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  • Scared Of Flying. PLEASE HELP!

    hi guys. i'm fly all the time and i am always scared. i hear every noise or feel every bump and freak out. can anyone please tell me how safe it really is?
    also..i'm flying to new york in a month for my 1 year anniversary with my wife. I happended to see on you tube a video of the flight that crashed out of JFK a month after 911. they said it was cause of the turbulance caused by a bigger plane. anyway probally not the best video for someone scared of flying to see. does anyone know what caused that crash and if something like that can happen again?

    thanks!

  • #2
    Talk to your doctor

    I am in a similar boat (or should I say plane) as you, as I fly constantly for business. My heart skips a beat after every bump-regardless of how bad it is. One thing I recommend is talking to your doctor about getting a prescription to help "take the edge" off of flying.

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    • #3
      I'm not trying to be flippant, but try to remember that everything you do in life carries some risk, however miniscule, but I'll bet you do most things without giving them a second thought (travelling by car, crossing the road, heck, even leaving the house!). You've said it yourself, you fly all the time, now you need to focus on realising that its an everyday, normal and safe activity. Sure, crashes do happen, but think of the numbers of planes and people flying safely in the sky around the world at any minute - the chances are so remote.

      What helps me is occasional deep, slow breathing and consciously remembering to relax my muscles (otherwise I spend the entire flight like a knotted ball of tension without realising). There really is a relationship between your state of physical tension and your mental anxiety - I know its sometimes difficult to "force" yourself to relax, but I have definitely found that once I realise that I am tensed up (in my back, shoulders, legs, hands etc.) and make a deliberate effort to relax these muscles, my anxiety improves considerably.

      Good luck with your flight - you'll be looking back on it realising that it wasn't that bad before you know it.

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      • #4
        In the US alone, there are over 5,000 airplanes in the sky during the day, and there has been 50,000 arrivals in the past 24 hours in the US alone. All of them safe. It's been a few years since there has been a major US airline accident (that one accident was terrible with the Airbus rudder), but it was a series of very improbable events.

        You are much more likely to die on the way to the airport than you are on the plane. Flying is almost absolutely safe. More people die in their bathtubs than in planes, sadly.
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        • #5
          thanks

          thanks so much guys. your comments really do help!!!

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          • #6
            Just another comment on that tragic crash--it was caused by the jet taking off too close to another large jet, and in the resulting wake turbulence, the co-pilot overworked the rudder well past the design limits. Since Airbus makes their rudders out of all composite, they have more strict operational limits than a metal would. There's absolutely nothing wrong with composite rudders, as long as pilots keep them within the limits for which they were designed.

            Incidently, I share your fear of flying even though I'm a materials science engineer that should know better I try to always bring a really engrossing novel--it helps keep my mind on something else.

            Cheer up, you're not alone.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mike3678 View Post
              hi guys. i'm fly all the time and i am always scared. i hear every noise or feel every bump and freak out. can anyone please tell me how safe it really is?
              also..i'm flying to new york in a month for my 1 year anniversary with my wife. I happended to see on you tube a video of the flight that crashed out of JFK a month after 911. they said it was cause of the turbulance caused by a bigger plane. anyway probally not the best video for someone scared of flying to see. does anyone know what caused that crash and if something like that can happen again?

              thanks!
              I was once a very fearful flyer. Not anymore though, and it's a liberating feeling to be able to fly and not only enjoy it, but to not even fear anything about it. I admire your courage to face flying again, and hope I can offer a little support.

              There was once a time that I couldn't even think of airplanes without getting a little dizzy. This was before 2001, when it was more possible to have chats with pilots on the ground before taking off. I was amazed by their passion for flying, and their cool precision with statistics. I asked them if they ever feared flying, to which they responded "you drove to the airport, correct? That is statistically at least 30 times more dangerous than any flight." I asked them if they would ever be scared in a crashing plane, to which they replied, "we love flying so much that it wouldn't matter."

              I began to learn more about what makes most people fear flying most. Turbulence is one of them, because it feels so unexpected. What we don't realize is that most turbulence is simply a motion of the plane passing through differential levels of wind patterns, resulting in a motion of only one to two inches in any direction-- that's surprising since it often feels like more. Turbulence is not dangerous to a plane-- weather planes fly directly into hurricanes all the time.

              Often being on a plane feels less safe than driving, for the lack of the sense that we are in control. Don't forget though, that the pilots' lives are on the line too. They are highly trained and many started out as Air Force pilots.

              Keep in mind that in the United States, every day about 34,000 scheduled commercial flights make fly between destinations without incident. At any given moment, there are several thousand airliners in the air. They are constantly in communication with each other and with the ground to devise the smoothest flying routes for passengers. All things considered though, pilots actually *look forward* to turbulence because it makes the monotony of their jobs more interesting. They often compare it to driving a truck. For every hour that a plane is in the air, it's on the ground for three, being serviced.

              There are many doctors in our country, very good and caring ones, who specialize in helping people overcome their fear of flying. The one I saw is in the Boston area (I could recommend her if you wish). I thought myself to be a horrible, off-the-charts case, and totally incurable. In fact she told me that she saw far, far worse cases, and that she was 100% successful with all of them. Within two months, I was flying again without a dash of fear! ;-) She used a combination of techniques. First was information about flying. Secondly I was introduced to a variety of cognitive-behavioral self-analyses which were completely new to my thought processes.

