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 Statistics, 1.3 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.
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.
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
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
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!