that you go on and SURVIVE the more you realize that those bumps and “technical issues” are just apart of the normal flying routine.

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