Aerophobia reached hysterical limits - kindly asking for help!

syracusa

New member
I will humbly make a few remarks below, not because I want to "win" the argument. I just hope I am wrong in everything I think, but I fear I am right.

People are afraid of flying [...] because they do not have control..the pilot does.
I have never had any problem whatsoever riding in the passanger seat with ANYONE who has a driver's license. I did not get my driver's license until I was 35 (that's last year), forced by circumstances, and I still consider myself a lousier driver than virtually anyone I know with a driver's license.
I feel OK in the car. Maybe there's a reasonable reason? Such as "car does not speed with 1000km/h in the air"?

However, flying is much safer than most of the activities people engage in daily....crossing the street, driving a car...
I am starting to collect serious evidence that airlines simply distort the truth with the wrong numbers. On purpose. Honest statistics need to be "normalized" to reflect the population that chooses to subject themselves to the risk in question. I am not at all convinced that driving is less safe.

You have a better chance of winning the lottery...1 in 64 million compared to 1 in 140 million for a plane crash.
Source?

It's safer and faster than any other mode of long distance travel.
Faster yes. Safer - I am yet to be convinced. And I don't mean "my right side of the brain". My left side too is yet to be convinced.
 

LLL

New member
Again, it depends on how you measure the chances of dying in a plane crash. Most stats tend to favor the airline industry.

Since I have flown many times, and have decided that I now prefer driving, I don't have a phobia. I speak from experience. An irrational phobia is a label only worthy of someone who hasn't even tried flying. I have. I'd rather drive.
 

syracusa

New member
Again, it depends on how you measure the chances of dying in a plane crash. Most stats tend to favor the airline industry.
I always thought that when people pass around the popular wisdom according to which "flying is safest", they are saying this based on serious statistics that were already NORMALIZED to reflect the populaiton that CHOOSES to expose itself to each respective risk (car, plane, train, etc). Those are called "z-scores" in social statistics. In other words, risk per trip.

But when I saw how several articles were arguing along the lines of "last year 10,000 died in car accidents, but only 300 in aviation accidents" I had to conclude that overall, people are indeed more gullible, less intelligent and less educated than what I wanted to believe.

How can you cite "absolute numbers" and get away with it, I have no idea.
 

LLL

New member
The chances of dying in a plane crash are obviously very low. Figure 30,000 planes take off every day. I'm talking commercial travel here.

The US went two years without a crash. When we did have one in Denver, all survived. Then US Air crashed into the Hudson and everyone survived. Wasn't until Colgan/Continental crashed on approach in Buffalo.

Again, the chances of dying in a plane crash is a totally different statistic than the chances of an individual aircraft being in a fatal crash.
 

syracusa

New member
The chances of dying in a plane crash are obviously very low. Figure 30,000 planes take off every day. I'm talking commercial travel here.
Yes, I see that; but you still can't get away with making the comparison between "how many people died in a given year in car accidents" and "how many died in aviation accidents". Right?

If you say 30,000 planes take off every day ...can you imagine how many cars start on the road everyday ?????
Many more people drive in a given year than fly, and many more car trips are done in a given year than plane trips. So comparing absolute numbers is just wrong.

Isn't that common sense?
 

tfaw

Lifetime Elite
Eventually, we will all wind up at our Final Destination. If not a natural end, all you can hope for is a rapid conclusion.
 

tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, but the plane doesn't care, see? Or at least not as much as the passengers.

Again, the chances of dying in a plane crash is a totally different statistic than the chances of an individual aircraft being in a fatal crash.
 

bw1

New member
I'm going to throw my two cents in... just for fun. Said two cents has no chance whatsoever of making an impact but I'll give it a go.


LLL - you have a phobia. I've had several in my life and trust me, you have one. Nothing wrong with it - but it is what it is. You avoid flying and call it an option and it is an option - of course it is. No one has to fly. It isn't among the things we have to do to live. You choose not to do it and that's fine for you - I don't imagine anyone's trying to make you fly. My only question is, if not flying didn't bother you to some degree, what other reasons would have for posting in a turbulence-related forum? Unless you're planning on fomenting an anti-flying revolution, that is. ;)

I know you said you enjoy watching planes take off and land. I did too - still do. When I was at my flying phobia zenith (quit altogether for 2 years), I still loved being at O'Hare, watching planes, etc. Knew all the models, etc. I love flight - the mechanics, the beauty, the grace, the speed. Some of the knowledge I used to my advantage to overcome my fear, some was just cause I'm a geek that way.

