It makes me really sad to hear that many of you are feared of flying and can not enjoy traveling by plane! In fact a survey suggests that 43 percent of people have at least some fear of flying and around 9 percent are so afraid that they would not go on a flight.
Fear of flying
Now I understand why I receive so many comments and messages asking me what they can do against their fear of flying. In this blogpost I want to help you as much as possible to get over that fear which is also known as aviophobia. I think my personal words as pilot are more persuasive than of a third person who is not involved in the aviation industry as much as I am.
There is no reason to panic!
In my research for this blogpost I found out that the most common reason for the fear of flying is the fear to crash. Yes, there is a likelihood to crash, but this chance is vanishing low. You probably have heard about the statistics, but let me mention them again to get an idea how safe flying really is.
The probability of your plane going down is around one in 5.4 million. (according to The Economist) It is more likely to be attacked by a shark or even killed by the flu. Traveling in a car is 100 times more deadly than flying in a plane. Despite the high profile plane crashes in the past, it has never been safer to fly.
Anxiety originates from ignorance!
I think the anxiety can originate from ignorance not understanding the complex system of aviation. This might trigger “what if?” catastrophic thoughts.
This starts with the ignorance of the systems of the airplane. Certain noises and normal flight maneuvers can already cause unease. For example noise of the brakes, landing gear and the engines. Trust me the noises are absolute normal. Maybe you feel more comfortable wearing noise canceling headphones, which reduce background noise to a minimum. Most of you are scared of turbulences and think that they are dangerous. Please trust me they belong to the normal path of flight. Aircraft are build to withstand turbulences with ease. We as pilots always try to avoid them and in case we encounter an area of turbulences we try to find a different level to escape them. This causes a spool up or down and a climb or descent to a different level.
The regulations in aviation are really strict. The authority require that the aircraft are maintained at fixed intervals. Airlines could not afford operating a bad maintained aircraft, which could cause them to lose their operator certificate and of course their reputation.
Redundancy in all aspects in aviation!
Even when there happens to be a malfunction of a system, does not mean it will end in a disaster. The aircraft are build to be flying in the air and constructed to be redundant. That means if one system fails, the airplane will still be safe to fly and a different system will take over it. For example if one engine fails, the second one will keep the airplane in the sky and a safe landing will be possible. This is trained on regular simulator flights many times.
Maybe you have heard about the swiss cheese model before. This model of accident causation illustrates that, although many layers of defense lie between hazards and accidents. Only if there is a flaw in each layer, if aligned, can allow the accident to occur. A single mistake in one layer will not lead to a accident.
Here are my 10 tips against the fear of flying:
- Choose an airline you feel save with or you know they have a good reputation, do not book just because the ticket is cheap
- Arrive at the airport with enough time, so you do not get stressed additionally
- Book a seat with more space, e.g. at the emergency exit
- Try not to drink alcohol and caffeine this might intense your anxiety
- When boarding let the cabin crew know that you are a little bit nervous, a short chat with the pilots can help as well
- Recall that you are safe and probability is in your side
- Control your breathing inhale deeply and exhale slowly: Relaaaaax!
- Use noise canceling headphones, reduced background noise calms you down, listen to relaxing music and do things that distract you
- You are not alone! Millions of people travel by plane at the same time
- Keep in mind that the airplane is build to travel through air, turbulence are a normal path of flying, recall that you are save even when feeling anxiety
An app which might help you
I found an app “Am I Going Down?”, which claims to calculate the odds of a disaster on a particular flight. You put in three variables: the departure and arrival airports, the airline, and the type of plane used. For example a flight from San Francisco to London Heathrow has a probability of 1 to 3.646.151 to go down. You would have to take this flight everyday for 9.989 years before it crashes.
Seeing the probability, which is not even worth mentioning for your particular flight, may help with your fear of flying.
I hope you will be more relaxed on your next flight, so you can enjoy the beauty of flying at the fullest. Recall my 10 tips when flying next time. You might even safe them on your mobile device. Now sit back, relax and enjoy your flight!
Your Pilot Patrick