As a pilot, the best thing I can suggest to deal with flight anxiety is to learn a bit more about aviation — air crash investigations do not count. Actually read about how planes fly, how they are built to withstand turbulence, the difference between what you and what your pilot actually thinks of as a life threatening situation, etc.
I’ve had more than my fair share of mid-air incidents — engine failures and the like — and at the end of the day none of it has stopped me flying, because I know how the plane works.
Here’s what I consider the biggest, most important bits of information I can give to people who hate flying…
Aeroplanes are built to fly
Not to crash, not to fall out of the sky, but to fly. If the engines all stop, they will still glide, gracefully and smoothly. And most importantly, the pilot — they want to go home too, they are not out flying because they want to die. So breathe, be calm. Pilots wouldn’t fly every day if they didn’t think they could sleep in their own bed at the end of it all.
It helps to know a few little bumps and noises you might encounter on a plane:
- You have just taken off, you are pressed back into your seat, the engines are roaring and the scenery is rapidly disappearing. There is a loud thump from beneath you, you might even feel it, you freak out. Relax, it is the wheels locking safely up into position for cruise.
- You are getting higher, past the initial rush, the wheels are in place, the engines roar comfortingly and the cabin crew are getting up and about. Then the engines go quiet. Relax, this is them throttling back for cruise.
- You are coming into land, the ground is getting closer when suddenly the engines roar and you are climbing like a bat out of hell. This is an aborted landing, there is a lot of reasons it could have happened. Perhaps there is low lying cloud and by the designated lowest safe altitude the pilots cannot see the ground, time to “go around.” Perhaps a bunch of horses just ran onto the runway (dumb arses that they are) — “go around.” Or perhaps there is some student pilot and her instructor sitting in their plane on the runway with an open mic wondering why the tower has not cleared them to takeoff already. (Ahem, not speaking from experience or anything…)
Most of the time, if the turbulence is severe, the crew will tell you
Provided the pilots have prior warning, they will tell everyone to get strapped safely into their seats before they encounter it. They will be ready for it, and if it is too bad up ahead, they will divert to avoid it.
Flying is all about getting people safely to their destinations
Safety is everything in aviation and every time there is an incident, not only is it investigated, but (at least here in Australia) all the pilots find out about it through a safety publication sent out every three months by the Aviation Safety Authority. So we can all learn from the mistakes of that day and stop them from happening again.
Flying is fun
Look out the window, imagine the people down on the ground, see if you can spot other planes in the distance, and follow the cues from the professionals.
Oh, and if your flight attendant is looking stressed, don’t assume the worst. It is more likely it’s because that arsehole in 13B is harassing them, rather than being something far more sinister.
What helps ease your flight anxiety?