Ways to Overcome the Fear of Flying
Category : Travel
Ways to Overcome the Fear of Flying
By Ofonime Essien
Travellers can overcome a fear of flying.
There is no crash, no flames, no pilot and not even a plane. You’re just sitting at your departure gate imagining what will happen on the aircraft you’re scheduled to take.
Fear of flying can grow from many different roots—particularly harrowing turbulence, knowing someone who was in a plane crash, learning to be afraid as a child from a fearful parent, or media images of crashes, hijackings, or terrorist attacks.
For 40% of travellers these fears are real. While everyone experiences their fear differently – some with visions, others with in-flight panic attacks and most with anxiety – the fear of flying is something many people suffer from, but why?
Why are so many people afraid of flying?
Flying, statistically, is one of the safest ways to travel. There is only a 1 in 11,000,000 chance you will die in an airplane accident while there’s a 1 in 5,000 chance you’ll die in a car accident (according to the Discovery Channel). In the Unites States alone there are more than 30,000 deaths a year caused by auto accidents and only 475 deaths resulting from airline incidents.
But for those with aviophobia (a fear of flying) these stats are not reassuring at all considering we drive daily and only fly a few times a year, if that.
While aircraft incidents are rare, we tend to imagine all crashes as catastrophic events where every passenger dies. In reality this is not the case. 95.7% of people involved in plane crashes survive. Even in the most severe cases, like the traumatic crashes aviophobic people envision, 76% of passengers survive.
So why then are we terrified of flying but unafraid of deadlier (albeit more common) activities like driving, walking down stairs or Domestic accidents?
Do you wish you could travel to faraway places and see the world — without having a panic attack? If you have aviophobia, or the fear of flying, there are ways you can prevent it from negatively affecting your life. Being informed, using relaxation techniques and planning your trip are all ways you can overcome your fear and be free to explore the world.
IT’S one of the most dreaded yet common air travel nightmares, but it can be beaten.
Michael Salem, author of the book Brave Flyer: How to End Your Fear of Flying, has revealed his top strategies in overcoming the crippling phobia.
Salem, 40, spent 10 years avoiding planes due to his own fear of flying, but says it’s hard to stop him from getting on a plane now. That’s because he’s spent four years researching and developing ways to overcome his fear, and has created a course to help others.
Salem said when it comes to a fear of flying, all logic and common sense flies out the window.
“For adults, a fear of flying is similar to a fear of dark,” Mr. Salem said “We all know that monsters do not exist but yet many of us freak out if we hear a sound in the middle of the night in a dark room.
“When it comes to flying, a similar analogy can be made; a bump in the air might raise a fearful flyer’s heart to record breaking speed. But if the same bump happened while riding a car, he or she would not even notice it.”
Those affected usually have an active imagination, have had a bad previous experience flying or have seen negative reports in the media. And when it comes to successfully overcoming the fear, 90 per cent of what’s involved is brain reconditioning and 10 per cent is learning the facts.
“The emotional part of the brain needs to be told that everything is OK, because the logical part knows the solid safety statistics already and cares less about them,” he said.
“What I tell fearful flyers is to visually/physically prove to the brain that it is seeing a safe environment at the airport and in the plane.”
He said fear of flying is actually a collection of multiple fears including those of heights, enclosed places, loss of control, turbulence, takeoff procedure and unfamiliar sounds. There’s no quick fix for overcoming it – the process typically takes three to five months.
Here are Salem’s top 13 tips to beating a fear of flying.
1. Choose your trip wisely
Travellers in today’s internet age have an amazing ability to control which route, airline, and even the type of aircraft they want. Unlike the earlier days (up until the 1990s), where you would call a travel agent and request a flight on a specific date to a specific destination and simply hope it would not be a small plane; now you can make these choices yourself. Whether it is the airline website or travel agent website such as Travelocity or Expedia etc, take your time and play around with different dates and different flight times.
I recommend taking the most direct route if available (non-stop), and choosing one of the larger airlines as many people with a fear of flying feel more comfortable with the larger interior space (Airbus A330,A340,A380, or Boeing 747, 767, 777).
2. Arrive at the airport early and observe
Look at each plane as it takes off and see how routine the process is. Chase the plane visually until it disappears in the air or becomes a small dot in the sky, at which point you can turn your attention to the next takeoff. Imagine yourself in each of these planes, how nervous you would be when you are inside it – the speed, the sounds of the flaps, and the roaring engine. Now, think about what you are actually looking at – a smooth and ordinary takeoff which is almost boring to watch.
