Flying should be a relaxing thing to do for everyone. It is often the start of your long-awaited holiday, the beginning of an exciting journey, or maybe even the kick-off to an entirely new chapter in your life. If viewed objectively: flying is a convenient, simple, and safe means of transportation nowadays. Every day about 100,000 flights take-off and land safely all over the globe. If you break it down to an average length of two hours per flight, it means that around six million people fly somewhere every day.
But what if flying becomes torture? People who suffer from flight anxiety are familiar with at least one of these feelings: sweaty hands, nervousness, and hectic glances at the stewardess as soon as you hear a noise or hit the slightest turbulence on the plane. And not to forget: the little inner prayers you send before the take-off and the big relief you feel once the plane wheels hit the ground again at your destination.
Fear of flying is a serious circumstance and can happen to everyone: to people who fly for the first time but also to frequent flyers, people who traveled their entire life, and yes, even flight attendants can develop a fear of flying throughout their careers. And sometimes all it takes is one unpleasant flight experience and you find yourself entering your next flight with an unwell feeling in your stomach area.
Fear of flying, also described as aviophobia is officially categorized as an anxiety disorder. This condition is also known as flight phobia, aerophobia, or flight anxiety, whereas one must distinguish between the actual fear of flying and the usual nervousness before a long journey. The reasons for this fear can vary: while some travelers worry about spending too much time in an enclosed place, others are afraid of heights, some are scared of turbulences or even crashing and a small percentage is terrified to unintentionally open the plane door mid-journey.
It is suggested that between 33-40% of all people experience some form of anxiety when boarding a plane. These high percentages reveal that this anxiety disorder is a predominant condition among populaces and can negatively impact an individual’s life, not to mention people who miss out on traveling entirely simply to avoid flying. Whereas the latter should be prevented, as avoiding things can worsen anxiety.
Everyone who struggles with flight anxiety has surely heard sentences such as “Flying is the safest way to travel”, or “The way to the airport is the most dangerous thing about flying.” before. Besides reflecting the truth, it offers little comfort to individuals who are reasonably anxious about the idea of traveling at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour in a piece of metal seven miles above the Earth’s surface.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that are considered helpful when suffering from fear of flying.
One thing that let people with flight anxiety skip a heartbeat are turbulences. A beeping noise sounds through the cabin, the seatbelt signs inflame and at the latest when the flight attendants sit down, many hearts drop. Turbulences can feel as if they are about to bring the plane down any second. But the good news: turbulences are not that serious at all.
At the end of the day, turbulences are nothing more than wacky wind currents that force planes to bounce a little. It helps to imagine driving on a rough road or sailing on a choppy sea, as turbulences are nothing less for a plane.
Another good thing: planes are built to even withstand the most severe turbulences and pilots are skilled to handle them. You will not realize it as a passenger, but pilots often reduce speed and/or change altitude to reduce turbulence.
Also, commercial airplanes are being tested to levels that are much beyond anything that you will ever experience in the air. Besides, the astonishing fact that aircraft wings can bend 90 degrees without breaking, might let you travel more peacefully next time.
Another relieving thing to know is that the number of air crashes and accidents dropped throughout the last few years as airplanes become safer than ever before. The actual chances to die in an air or space transport are one in 188,364 according to the National Safety Council.
This is because of the advanced avionics (electronic equipment used during a flight) and air traffic control technology, as well as the pilot-assist collision prevention technologies. Moreover, air traffic controllers constantly monitor navigation systems, which can pinpoint an aircraft’s location within a thousand miles and constantly monitor the plane’s condition. Besides, pilots must complete extensive training and pass frequent exams to ensure they are fit to fly. They include twice-yearly simulator testing of the flight controls to demonstrate that even with autopilots, it is still possible to land an aircraft safely and that the procedures are learned in a matter of seconds.
If these facts have not already calmed your nerves, then here’s another one: every plane has several backup systems. 96% of the airplanes Boeing provides are twinjets, which feature two engines. These aircraft have been designed to fly along predetermined paths that will keep them always within a safe range of an airport if one of their engines fails to function for an extended length of time. Less than one in a billion flying hours will result in both engines dying at the same time. And even if, in the unusual event, all engines fail the plane can still travel around 200 kilometers and land safely.
I hope that with these tips, your next journey will become a more pleasant one.
Happy flying, folks!