Hi everyone,

This is my first time posting to this site, although I've been a member for a time.

I am interested to find out if there is anyone else like me out there in terms of my story with flying.

I have never been afraid of flying. I like to think I'm still not (of flying). I am a frequent flier currently, and although I am wary of flying, I still do it.

In 2005 I lived overseas in Scotland for a year (I'm from Canada). During that year I flew everywhere: France, Italy, Greece, England, etc. The thought of a plane crashing didn't even phase me. Neither did turbulene. Actually, tubulence still doesn't. Flying to Vancouver so much right over the ocean has showed me how bad tubulence can be, bt it never affects the actual plane. No flights stood out as even remotely frightening (although landing during a blustery crosswind in Ireland had the cabin clapping). But that was it. No bad experiences. Actually, they were the best kind: entirely forgettable.

On my return to Canada, I began having terrible dreams about the aftermath of plane crashes. Horrible, graphic, and always the same: I can usually see the plane (I'm rarely on them) coming down, and then it crashes. At first I was able to separate the dreams from reality; I still flew, lived my life, etc. But over time, I decided to research why I was having these dreams, and that led to documented examples of plane crashes. Now my fear is entirely about crashing. I am not afraid of heights, I'm not claustrophobic, and I'm not intimidated by turbulence. My fear is 100% on engine failure. It's irritating because I didn't ever go through an in-flight situation that can explain this fear.

To help with my fear, I researched a lot. I know that planes can glide upon complete engine failure (which is ridiculously rare anyway), and I know that planes can divert to a nearer airport in the case of extreme engine trouble. I KNOW this, and yet, when I close my eyes, I see myself strapped in the seat, eyes closed, as we plunge for the ground. This fear is so powerful that I'm just tired of it. I still fly because I refuse to let such a silly thing interrupt my plans (traveling, visiting family, etc), but I would be lying if I said it was okay. Last year, I did what most "flying fearless" type websites instruct to do: I talked to a pilot. He flies for Westjet and was extremely approachable. He basically told me everything I already know (flights are watched closely the entire trip, planes are meticulously cared for and not flown if ANYTHING seems amiss, etc.) but it was still incredibly comforting to hear it from a pilot. He went so far as to introduce me to the Captain and First Officer (who were very understanding and, as they drank their Starbucks, asked "do we look trustworthy??"). After that, I actually flew without any fear for the next few flights. Actually, even despite my new fear, I'm usually okay once I'm ON the plane. It's the pre-trip where I freak out most.

Now, however, I have a flight in August where I fly from Vancouver to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Kuwait. I chose to fly Condor and Luftthansa for their safety records (and I will NOT go near a prop plane), but it's a 19 hour trip and I'm absolutely petrified. I'm most worried about flying over the ocean. There's never been (as far as I have looked?) a successful ditching on a passenger plane in the ocean. Mysterious instances (such as Air France a few years ago) terrify me. I just cannot get past the fact that as safe as airplanes are, crashes carry devastating turnouts. I was in a head-on collision last August and I survived. I can't help but point this out when people use a blanket statement such as "planes are safer than cars." Are they? I don't know. I know they crash less often than cars, but when they do crash, it sort of seems like the odds are against them. That's what scares me. If planes crashed more but crashes were more survivable, I'd be less frightened. It just seems like success stories are rare. And that's what I fear. Engine failure, and the 5 excruciating minutes of knowing I'm doomed. 

Has anyone else randomly adopted an irrational flight terror? Is anyone else only concerned about mechanical issues and/or pilot error (not hijacking and turbulence)?

I guess I just want to know what everyone else's experiences are and what they've done to overcome their fear, or what they're doing to try and fight it?



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Comment by David Wragg on June 14, 2012 at 10:42pm

Hello Kristin,

Like you, I'm only really bothered about mechanical failure and human error. Which is probably why I've only flown a handful of times. I really like your 'secret' attitude strategy - the adventurous, positive, excited side of ourselves that we can access when we listen to our favourite music, think about the special things about flying, the views, sharing new experiences etc. I try to get into that zone around 'flying' time.

I do think that our sensibilities change throughout our lives though - we pay attention to different things, change interests worry about new things and stop worrying about others. I think this is natural - change is inescapable. As a child, I never used to be that worried about performing. Now, I am. As a teenager, I used to worry about being in a large group in a confined space and panicking. Now, I'm not. From reading your posts, it seems you have a reasonable knowledge and awareness of aircraft incidents and accidents (me too, by the way!). Have you always been this aware of them? I presume not. Do you think maybe the 'survival' part of your brain (the amygdala, I think) has become a bit more sensitised to the new information you are feeding it about air travel? The reason I'm saying this is because I sense you are desperate to know why you are afraid of air travel now when you weren't in the past. And if you did go down the line of past-life regression and someone did manage to convince you that in a past life you were involved in some kind of traumatic accident, do you really think it would help you in your quest to become a more relaxed traveller? I don't know what you would do with that information, other than convince yourself that there's a reason why you'll never be happy flying again. And why didn't you fear flying earlier in your 'real' life If you had a bad past-life experience? I believe there are plenty more rational and evidence-based approaches to tackling our fears that are credible and lasting, but this is just my opinion.

Some of the things I do to prepare for flying include visualising my trips in reverse. I see myself on holiday, or even back at home and then sort of play the tape backwards - visualising myself landing, descending, in the cruise, climbing, turning, taking off etc. etc. In each phase, I visualise myself coping well, enjoying the experience in a relaxed way and also using the rational thoughts I've been rehearsing in preparation for the trip - e.g 'I'm safer in the air than in my car . . . my imagination is not a prediction of the future (or I'd be rich) . . . anxiety distorts reality . . . why aren't the airline staff thinking like me (thanks Keith!) etc. I've got a whole long list of them which I internalise until they are an almost automatic reaction whenever I begin to have fearful thoughts.