As you observe each plane, continue to switch between these two different roles, one as an observer of a commonplace and mundane takeoff, and the other as a passenger inside that plane. Now, promise yourself that you will remember this typical scene during your flight’s takeoff as if you were watching it from the waiting area.
3. Pick the right seat
Unless you’re one of the few lucky ones who can afford to fly business or first class, the seat you will be allocated will not offer you much legroom. For the folks who fear flying, being in an enclosed space makes matters worse for them. So always try to choose a front row or exit row seat- even if you have to pay a little extra for these seats, it’s well worth it. An aisle seat is also highly recommended, as it gives you the feeling of extra space.
4. Wake up early
Some people might suggest having a good night’s sleep before your flight, but by doing so, you’ll probably stay awake for the entire duration of the flight. I recommend getting as little sleep as possible before your flight, it simply increases your chances (even by the slightest percentage) of taking a nap, and by that, shortening your flight time.
5. Expect unfamiliar sounds and be realistic
Every flight will make some unfamiliar sounds, such as gear retractions or flap movement. Remember that any machine has sound, whether it was your car or dishwasher – why expect a plane not to have any? They are perfectly normal, and honestly I would be worried if the plane did not make machine-like sounds. You are not an aeronautic engineer, so when you hear an unfamiliar sound, you should expect it to be normal unless someone tells you otherwise.
6. Mute the engine noise
I’m not suggesting you ask the pilot to turn one of the engines off during your flight (not a smart safety move), but you can do something about not hearing it anymore. Many fearful flyers become hyper listeners during the flight, because their brain is programmed to believe there will be some sort of life-threatening problem and will try to prove it by listening for the faintest of sounds.
The best solution for this problem is to use sound cancelling headphones. Once the pilot gives you permission to use electronic devices, crank up your favourite tunes loaded on your phone or MP player, and close your eyes. See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
7. Look at the flight crew
While on the plane, look at the cabin crew. Notice how they are smiling and pleasant (well, we can only hope), but more importantly, notice how comfortable they are and busy doing their work.
Obviously everything is fine and will continue to be so; otherwise these trained experts would have left the plane while they still could.
8. Talk to the pilot before boarding
If you can, try to locate your pilot (they usually arrive with their crew and head towards your boarding gate entrance). Don’t be shy, pilots are very nice and understanding. Tell him or her that you will be onboard their flight and you have a fear of flying. Tell them exactly what bothers you (takeoff, air bumps etc).
From my personal experience in doing so, most pilots spend several minutes explaining the nature of these sounds and the reasons behind the bumps. It’s so comforting to hear it from the pilot. Notice how comfortable they are when talking about these matters.
9. Expect air bumps
The biggest nightmare for a fearful flyer is usually air-turbulence. Remember this simple fact, planes do not crash because of air bumps. Another good fact to remember is the seat belt light goes on because the pilot does not want you to fall on the guy next to you, not because there is any type of flight risk.
Most pilots will tell you that they try to take a slight detour (or change altitude) to avoid bump for the comfort of their passengers (not to avoid mid-air disaster). Seriously, be honest with yourself, isn’t a flight so much smoother than a car ride?
10. Pick calm routes
The internet can provide you with great information about expected turbulence. See which routes historically have less bumps (usually, but not always, it will be routes far away from mountain ranges or places with a high frequency of thunderstorms). A good site for this type of information is Turbulenceforecast.com.
11. Find ways to make the trip seem shorter
If you sit and worry, every minute of your flight will feel like an hour. Think of your favourite time-killing product – a fashion magazine; a portable video game; the latest electronic gadget, or a relaxing book – and go get it!
Don’t force yourself to enjoy your hobby while the plane is hitting air bumps, though. In my opinion, it will make you more nervous. This step is most useful during smooth flying as a way to pass the time.
12. Don’t think about the takeoff
What’s the point of running the takeoff scenario in your head? Nothing! The more you think about it, the more worried you will be, and the more opportunities your brain will have to imagine ridiculous disaster situations. Just think about anything, absolutely anything, except the flight itself.
13. Fly often
Do more of something you fear and fear will disappear. Catch a flight when you have the time and can afford it – it’s hard to do at first, but the more you do it, the quicker the fear will go away. Plus, you’ll get to see new places and enjoy life. What a deal.