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Do you have a fear of flying? Looking for some helpful flight anxiety remedies… that really work?
Maybe you want to fly in a plane, but are afraid to.
Maybe you’re a frequent flyer, but get nervous every time you step foot on a plane.
I used to be afraid of flying also — but I learned how to overcome this fear and recently went on my very first plane ride!
Here’s how I did it, and you can too…
What Are The Odds?
What I realized about my flight anxiety is that what I feared most (a fatal plane crash) occurs very rarely. In fact, so rarely that you would need to fly once a day, every day, for 55,000 years before being involved in a fatal plane crash.
Well, it’s not crazy to have a fear of flying. But the one thing so many of those with a fear of flight worry about — crashing — is so crazily rare! In fact, flying is considered the safest mode of transportation.
Here’s my story. Perhaps, the things that helped me will also help you get over your fear of flying.
Why I Was Afraid To Fly
My fear of flying goes back to my childhood, when the tragic Pan AM Flight 103 terrorist bombing occurred and killed 270 people — including 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988.
The terrible tragedy shocked the world and shook this 7-year-old who enjoyed watching the evening news even as a young kid. Making matters worse for me, my family and I lived within 4 blocks of the overhead flight path for a major international airport only a mile or so away.
I grew up hearing from inside my house the sound of planes coming and going every few minutes. But the familiar sound of roaring jet engines overhead became menacing to me after the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie.
My wild imagination made it all too easy to envision a flaming crash right by the airport — the flames engulfing my house and hurting scores of people. Right before going to bed every evening after the Pan Am terrorist attack, I’d ask my mom and dad if they thought a plane would crash nearby overnight, seeking their reassurance that none would.
In all the decades since, there has been no plane crash at or near that airport. But that constant fear I had of a plane crashing by my house subsided only after we moved several miles away from the airport’s main flight path.
My Flight Anxiety Continued To Persist
In later years, several other major plane crashes caused my fear of flying to persist.
Ironically, the 9/11 terrorist attacks didn’t intensify my flight anxiety very much. Even I, a self-proclaimed worry wart, rationalized that such terrorist incidents (particularly those involving planes) were exceedingly rare and likely would never could happen again the way the 9/11 attacks did — thanks to new and enduring security efforts in the wake of the attacks.
In more recent years however, the intense fear of flying I had since my youth gave way to more of an annoyance of the process of flying in general:
- Having to minimize what I packed to go along with me
- Needing to arrive 2 hours early for a flight just to get through airport security
- The possibility of delays with connecting flights
- The high cost of plane tickets
- Cramped seating in a confined space
- And many of the other common complaints people have about flying
Bear in mind, I developed these rather grumpy opinions of flying before I had even boarded my first flight!
The allure of a leisurely road trip by car has always drawn me to the pavement rather than a flight in the friendly skies.
Not too long ago, I had been planning a 2-week road trip from my home in Florida to the Pacific Ocean in California.
But then, I got a call from my workplace near Los Angeles that I had to visit the office. (I live in Florida and work remotely for a California company.) What’s more? I had only 5 days on my calendar to accomplish all that!
There was no way I’d be able to take a road trip across the country, spend 3 days in California, and drive back to Florida all in just 5 days.
But if I’d fly out and back, then it would be a different story…
How I Recently Overcame My Fear Of Flying
I’ll be honest… If I didn’t have an important reason to fly across the United States I probably wouldn’t have. Even after having flown on a plane and seeing how safe, efficient, and enjoyable it can be — I still prefer getting from Point A to Point B in the comfort of my own car.
But when I realized I had little choice in this matter, I decided the only way to overcome any lingering fear of flying from my childhood years was to look it straight in the face.
So, I got focused and spent a good amount of time:
- Learning how planes work
- Studying the science behind flying
- Looking up flight safety statistics
- Observing planes flying in and out of my local airport
- Watching several YouTube videos showing what it’s like to take off, land, and experience in-flight turbulence
Before long, I was becoming familiar with the idea of flying. Even though I had yet to board a jet bound for takeoff, flying on an airplane was no longer a mysterious, scary thing for me.
I finally ended up taking my first flight. And I had a blast!
I even wrote about my experiences on my first flight. Hopefully reading that story helps others as they prepare to fly for the first time, too.
How To Get Over Your Fear Of Flying
As you can see, I overcame my fear of flying by using several coping methods — including research and observation techniques.
Other interventions are also available for fearful fliers:
Whatever approach works best for you in overcoming your fear of flying and feeling calmer during air travel, I suggest you do it. Who knows… maybe something as simple as listening to soothing music is all you will need to stop feeling anxious on an airplane.
Getting over my fear of flying opened up a whole new world of potential travel experiences for me. I can now visit places that are either impractical or even impossible to reach by car — such as Iceland, Australia, Antarctica, and Hawaii!
Still, if you’re afraid to fly… you’re not alone.
Millions Of People Have Flight Anxiety
As many as 25% of Americans are said to suffer from some degree of nervousness about flying.
Even more conservative estimates by the National Institute of Mental Health suggest closer to 6.5% of Americans. That’s still a whopping 20 million people who deal with aviophobia (the fear of flying).
There are many famous people who have flying phobias, including:
- Ben Affleck
- Kirsten Dunst
- Megan Fox
- Sandra Bullock
- Colin Farell
- Kate Winslet
- Whoopi Goldberg
- William Shatner
- Britney Spears
And, then there’s NFL personality John Madden. The former football coach and commentator used to fly — but eventually became claustrophobic and avoided planes altogether:
Instead, Madden racked up tens of thousands of miles each year in a bus (called “The Madden Cruiser”) traveling from game to game throughout the continental United States to provide television commentary.
The Bottom Line
There’s nothing wrong with traveling by train, car, or boat — it’s fun to get around that way! And those modes of transportation allow you to see more of the things you’re passing by.
But, once you try it, you will find that flying on a plane is a great way to get where you want to go in a hurry!
So yes, I will continue to fly when necessary. But I’ll always be a fan of fun road trips.
To overcome your flight anxiety, maybe the “Plane Whisperer” can help you:
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I’m a Florida native, a roller coaster junkie, and a frequent traveler. (Long road trips are my favorite.) Born and raised in Tampa, I grew up visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I authored the book Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Images of Modern America, which details the colorful history of the Busch Gardens theme park. As a local historian, I’ve also written about other popular landmarks and attractions for a variety of publications. Here, on this Travel Guide, I like sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about all the places I’ve been — so you will have a good idea of what those places are like and what you should know before you go. I especially enjoy helping others plan fun trips… on a budget!