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. Now I understand why I receive so many comments and messages asking me what they can do against their fear of flying. In this article, I want to help you as much as possible to get over that fear which is also known as aviophobia. I hope that my personal words as a 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!
During my research for this blog post, I found out that the most common reason for the fear of flying is the fear to crash. But the probability for that is vanishing low. Let me mention them again to get an idea of how safe flying really is.
It is the safest means of transportation but also the most dangerous one at the same time.
Flying through the air with over 800 km/h with tons of ignitable fuel. In the first place, this does not sound really comforting. And because of that, we took all measures to make it to the safest way of travel.
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. So are you also afraid when driving in the car?
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, the flaps, and the engines. Especially during takeoff, you experience a lot of different ones. The engines run at a high thrust setting, the runway might a little bumpy and the landing gear retracts with a loud “bang”. Trust me all those noises are normal. 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 built to withstand turbulence with ease.
Pilots always try to avoid turbulence and in case we encounter them we try to find a different level to escape the area of turbulence. This causes a spool up or down of the engines and a climb or descent to a different level.
The regulations in aviation are really strict. The authority requires that the aircraft are maintained at fixed intervals. Airlines could not afford to operate a badly maintained aircraft, which could cause them to lose their operator certificate (AOC) and of course their reputation.
Redundancy in all aspects of aviation!
Even when there happens to be a malfunction of a system, that does not mean it will end in a disaster. The aircraft are built 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, it can allow the accident to occur. A single mistake in one layer will not lead to an accident!
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. Minimum 2 hours prior departure.
- 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 them can help
- Recall that you are safe and probability is on your side
- Control your breathing inhale deeply and exhale slowly: Relaaaaax!
- Use noise-canceling headphones, recall that flying and systems produce loud noises, listen to relaxing music and do things that distract you (food, beverages, books, music, sleeping mask)
- You are not alone! Millions of people travel by plane at the same time
- Keep in mind that the airplane is built to travel through air, turbulence is a normal path of flying.
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- Fear of flying – 10 tips to become a more relaxed flyer April 16, 2019
- Pilots Say Drone Tech Can Enhance Safety April 16, 2019