Syracusa - you have a phobia and you recognize it. I know you feel bad about it cause it's costing you time and money and mental energy. Been there, hated it, made outrageous concessions to avoid flying and then more outrageous concessions to compensate. I worked at it, it went away (somewhat -- it's still there but I do it). You're not at a place where you can do that yet and that's ok. Sometimes those things go away on their own and sometimes you have to beat them back. Only you can know which way you will go with it. If you want help, it's out there - many many people are afraid to fly and many many people have conquered it with help. In time, you might find you want to do that.

As far as the statistics go, they are what they are. Alot more cars crash because yes, there are alot more cars. However, I would surmise that between mechanical, structural, and technological redundancies, professional training and personnel resources, pilots and crew are far better equipped than the average driver. Airplane crashes get alot of attention because when they're fatal crashes, the number of victims is generally higher than the average car accident. Plus, they don't really happen very often so they get our attention.

I can't say anything helpful beyond that. For me, as gruesome or flippant as this sounds, I've always figured when my number is up, my number is up. If it's my day and I choose not to fly from fear, I'm likely to get run over by the Hertz return-lot bus or one of the crazed cab drivers at O'Hare. I'm not in any way making light of dying in a plane crash -- please know that. I do however, prefer not to spend too much time imagining the unimaginable.

Good luck with your transatlantic trip!! Enjoy it - you've earned it!!
 

syracusa

New member
Bw1,

Your words are wise and it is certainly what I should be focusing on right now, a few weeks before my flight back to the US. Unfortunately, every day my mental state jumps from fear, to depression, to lethargy, to anger, to helplessness, to all over the place. I would certainly not put it beyond me to start an anti-flying revolution if I come out of this flight safe and sound.

It used to be I was able to enjoy my time between flights (usually vacation) and put the fear on hold for just a little while. Now, after the 447, not anymore. My summer in Europe was a failure because of this accident.
It is also because I have the children with me - and my husband is back in the US.

Either way, I am grateful for the words of encouragement I received here and I am watching the turbulence map like a hawk, hoping that it will not have red dots on the day of my flight.
 

Walrusmuse

New member
Syracusa-tha ks for your candiness, and all of the others' as well. I found this forum after riding in a terrifying flight to abozeman last summer, facing from there a 30 odd hour collection flights to Malaysia. Not a good few weeks, though I fly almost every week, as a musician.

I am with many others in that rationally I know the odds are far in my favor in flight (look at airsafe.com, aviation.net, others) but irrationally I get twitchy at bumps and even sometimes speed adjustments. I have spen a lot of time looking at aviation info, past accidents, current ones, different airframes and airlines' safety, etc. I also can tell so many more things about when to expect rough air, a tiny plane (I fly from OKC which is almost all regional jets save Frontier and SW and occasinal mainline med. Jets), things like that.

Due to my job, I cannot simply not fly. So I have slowly began to look at what helps me fly better: the window seat is the biggest thing. The horizon and calm of being able to place my senses is the single most helpful thing I can do on a flight. Today I went to Denver in a middle seat and it affected me tho I could see out most of the flight. I know that sitting in the front to mid of the plane helps. Bigger planes generally help but not always. Relaxing when I know the weather might be poor. Listening to the pilots and crew predict and remain calm in weather and CAT, it reminds me that turbulence will not shake a plane from the sky, tho I know-my mind and body say otherwise. I hate being out of control- but I try to breathe, gaze out of the window, and above all do not get caught in a feedback loop of panic. I talk to those around me even though I never talk on planes except to friends.

There will be no panacea for you or any of us, save probably more experience, therapy, and for those of faith, prayer, quietude. My only advice is try to find whatever helps, whether silly or small, and follow it to help calm you.

Godspeed and peace be with you.
 

syracusa

New member
Thank you for your post, Walrusmuse. You actually reminded me of two more questions that have been in my mind for a while.

I still don't know what people mean by COMMUTER / REGIONAL plane/flight. I did understand that those have a slightly higher "unsafety" rate to them, but only slightly. Flying from Bucharest to Paris with AirFrance, on an A320 - would that qualify as a "regional" flight or is it a "'commercial aircraft/flight"?

