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What About Flying Do You Actually Fear?

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  • What About Flying Do You Actually Fear?

    I'm curious to know what most people here actually fear when they're in the air. I've read many different articles on this issue. Most list a bunch of different reasons for the fear (heights, turbulence, crashes, etc.), give statistics, and tell you that flying is the safest method of travel (which it is).

    However, none of the information I've come across has actually helped me. After really thinking about it, I've finally narrowed the reason why I fear flying down to one simple thing: not having control.

    I like to fly. In fact, I love to fly. I enjoy takeoffs and landings, love the views. Being that high up doesn't bother me at all. I used to work ground ops at JFK and loved watching the planes going out and coming in. However, with all of that comes lots of catastrophic thinking (the engine's gonna fail, we're gonna hit extreme turbulence and not be able to get out of it, etc.)

    I'll admit, I'm not a fan of turbulence. It's not the feeling of the plane bouncing around that bothers me, but rather the feeling that I'm somehow losing control or the pilot is losing control of the plane. It's all about control. I'm also always worried that some part of the plane is going to fail. Rationally, I know the likelihood of this happening is extremely slim, however one must keep in mind that it's not easy to convince the irrational mind.

    I really think it comes down to this: I worry that some mechanical failure or extreme turbulence will bring the plane down and I won't have an ounce of power to do anything about it.

    The interesting thing is I only have this intense anxiety while flying. Whether it's a car, train, ship, etc., I feel that I always have some way out, even if I'm not behind the wheel. Yes, I sometimes do feel a bit uncomfortable when certain others are in the driver's seat, but it's never intense like it is in a plane. Unfortunately, going over 500mph at 35k feet in a plane doesn't give me that option to bail.

    I once joked to my wife and said that I would have absolutely no problem with flying if I had a parachute strapped to my back. This way I'd have some control over the situation if something were to go wrong. Of course, this isn't a possibility on a jetliner.

    Does anybody else have these same feelings?

  • #2
    I am extremely terrified of turbulence and if I try to replicate that feeling while I'm driving on the highway hitting some potholes along the way I just can't do it. I'm totally at ease when I'm in control but once I'm 30,000 feet up in the air with nothing beneath me, surrounded by dark clouds with no land in sight, forget it! I'm terrified of light turbulence, even, and the only time I don't mind a few bumps is when I can see the airport and we're going through some low lying clouds before landing.


    • #3
      I don't have a rational fear of anything really bad happening, such as the plan crashing. My fear is that we will hit turbulence. When turbulence comes on I start to panic. Not because I feel like something bad is going to happen, but because during turbulence my body can feel the speed on the plane and my brain is causing me to be in fear mode when it feels we're going 600+mph. When there is no turbulence I don't have strong fear or panic, other than some mild anxiety in anticipation of possible turbulence.


      • #4
        Control is likely my issue as well, and it follows with a cascading fear of my flight being that ONE particular flight that something goes wrong. I have spent years reading and staying abreast of flying (though not as a pilot of any kind) and plane technology-and it often helps, and though my rational mind knows there is such a tiny risk in flying that it isn't worth considering-that turbulence is only one in several million literal times dangerous, I just get caught in the fear spurned on by lack of any control.
        I also find it less bothersome after cruise and even during landing-worst for me is takeoff then immediate clouds or no visual horizon.


        • #5
          Hmmmm, Where do I start?

          a) Wing damage\Loss of wing (although this has been dealt with on another post)
          b) Full loss of electrical equipment on board.
          c) Loss of engine power in one or both engines.
          d) Explosion on take-off (like Final Destination)
          e) Bizarrely, I always worry when we take off whether the tail might hit the ground when rotating.

          Turbulence in itself doesn't really worry me too much, it only worries me to the extent of what it is doing to the plane.


          • #6
            @Walrusmuse: My thoughts exactly. Logically we know that flying is the safest form of travel, crashes are rare and planes are designed to withstand tremendous amounts of turbulence. Emotionally, however, we know that all those passengers on planes that crashed probably never expected to be on the one in a million flight where something went tragically wrong. That is my biggest fear.

            That Air France crash off of Brazil really shook me up, because from what information we know, what happened on that plane is every jittery flyer's worst nightmare. Nasty thunderstorms, flying at night when you can't see what's going on, severe to extreme turbulence and pilots unable to control the airplane followed by dropping 35,000 feet to their deaths. I can't imagine the terror they went through.
            Last edited by FormerFrequentFlier; 07-10-2011, 05:57 PM. Reason: spelling


            • #7
              Yeah it was a pretty intense mystery for a long time, and still remains one to a degree, as they just recently released the preliminary findings form the black boxes that were miraculously recovered this year. Two articles really sum it up well, but they go into great detail, so if you are squeamish, and are not helped by more info about the crash, I wouldn't venture there, but for me, the knowledge helps a little, to know as much as we can what happened. So I recommend the following only if you find yourself comforted and not thrown off by digging into the crash info a little more:

              From what they found, it appears, for some reason the plane entered into a high speel stall, where the wings don't generate enough lift (via angles, speed) to keep the plane aloft. While serious, it should not be un recoverable, but for some reason, perhaps due to some of the instruments showing unreliable readouts, the pilots kept the plane's nose up, which is the opposite of what needs to happen to stall recover (which is to nose down and recover airspeed, more or less-this is all very simplified and i hope I don't do it injustice-I am no pilot-but these forums I link to are filled with them-who explain it much better than me). This put them into a state where the plane was descending, but they did not realize it (apparently) until it was too late to recover, if they realized it at all (they did know something was wrong, very obviously). So it is a confusing case, because every pilot that commented on it is flummoxed by why the crew did the exact opposite thing they needed to, in a fundamental stall recovery. RIP to those who died, and I hope, if this comforts any here with knowledge, I hope it helps your flying improve.