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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.