What is Fear of Flying?
Fear of flying is a complex psychological issue, one that has been made more complex by the security concerns of the last few years.
How to Deal with Your Fear of Flying
There are many books, videos, and other resources that deal with the fear of flying, so deciding what may work for you may be a difficult process. The resources on this page and on this web site will give you an idea of what fear of flying is, what you can do to deal with it, and how passengers can conquer the fear of flying.
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A Useful Definition
Without getting too technical, fear of flying, is an anxiety disorder. Such fears can come about during a flight, or even well before a person gets to the airport. Often, the source of the fear has little or nothing to do with the risks associated with the flight. Depending on the person, the fear of flying includes one or more of the following fears or concerns:
- Concerns about turbulence and other weather conditions
- The security screening process
- Fear of heights
- Fear of being over water or having the aircraft land in water
- Fear of the dark (flying at night)
- Fear of the unknown
- Concerns about airline accidents
- Concerns about hijackings, bombings, and other deliberate attacks
- The security screening process
- Turbulence and other weather conditions
- Being in an enclosed or crowded space
- Being idle for long periods of time
- Loss of personal freedom
- Not understanding the sights, sounds, and sensations of a normal flight
- Loss of control, or being dependent on technology or people
- Lingering issues from past psychological or physical trauma
Signs you may be afraid of flying include becoming anxious in elevators, having panic attacks before getting on a plane, or going out of your way to avoid air travel.
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How Many People Are Afraid of Flying?
The airline industry is clearly aware of the fear of flying and how it affects the traveling public. Research is somewhat sparse, with one of the most important studies on fear of flying dating back to 1980, when two Boeing researchers found that 18.1% of adults in the U.S. were afraid to fly, and that another 12.6% of adults experienced anxiety when they fly. In short, about one in three adult Americans were afraid to fly.
The study was also interesting in that it provided details about why the surveyed adults avoided flying, with only about 6% doing so because they considered flying unsafe. A more recent poll conducted by Newsweek magazine in 1999 found that 50% of the adults surveyed who flew on commercial airlines were frightened at least sometimes.
How Does Fear of Flying Affect People?
Every person responds to fear of flying differently. A common reaction is to avoid flying as much as possible. There are a number of celebrities, including John Madden of video game and NFL football fame, who go out of their way to arrange their personal and professional lives to avoid flying.
Once a person with flying anxieties is in the air, physical reactions may be absent or quite noticeable, including the kind of physical reactions associated with a white knuckle flyer, such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, and nausea. Dealing with the stress by seeking answers to common questions about airline safety, can have a positive effect on a passenger, but doing things like using drugs or alcohol to deal with stress can lead to a passenger being abusive to other passengers, the cabin crew, or to airline representatives.
Statistics and the Fear of Flying
Often, the aviation safety experts point to the statistics associated with flying risk to show how flying is safe and that passengers should not be afraid. For most who have anxieties associated with flying, these statistics are meaningless because in most cases, the fear is not associated with flight risks. In other words, risk and safety are two different things, and you can't just use risk statistics to convince most people that flying is safe. Even if the chance of something bad happening is a million to one, most people are worried about whether their flight is going the be the one that doesn't end well.
How to Conquer Fear of Flying
If fear of flying is affecting you in a way that you don't like, there is no reason to accept it as normal. If you want to take positive steps to deal with it, there are plenty of options available. One of the first steps to take is to recognize that you may have a problem. The Fear of Flying Warning Signs page has a very basic checklist to indicate if you may have significant anxieties associated with flying. You can review the story behind the SOAR fear of flying program, which is one of the few programs designed to help people deal with fear of flying that is led by an airline pilot, Capt. Tom Bunn, who is also a trained therapist. Additional resources are on this page, as well as from SOAR
Recommended Fear of Flying Courses
Licensed therapist and airline pilot Captain Tom Bunn offers a variety of fear of flying courses that can help you deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with a fear of flying. For a demonstration of the available products, click on the links or video demos below.
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Best Fear of Flying Quote
On 16 February 1999, director Barry Sonnenfeld, whose films include Men in Black, Men in Black II, and Wild, Wild West, escaped injury when the Gulfstream II executive jet he was riding ran off the runway at the Van Nuys, CA airport, crashed into several nearby aircraft, and caught fire. Sonnenfeld and the three crew members escaped injury, but the aircraft was seriously damaged. After the accident, Sonnenfeld was quoted as saying that "The weird thing is that I hate to fly, and the quote that I give people is that every time I get off a plane, I view it as a failed suicide attempt."
Anxiety, Phobia, and Stress
- One point of view on the fear of flying
- Advice for the infrequent or novice flyer
- 2006 USA Today article about fearful flyiers
- The Psychological Self-Help online book on stress and anxiety
Note: The fear of flying may have one or more technical names, including aerophobia, aviatophobia, aviophobia, or pteromerhanophobia.
http://airsafe.com/issues/fear.htm -- Revised 19 April 2016