              One example is to ask yourself in real time "on a scale of one to ten, where is my anxiety level right now?" You start to see yourself outside of yourself, ie rationally instead of emotionally. It's fascinating to watch the number go up and down, and then overall, things sometimes tend to settle down.

              Another technique is desensitization. Sometimes the feeling of panic itself is a snowball effect. The inability to breathe well scares us. So, I practiced breathing through a straw to induce that scary feeling. Eventually, I no longer feared it.

              Fearful thoughts tend to be in terms of black and white. They often catastrophize (it's a word now :-) themselves. When you feel yourself thinking these thoughts, keep a log of them, and try to ask yourself if they are founded.

              You are on the right track! Watch planes, think about them, learn about them, develop a passion for them, talk about them. They are marvelous, human creations! Look around and see all the die-hard airplane enthusiasts!

              I now look forward so much to my next flight that I cannot wait to step onto my next flight. Flying is a mind-clearing, transcendental experience which gives me a feeling of elation that I do not get elsewhere.

              I might add too, that paradoxically overcame my fear of flying in conjunction with an in-depth study of air crash investigations and the heroic behavior of pilots in the face of adversity. I began to realize in fact what an intensely regulated industry the aviation industry is. When making your way to your successful recovery (and yes, you will get there!) don't try to tire your mind by obsessing over which airline or airplane is your better way to go. Generally speaking, every flight is as safe or "dangerous" as the next. For example, just because one Air France jet crashed, doesn't make the next Air France jet suddenly more likely to crash.

              I hope that I might have helped you in some ways, and wish I could recommend some books to you that have helped me, if you or others are interested.

              In the end, it was not statistics which calmed my mind. It was the support of caring human beings who went through the same thing, and practice learning how my thoughts work. Practice deep relaxation techniques-- free podcasts such as at meditationoasis.com were of great value to me. I eventually learned to recognize one very interesting thing: an anxious mind has a nearly impossible time existing in a completely relaxed body. Continue to focus your thoughts on why you are traveling, and your destination, and the people you will enjoy meeting at the other end.

              If I was able to overcome a fear of flying completely, I am convinced anybody can. You can do it! :-)

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              • #8
                That crash was caused by wake turbulence left by a big aircraft ahead, a design flaw in the rudder system, and co-pilot error in over-correcting the yaw he felt by countering with full rudder in each direction during the wake turbulence, overstressing the aircraft.

                As with almost every crash, it was not a single event but a culmination of several small problems that worsened

                The design flaw has since been remedied.

                It's still statistically rare...that was one flight in 10s of millions that do not end in a crash. The stats for driving to the airport in a car are not so favorable. 1 in 4000 for a fender bender, 1 in 14000 for a fatal car accident. If you should panic anywhere, you should panic in the car!

                I agree, meds are your best bet. But you will be okay, like the millions of others who fly every day. Yes, there is a chance it will kill you..but as another poster said, EVERYTHING has that chance, so why focus on a plane ride? You can get fatal food poisoning every time you eat, you take that risk.but you eat without fear. You can end up mangled in a car accident each time you get into a car, but you still get in cars with little fear. Everything you do carries some risk and you don't panic because you are used to those things, even though most of them are statistically unsafe compared to flying. Yet flying is what you worry about. That's like worrying about getting struck by lightening while your house is on fire.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by tb_neg View Post
                  You are much more likely to die on the way to the airport than you are on the plane. Flying is almost absolutely safe. More people die in their bathtubs than in planes, sadly.
                  It is this kind of statistics that increase my fear even more - simply because they are disingenuous and are trying to portray a "reality" that is simply not real. And I wonder who has a vested interest in people buying into this apparently real "reality".
                  Could it be that more people die in bathtubs than in planes because every living soul (in the western world) has a bathtub which he/she uses daily, whereas not every living soul has a plane in which he/she flies daily?

                  I read somewhere some things that I probably should not read - but I did it anyway. Apparently, once statistics are calculated "per trip" and once they are adjusted too reflect the number of people who CHOOSE to expose themselves to given risk, flying DOES come out more dangerous than driving (about 12 times more dangerous, supposedly), slightly less dangerous than riding a motorcycle. I wonder how many people would agree to put their small children on a motorcycle...
                  Last edited by syracusa; 07-05-2009, 04:01 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by syracusa View Post
                    It is this kind of statistics that increase my fear even more - simply because they are disingenuous and are trying to portray a "reality" that is simply not real. And I wonder who has a vested interest in people buying into this apparently real "reality".

                    Apparently, once statistics are calculated "per trip", flying DOES come out more dangerous than driving (about 12 times more dangerous, supposedly), slightly less dangerous than riding a motorcycle.
                    I share your skepticism, but I don't think the "per trip" measurement is a good one. I don't know about you, but probably half the time I get in my car I travel ten minutes or less, and usually at speeds too low to produce a serious accident. The stats can be fudged either way.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ted View Post
                      I share your skepticism, but I don't think the "per trip" measurement is a good one. I don't know about you, but probably half the time I get in my car I travel ten minutes or less, and usually at speeds too low to produce a serious accident. The stats can be fudged either way.
                      I agree. I drive in relatively safe conditions most of the time: never speed, never drink and drive, never use highways, often in areas with little to no traffic, many trips are short. So how is my chance higher to die in a car than in a plane?

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