Briefly, I also watch take-off and flying videos (thanks, Youtube), look at the arrivals board for my flights a couple of weeks in advance, and watch the online flight radar websites every now and again (planefinder.com, flightradar24.com) and visualise myself when I'm on the plane as one of the thousands of red or yellow little planes that blip, blip, blip about their well-trodden routes day after day after day without fail.

Good luck!


Comment by Sarah on June 13, 2012 at 1:59am


Yes, I'm all about the silent, internal panic. You're right, it must be so unhealthy. And I can totally relate to the frustration with not being able to get past fears that seem to have come from nowhere.

I don't know about past life regression - I don't really believe in that stuff. I've thought a lot about past flights and identified two occassions that may have triggered my fear, even though they're stupid. The first is flying into Bratislava, late December 2008. The whole flight was normal and we started the descent into Bratislava. We entered the clouds and it was a bit bumpy but I wasn't bothered, it was all normal. But then I noticed it was taking a long time. We'd been descending for ages, all in the clouds. Ages and ages, still descending, still in the clouds. And that scene from Die Hard came into my head (I don't remember which Die Hard - the one with the planes) and I got a bit nervous. I was sure that at any moment we would hit the ground. And it went on for ages and ages, descending and clouds and descending and clouds. I think we came out of the clouds about 20 seconds before touching down. But that was the first time I was scared on a flight and it's SO stupid because it came from a scene from a film that I didn't even like that much and wasn't in any way realistic.

The other time was when I lived in Vietnam. I turned on the tv and Air Crash Investigation was on. It was about the crash in Madrid and they were doing a reconstruction. I only watched a couple of minutes but the reconstruction was just a little bit too realistic, people screaming in the plane, and one of the people actually looked a lot like me. Again, it's stupid. But I really think that's where my fear of take-off has come from.

If I'm honest, realising this hasn't been that helpful. If the fear hasn't come from these things, it's come from somewhere else, but it doesn't really matter cos it's here and now and I have to deal with it here and now.

I do like your 'secret attitude' thing - it makes a lot of sense. For me, that mainly means putting great songs on my ipod, looking out the window and saying, 'look at where you are! How cool is this?! Life is awesome!' But yeah, it doesn't always work. I really wish we could use ipods during take-off :(

I'm also quite jealous of your being able to speak to pilots before a flight. I've always wanted to talk to the people flying the plane I'm on, but never had the opportunity. Also, I know I'd ask too many questions.

Good luck talking to Keith and see you around the forums.



Comment by Captain Keith on June 12, 2012 at 11:30pm

It's a UK landline. Maybe best to email me to see if I'm here with the time difference.


Comment by Kristin Charney on June 12, 2012 at 11:16pm

Hi Captain Keith,

Is that a mobile number or a landline? I'd love to ring you--I need some help!


What a relief I'm not the only one. I feel the same way you do: I get on the plane because I have to in order to get anywhere, but I am panicking (albeit silently and internally) the WHOLE time, especially, like you, during take-off, landing, and anytime the plane banks (even if it's to approach an airport and I'm accustomed to it). It's so annoying I could just scream. I hate feeling so anxious about something all the time....can you imagine feeling this way every time you stepped into a car?? I am considering a past life regression therapy to see if there's an alternative reason for why I'm afraid, as there is nothing logical (bad experience, etc.) to explain why this, as opposed to any other fear, just appeared to make my life so uncomfortable. I used to LOVE flying. I still enjoy the sensation of being in the air, but I cannot overcome the panic I feel when I think about all the things that could go wrong. It's exhausting and unhealthy.
As for me and coping, I essentially try to enjoy the flight: I read a book, appreciate the beautiful cloud covers or mountaintops when I can, and really try to employ a whole 'Secret' attitude, like thinking positive and feeling in control and enjoying my life. I would be lying if I said it work 100%, but other than talking to a pilot (short term reassurance), I haven't done a lot. This has been the biggest step for me. :)

Comment by Sarah on June 12, 2012 at 11:05pm


Wow, you could have been writing about me, there. I also fly pretty frequently as I work overseas, I've never had a bad experience on a flight and I had NEVER been scared of flying. This fear seemed to come up so randomly.

I still fly, despite being massively anxious the entire time. But turbulence doesn't bother me that much and I'm not really claustrophobic, my biggest worries are take off, landing and when the plane turns - at those times I'm somehow convinced that something's going to go wrong and the plane's going to crash.

As for trying to overcome it - I guess I realised that continuing to push myself onto flights and 'just get over' my fear wasn't going to work. That was actually quite a big deal, accepting the need to do something active about it. I totally know what you mean about hearing things you already know from a pilot and they sound a lot more reassuring. That's where this site helped me. Ummmm, apart from that I just try and remember the stuff I read in the book (and I really, really want to do the groundcourse this summer.)

But I wouldn't say I'm anywhere near flying without fear yet. I'd be really interested to hear how you get on and what helps you.


Comment by Captain Keith on June 11, 2012 at 5:01pm


Just ring me on 01420 588 628   but not right now it's football time!


Comment by Kristin Charney on June 11, 2012 at 4:36pm

Hi Tiffany!

I didn't find your post harsh at all! The things you said are things I try to tell myself constantly, and they are also things that my friends and family tell me too! If ONLY I could not worry about planes the way I used to. I didn't ever even consider crashing 7 years ago. It was just another mode of transportation. I can sometimes push my fears away, but they seem to come back no matter how positive I try and be, and how reasonable. I haven't spoken to Captain Keith.....how do I go about doing that/
One thing I do find really helpful is talking to the pilot and first officer when I fly. Knowing that they know I'm scared seems to help me a lot. :)


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