How I Overcame My Fear Of Flying And How You Can Too

A fear of flying affects nearly 10% of the world's population, but with these simple tips and tricks you'll be able to overcome that fear.

You would never guess there was a time when I hated flying. The thought of going in a metal tube and taking off to the skies, flying through the air at 500 mph at 40,000 feet filled me with anxiety and dread. During take off I would just about nearly have a panic attack and almost always started getting sick and terrified on the descent. A fear of flying is not unusual, with approximately 10% of the world’s population admitting to nervous flyer syndrome.

At this point, your fear of flying is probably all-consuming and you probably can’t even imagine a time when you might actually get on a plane and relax, but it is possible. Combatting a fear of flying isn’t easy, but with some preparation and a good routine, you’ll be on your way to happy flying.

Learn The Facts

I cannot stress this point enough. For me, probably the biggest reason I hated flying was because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what went into flying, the mechanics of it, the processes, and I certainly didn’t know any of the statistics. Understanding a plane is key to combatting that fear of flying, because when you know exactly what that machine is doing it will give you some peace of mind.

I am obviously no aviation mechanic, but I’ve watched plenty of TV shows, movies and documentaries about planes and airports to be able to know what every process, movement and sound that plane makes and why. Understanding what that weird noise is when we push back or understanding what it is that’s keeping us in the air is what helped calm me down, because once I understood the science behind it, it didn’t seem so scary.

in-flight photo over New York City, plane, aviation

There are tons of shows and documentaries out there, but all-time favorites include Airport by the BBC (it’s totally dated but that makes it even more fun), Ultimate Airport Dubai, Britain’s Busiest Airport, Bangkok Airport and many more.

Know The Statistics

Going hand in hand with understanding the facts, knowing the statistics about air crashes and aviation safety is going to help you feel more comfortable. Your chance of death in a car accident is one is 47,000, but your chance of death on a plane is only one in 11 million. You would never think twice about getting in a car and driving down to the grocery store, so why does a plane have to be any different?

I get it, it feels different, but the main struggle with a fear of flying is that those thoughts are irrational and they keep you from fully accepting these truths and from thinking rationally. It’s difficult, but by educating yourself on the statistics of flying and flying safety facts, you’ll feel 10 times safer.

in-flight, plane, aviation, ocean, san juan, puerto rico

If you want to know more about aviation safety facts, be sure to download the free flying facts sheet at the end of this post.

Understand Where The Fear Of Flying Comes From

You can’t solve a problem when you don’t know what it is. Your fear of flying comes from something in particular, usually it’s ignorance which is why the two points above are mentioned, but sometimes it’s more than that. Perhaps it reminds you of a bad experience, or maybe you only get nervous during turbulence.

Focus your energy on these aspects rather than just thinking of it as this insurmountable problem that you’ll never be able to overcome. If it’s turbulence that frightens you, do some research and find out what causes turbulence, what happens to the plane during this time, and once you understand that, you’ll realize that it’s nothing more than an inconvenience–not dangerous.

in-flight, aviation, plane, san juan, puerto rico, beaches

You may find your fear of flying comes from something else entirely. Maybe it’s the fear that the plane will be hijacked or terrorists aboard the plane will harm you and the other passengers. This is a very real fear for many people nowadays, but in a case like this you should educate yourself even more on the safety measures both airports and airlines take. There is so much that goes on that you don’t see, and learning about this can go a long way towards alleviating your stress.

Whatever the cause is, try and pin it down and then focus on that specific issue. Targeting the one thing that triggers your fear will help you overcome it much quicker.

Have The Right Mindset

You have to go into tackling this issue with the mindset of wanting to change, of wanting to make a difference. Like you would with any other new skill in life, you have to approach it with a positive attitude and view it as an exciting opportunity rather than something you can’t stand and makes you sick to your stomach.

Try to think of how losing this fear will improve your life and your overall well-being rather than obsess over the fear itself.

Baby Steps

This isn’t always practical for everyone, but if possible you should take things slowly. Try and only do short flights and work your way up  to the longer ones. Perhaps your anxiety beings before you even go through security. In that case, head to your nearest airport and spend an afternoon there. Watch the planes take off and land, have some food, maybe grab a drink, wander around and observe people. Knowing you’re not about to get on a plane will help you stay calm and the next time you have to be there to catch a plane you won’t be nearly as freaked out.

sunrise, flight, aviation, flying, plane, asia

Sometimes there are even more unique ways to work on this fear in baby steps. For example, you may live near some sort of aviation museum. Many airlines have them all over the world, as well as national aviation museums. Typically they will have models (usually parts of real airplanes) that you can go into and experience. Not only will the museum information help teach you some more about the art of flying, but you can also go and sit in a plane seat and acclimate yourself without ever needing to leave the ground.

Fly More

Once you’ve done everything above you should start flying more if possible. If you don’t keep flying, like any newly acquired skill, it will go rusty and your fears will begin to creep back in. You’ve gotten this far, don’t let yourself slide back.

Fly as much as you can. If you have the option of driving or flying somewhere, try and fly if it’s affordable. Practice makes perfect and overcoming a fear of flying is absolutely no different. Flying lots means different things to different people. For me, flying once a month seems like not enough, but for others that might feel like they’re never home.