Finally, this is more like a comment than a question: crew talking !

I learned about the value of a chatty/high-spirited pilot (at least to me!) on my worst flight to date, from Washington DC to Atlanta - when we went into a storm. It was daylight and it was clear that was a pretty serious storm because I could see the rain outside and the plane was shaking insanely. At some point, the plane made an extremely abrupt move in the UPWARDS direction. Normally, I am the only one freaking out on the plane but on this one, many other people had started to; so it was relatively serious.

Needless to say that my mental state was in deplorable condition - but through all this, I was waiting for just one thing: THE PILOT SAYING SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They chose not to. If turbulence and storms are indeed nothing to worry about and if the pilots are NOT fighting the controls through such weather, couldn't they have spared a few words for the frightened passangers? They said absolutely nothing - which clearly made me envision a cabin where a fight at controls, life and death style, was happening. After I got off, my panic turned to anger.

I just wish crew took the time to communicate reassuring words to the passangers instead of letting them imagine they are living their last minutes.
I don't even remember what company I was flying with, it might have been Delta but I don't remember 100%.
 
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Walrusmuse

New member
by regional flights i usually consider these as ones operated by various commuter airlines, sold by the main airlines, ex. Delta uses Comair, Atlantic Southeast, Skywest, etc.

Usually these are very small, 50-100 seater planes. I would not consider your flight regional in anyway-anything that isnt a CRJ or Embraer, or something similarly sized, even if the connection uses an MD-80 or similar mid-sized plane. The A 318 falls into the smaller but widebody plane.

Note that both kinds of tiny planes are quality and regarded well, even the sometimes knocked Q400 prop plane (that was involved in the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo last year). They are subject to the same level of maintenance by the FAA as any others, and the regionals, though annoyingly slid under the wings of more known and trusted majors, the regionals still are subject to safety requirements under the FAA, just like the majors.

I tend to enjoy larger planes, as they often handle better in weather, but this is not a hard rule, at all. at times the larger planes can seem just as bumpy, and there is no way to really predict this.

As far as them being more or less safe, they may be microscopically less safe (speaking in stat terms, which are based in reality), but not unsafe. this is an important distinction made in an article by the amazing Patrick Smith who writes a great column for Salon (see http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2009/05/15/askthepilot320/index.html)

He covers the unsafe environment that Colgan Air, used by Continental as a regional, allowed to grow. And i suggest not booking flights with Colgan, both as a mental help, but also to make sure they do not have business until their training and safety environment changes.

That being said-the NTSB and FAA are both just a bit more aware of issues, and that makes us all a bit safer on regionals and mainlines. With every accident, especially ones involving pilot error (like Colgan), we learn more and take steps to grow safer.

Remember this on your Airbus flight-the pilots on such a large craft and airline will have so much experience, so much familiarity with the plane, and will be vigilant in light of the AF447 crash-though the encounter that plane had will likely not be encountered again in the same way. It will be safe as anything, and safer than many many things.

do check out Ask The Pilot-great column.
 

Walrusmuse

New member
oh-forgot to mention-flying United you can listen to the pilot's channel (usually channel 9), and this is a great tool for combating fear-i fly them tonight from Denver (almost always bumpy) to Houston, and I have heard numerous times how the pilot asks ATC for smoother altitudes, if available. This is purely for comfort, not safety, but i appreciate it nonetheless.
 

syracusa

New member
do check out Ask The Pilot-great column.
Oh, I know Patrick Smith's column. He is wonderful.

As for flying United, I basically never fly within the US, I take ground transportation means up and down the East Coast (such as Amtrack :) ).
There is a high likelihood I will never see California or other remote parts of the country (that is, remote from Atlanta).
I only fly over the ocean to see family and visit home country. I may not even do this in the future, I may switch to boat and go home less often.
But if family must travel, I will keep United in mind (for my husband, etc).
 
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PlaneEnthusiast

New member
You can do it!

You can do it!

I am a 36 yo mother of two small children, American citizen of Romanian origins, suffering from a severe case of aerophobia (fear of flying). Because I have immediate family in Europe, I am forced by circumstances to fly over the ocean about once a year. Throughout the years, my fear of flying has intensified to the point where I need very heavy medication to get through the flight. This only works part of the time. When the medication wears off, I am faced with a psychological torture that is hard to describe, especially during turbulence. After having children and being forced to fly with them, the problem has gotten even worse.

