– by Shubha Menon –
You’re all packed and ready to go on vacation. You’re excited, but something is stopping you from really looking forward to the time ahead. As every minute brings you closer to takeoff, you get more apprehensive. The stress peaks once you are on the plane.
If this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from flight fright, or fear of flying. You are not alone! The condition is far from unusual, and you can combat this fear, which may seem reasonable but is not rational. To begin with, here are some facts.
Air travel is the safest mode of mass transportation. A may feel safer, but there are far more casualties on American highways than in the air. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website, statistically you would have to fly on average once a day every day for 22,000 years before you would perish in a US commercial aviation accident. So contrary to what your mind is telling you, you are safe.
Little comfort, you may say. How can you stop being so terrified? The first step is conquering irrational fears. The second step is to get on the plane and keep doing it.
The First Step
Fear: The plane will crash!
Fact: Airplanes are built to fly. Flying comes as naturally to planes as it does to birds. Birds don’t come crashing out of the sky, and neither will your plane. As one pilot said, “planes are the happiest in the air.” Everything about a plane is designed to fulfill its purpose: to get its passengers and crew safely to their destination through the the air. Worried about mecanical problems? Airlines engage in ongoing routine maintenance. For every hour that it flies, a modern airplane undergoes 11 hours of maintenance.
Fear: The plane will never survive this turbulence!
Fact: When a plane flies through an area of low pressure to high pressure (or vice versa), it causes a bumpiness in your ride. These bumps are not at all dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable and yes, can knock things around when extreme. That’s why you store your carry-on luggage carefully and why you should wear your seatbelt. But despite your racing heart and spilled wine, the plane is not going to crash. Airplanes are created to be stable. They do not tip. If they get even marginally away from its position, planes correct themselves.
What if there is a thunderstorm?
Rest assured. Aircraft are built to withstand lightning. It does happen sometimes, and there is no effect other than a bright flash of light. Be that as it may, the weather is always monitored before and during the flight, and a plane can detect storms from 160 miles away. If the weather is too dangerous, the flight will be delayed, or if you have already taken off, the pilot will fly around the storm or land at the nearest airport.
Will the Plane Crash Into Another Plane?
Air Traffic Control (ATC) tracks all planes’ movement by radar. Traffic controllers ensure that planes maintain a safe distance from each other. Additionally, planes have Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) on board, allowing them to adjust paths as needed.
Can the Plane Door Come Open During Flight?
No. At around 30,000 feet, there is 20,000 pounds of pressure holding the door shut.
The Second Step
As you can see, flying is actually the safest way to travel. The pilots and the crew are highly trained and competent. Their training is rigorous and ongoing, as is airplane maintenance. You’re used to being on the ground, and your fear causes you anxiety, creating a pattern you have become accustomed to following. Let that false pattern go, get on the plane, remind yourself of all the rational reasons to not be afraid and remind yourself that your fears are irrational. Sit back, relax and allow yourself to release that stress. You are in safe hands.