Try to fly once every few months to keep practicing at overcoming your fear and slowly work towards increasing your flight time.

Remember To Enjoy It

Easier said than done, but try and enjoy flying. Try to not think about how petrified you are, but instead marvel at the beautiful sights you get to witness just outside of your window. Mountains, lakes, oceans, forests, plains. When you really think about it, and push past all the anxiety and fear, flight is incredible. We, as humans, have managed to fly. We can fly to the other side of the world in less than a day. Because of this our world and societies and cultures are more connected than they’ve ever been and this has brought a new meaning to life and has given us so many opportunities.

Be inspired instead of scared. Try and understand this amazing thing you get to do instead of thinking about what could happen.

flying, in-flight, airplane, plane, mountains, alps

I still occasionally get nervous on flights. I don’t love turbulence, even though I understand nothing will happen to me because of it. Landing still makes me a little queasy, but nowadays that has more to do with my body physically not liking the change in altitude than an actual fear of landing. And now, I actually enjoy flying. Aviation has become something I’m actively interested in and it’s become a hobby my husband and I both share.

I will actively spend an afternoon at an airport because I want to. I’ll take more connections than necessary because it’s fun. I’ll take a longer connecting time just because why not. I love how because of aviation I can visit other countries and cultures so easily, I love the views and I can appreciate flying for what it really is.

Incredible.

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  • Glad you’ve found a way to overcome it and not let your fear stop you from traveling! I know a number of people who have a serious fear of flying–I used to love it, but in the last year or two I haven’t enjoyed it so much anymore. Reminding myself not to think of the worst but to focus on the good things ahead after the plane lands helps!

    • Yes absolutely, Rachel! That definitely always helps.

  • Brianna Picard

    Fantasticily written. I’m glad you were able to not let your fear stop you from flying! ^.^

    • Thank you, Brianna! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’m so glad I can now travel without panicking!

  • such great tips! My future mother in law has such a difficult time flying! I am going to share this wit her!

    Rachel | http://www.theconfusedmillennial.com

  • That is so awesome how you overcame your fear of flying. I’m not very good about take-offs and landings either. I really should learn more about how flying works because it still freaks me out a bit. This was all really helpful.

    • Thanks, Shann! That has been the biggest factor in how I was able to overcome it because once you understand the science behind it it really makes it far less scary!

  • This post came right on time! I haven’t flown in years and I’m going on a plane this upcoming week and I started to get gitters!

    • Oh I’m so glad, Adriana! I hope it helps you on your upcoming flight!

  • Michelle Lynn

    Wonderful post!

  • I still get nervous to fly but I have flown a lot so it gets better (sometimes). Turbulence still scares the crap out of me!

    • Oh I feel you, Jill. Turbulence still gets to me for sure, I don’t usually panic but it does cause my heart to race a bit, even now!

  • I LOVE this! I seriously panic everytime i get on a plane…..every little noise and movement freaks me out and I’m convinced it’s the END. However like you said above ……the statistics……..i repeat them to myself over and over that the liklihood of an aircraft accident is way less than a car……thats pretty much the only thing that gets me through the flight …..and some alcohol! hahah

    • I completely get that, Erica! That’s exactly what I was like!! Honestly learning about how planes work was such a saving grace for me because then I understood why it was making those noises! And yes hahaha, alcohol definitely helps too!

  • I used to hate flying. These are great tips!

    • Thanks, Dara! It is possible to overcome it, it just takes a bit of work!

  • I used to be fine flying but now I feel a little claustrophobic sometimes! I try to keep myself distracted!

    • I get that, especially on really small regional planes. It definitely helps to keep busy whether it’s watching something or reading.

  • Lauren Jane

    I have always hated flying(and don’t do it often) so these tips are great for me. My last flight was my shortest ever(about an hour) and I wish I had this list before that-panic attacks while flying alone are the worst. Landings scare me most, since I’ve been on a plane that had a mishap while landing haha

    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Lauren! I don’t like landings much either, but in your case I definitely don’t blame you! That must have been so scary. It always helps when I tell myself that the pilots are very well trained and know how to handle bad situations!

  • Abby Grajewski

    My husband just got his private pilot license. It has definitely helped me relax while flying, since I know know a lot more about how everything works/where the weird sounds come from! 🙂

    • That’s awesome, Abby! It’s so true though, understanding all of that makes everything 10 times less scary!

  • Abby Castro

    I do get it when people have fear of flying especially since I have a fear of heights. But I do enjoy flying though, especially like the window’s seat.

    Abby of Life in the Fash Lane

    • That was always my biggest problem, Abby, fear of heights! But being on a plane is definitely a bit different.

  • I am definitely not a good flyer, so I’ll have to practice some of these tips!

  • Such great advice! Props for overcoming this fear to pursue a love of travel

    • Thanks, Shane! Although I hated flying at the start, it was definitely more important to travel 🙂

  • All great tips! The first time I flew was when I was 11 by myself. I was so scared but I’ve flown so much now, that it doesn’t bother me.

    • So glad you’ve improved! I feel like that happens a lot for people once they start traveling more and more. It starts to feel less scary and just more like a typical routine.

  • Janine Montgomery

    I fly all the time and every time i’m petrified – even on tranquillisers. It hasn’t got any better for me 🙁 I’m out of ideas