Accompanied by my husband and our two small children, this year I somehow made it over the ocean again (from Atlanta, US to Bucharest, Romania) with plans to stay in Europe for three months over the summer. Unfortunately, only a few weeks after my arrival in Europe and briefly after my husband's return to the US, the Air France 447 accident happened. This was the final straw for me.

I have now reached the point where I absolutely do not see myself setting foot in a plane ever again, least of all Air France, which I am scheduled to take back to the US on August 4th. For a while I seriously considered taking the boat but the price for all three of us (including train travel on land) was prohibitive; plus it would have been excruciatingly hard for myself alone to handle a 4yo and a 1yo on so many train routes in Europe (Bucharest-Southampton).

Since the accident I have been walking around with a sensation of sickness in my stomach, knowing that I have to return to the US with my two kids (be it accompanied by my sister and an aunt, who are heading in the same direction).

I am begging anyone kind enough to take the time, to teach me how to pick a date for return in July when turbulence would be minimum on a Paris-Atlanta flight. Yes, I am flying with AirFrance which, psychologically speaking, adds to my already maxed out anxiety.

I know I sound pathetic and that I am grasping at straws. The only thing that would calm me down right now would be the 100% reassurance that NOTHING can happen, which I know is not possible. The 99.999 percent (or whatever that "safety" statistic the airline industry promotes) is just not doing it for my terrified brain.

Thank you in advance for your kindness.
Dear Syracusa,

You are not pathetic at all, but a compassionate, sensitive human being with a very common fear of flying, which I myself once faced in a very intense way. At one point, I, just as you describe, thought I would never, ever set foot on a plane again. I wanted to try to help you by copying and pasting a long bit of support I just offered to another member elsewhere on this forum. It's my hope that it might help you or others in some way too, with my own personal story.

Here it is:

"LLL, 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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LLL

New member
So, I heard another Airbust crashed yesterday.

I won't even get into it. Not worth it. You'll all gang up on me.
 

PlaneEnthusiast

New member
So, I heard another Airbust crashed yesterday.

I won't even get into it. Not worth it. You'll all gang up on me.
Nobody is trying to antagonize you! We're all trying to help people fly and to enjoy it as much as we do. It's still safer than driving. According to the World Health Organization average daily statistic for car crash deaths, in the time since the most recent Airbus crash, 3,288 people have died around the world in car crashes in the 24 hours since the plane crash. But, these statistics do nothing to reassure anybody. My aim was to try to help with my previous post.
 

syracusa

New member
Nobody is trying to antagonize you! We're all trying to help people fly and to enjoy it as much as we do. It's still safer than driving. According to the World Health Organization average daily statistic for car crash deaths, in the time since the most recent Airbus crash, 3,288 people have died around the world in car crashes in the 24 hours since the plane crash. But, these statistics do nothing to reassure anybody. My aim was to try to help with my previous post.
Planeenthusiast,

First, I wanted to thank you so much for your reassuring post and your kind words. They made a difference. Until about a few hours ago, when I found out about the new Airbus crash. This is really getting insane. It is either sabotage from the competitor or the machine really has problems and needs to be taken off the market before it kills many more and destroys many more lives.

As I am facing a flight on an Airbus A320 in 2 weeks, this is starting to sound like Russian Roulette to me. It is sending me through waves of depression, desperation, helplessness, numbness.

Now, for one last time re: statistics. Of course there have been thousands of deaths involving cars in the past month: that's because there have been hundreds of millions of cars getting on the road every day. That's an enormous number. By comparison, only a few tens of thousands of flights happen every day,...and of these, two already managed to kill half a thousand people or so.

These are not fair statistics and they do not portray an accurate image of reality.

The question is: when someone steps foot in a plane, how much more likely is he to come out alive than someone who steps foot in a car? Not much more. And with the latest events, I am afraid he is less likely. In fact, much less likely.
 
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tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
It's not.

Billy Mays survived blown out tires on a landing in TPA, only to succumb to a heart attack the next day.

Heart disease kills far more people. If you are out of shape, and you fly, I'd be worried more about your next meal then the model of airplane you board.

this is starting to sound like Russian Roulette to me.
 
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