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Fear of Flying: How to Get Over Your Phobia of Flying in an Airplane

It's no wonder, given the sensational news reports that follow any flying tragedy, that 30 million Americans describe themselves as "anxious" flyers. For some this involves a nervous feeling for weeks before the flight. Others may go so far as to cancel their flying all together -- business travelers alone avoid 6 million flights a year because of flying anxiety.

Negative media attention almost always serves to exacerbate these fears. An extreme example was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to one survey taken days after September 11, 27 percent of people said they were avoiding flying for safety reasons, compared with only 6 percent a year later in 2002.

Business travelers avoid 6 million
flights a year due to fears
of flying.

Another example is the recent spate of lasers aimed at cockpits, raising fears that the light beams could temporarily blind crew members and lead to accidents. However, news headlines, as tragic and terrifying as they may seem, have nothing to do with your actual risk of flying.

Flying Tragedies are "Hot" News
If you base your fear of flying on news reports, chances are that you'll always feel anxious. Why? Flying tragedies always elicit major ratings, which is why news outlets love reporting on them. Arnold Barnett, a statistical expert in the field of aviation safety, researched the New York Times front page stories for one year and found some revealing data:

Finally, You Can Have a
Relaxing Flight!

Fly Without Fear: Guided Meditations
for a Relaxing Flight provides guided
meditations and soothing music to
dissolve your fear of flying. Stress
expert KRS Edstrom guides you through
boarding, take-off, in-flight and landing
along with a desensitizing pre-flight
"dress rehearsal" exercise. This is
one CD you don't want to leave
home without!

"1.7 murder stories for every 1,000 homicides, 2.3 AIDS stories for every 1,000 AIDS deaths, .02 cancer stories for every 1,000 cancer deaths and 138.2 plane crash stories for every 1,000 airplane deaths."

What's the Actual Risk?
According to Barnett, the actual risk of a person being involved in a fatal airline accident is once every 19,000 years. But that is only provided the person flew on an airplane once a day for 19,000 years!

And according to one study reported in USA Today, it's 261 times safer to fly from New York to Los Angeles than to drive.

Rationally speaking, though, people can understand these statistics and realize their risk is low, yet still feel anxious when boarding a plane -- because most fear of flying is based on a purely emotional -- not rational -- fear.

So we could cite statistics about the safety of air travel all day, and people would still have fears. This is why meditation techniques like those in Fly Without Fear, which address these emotionally based fears, work so well.

What are some of the specific reported fears that people have?
  • Claustrophobia
  • Heights
  • Death
  • Crowds
  • Separation from loved ones
  • Fear of falling
  • Giving control to the pilot
  • Having a panic attack
  • Loss of self-control

Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

  • Get your facts straight -- really think about how safe flying actually is (it's much safer than driving).

  • Use meditation and relaxation techniques. highly recommends Fly Without Fear: Guided Meditations for a Relaxing Flight, an excellent audio CD combined with soothing music in which stress expert and former fearful flyer Krs Edstrom guides you through the entire airport experience, from boarding to landing.

  • Breathe deeply and intentionally.

  • Get counseling or join a self-help group. There are many clinics, online programs, tapes and psychologists that can help.

  • Don't indulge in alcohol as a way to cover-up your fears.

More Practical Recommendations

  • Fly on non-stop routes. Most accidents occur during takeoff and landings, so a non-stop route reduces the number of takeoffs and landings during your trip.

  • Choose larger, newer aircraft. Planes that carry more than 30 passengers were designed under the strictest regulations. A larger plane also provides more protection in the event of an accident.

  • Choose airlines in developed countries, if possible. Airlines in developed countries like the United States, Canada, and Western Europe tend to have higher safety records than those in developing countries.

Always listen to in-flight safety
announcements and flight
attendant instructions. Locate
emergency exits as you board.

  • Listen to safety instructions and flight attendants. Pre-flight briefings by flight attendants let you know what to do in the event of an emergency.

  • Locate safety exits. Knowing where to go to exit the plane quickly during an emergency will help to ease your nerves.

  • Don't keep heavy objects in overhead bins. The objects could shift during turbulence and injure passengers.

  • Keep your seatbelt fastened when in your seat. Sudden turbulence can occur during flights. Having your seatbelt fastened gives you added protection.

  • Leave hazardous materials at home. This one is rather obvious, but be sure to leave gasoline, poisonous gases, corrosives and other harmful materials at home.

And before you leave for your next airplane trip, remember that your risk of injury or death is 10 to 40 times greater in an automobile than in an airplane traveling a comparable distance.

Roger Blackman, a psychologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, summed it up well by stating, " ... for most people, the most dangerous part of air travel is their trip by car to the airport."


Risk Factors of Airline Safety

Fear of Flying

Overcoming the Fear of Flying

How Safe is Flying Today?

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