Fear of Flying & conquering it.

Today on my job I got into a disagreement with my boss. He wants me to go to a training seminar in San Fran. This would involve flying.

I cannot fly. I would pass out. I have tried in the past and can’t even make it to the concourse.

And quite frankly I never did think it’d ever come up so I haven’t thought about it in over 15 years. I guess I hate the thought of being confined and not being in control.

I mean I felt bad, I had to tell the guy I’d have to quit if he made me go. Most of my coworkers were just laughing that I’d give up a free week in SF but I know there is NO WAY I’m getting on a plane. (I live in Chgo and so a bus is out of the question due to time constraints)

Has anyone else ever had to get over this fear. I know that to get over a fear you have to face it and quite frankly I could never even visualize getting on a plane. Not even for a million dollars.

BTW when I was younger I did fly. It was before I was 15 and I wasn’t afraid. I have even flown in the little 4 seaters. Not a problem. I don’t know where this came from.

Can’t help you with the flying issue, but have you considered the train? Chicago to SF has to be one of the major routes.

I’ve always loved flying. Sitting next to a window, watching the clouds, literally “flying” above the land. . . Probably the most calm I’ve ever felt. All you have to do is sit there and let it happen.
Would it help if I told you that more people get in car accidents than in plane accidents?

White Wolf

“Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.”

“Half the world is composed of idiots, the other half of people clever enough to take indecent advantage of them.”

About 5 years ago, I wanted to attend the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Conventio-Con Expo Fest-a-rama in MN. It would have taken me way too long to drive (my car wouldn’t have made it anyway!). So I booked a flight. I had never flown commercially before. I had flown in a Cessna once before, but that had been about 17 years prior. I had butterflies at first, but just told myself that I just HAD to get on that plane. So I did and I really enjoyed it. I had to fly to Atlanta (but, then again, who doesn’t :)) and then to Minneapolis. I flew up on MD-88’s and back on a 727-400. The return from Atlanta was on an ATR-70 turboprop. I didn’t care for THAT, but it was only a 45-minute flight. I never had any bad reactions (nightmares, etc) and would get on the next flight out if necessary (I HATE to drive long distances).

I hope you will get some help with this problem. I would hate to see your job suffer because of it. You aren’t alone, of course.

Hey, all you posters, pipe in!!!

I’m afraid to fly. I’ve never actually had to fly, but no amount of “car crashes are more frequent than plane crashes” will convince me that it’s safe. There may be fewer plane crashes, but my mind just responds to that with “there are also fewer survivors of a plane crash.”

Someday, though, I’m going to have to get over it, if only just once. It’s inevitable. I was just talking about this earlier today with Melin. She suggested Valium and margaritas.

“ChrisCTP-…the sweetheart of the SDMB…” --Diane
Chris’ Homepage: Domestic Bliss

I’m scared to death of flying. Unfortunately, it’s neccessary at times. Can’t get to Moscow on a bus, eh? (Though I’m still working on that one. . .)

I’m pretty sure my phobia developed out of two factors. One of them was an auto accident. The second was spending too much time listen to a fly-a-phobic acquaintance.

Unfortunately, I do have to fly. Generally, I invoke supernatural protection by burying my head between my knees and muttering to myself “I’m not gonna die I’m not gonna die” throughout both take off and landing. Apply the same to in-transit turbulence.

I decided to make reservations to fly to Florida this December in order to best utilize my time off. Later I learned that the plane would be something very small- a ‘Canadair’. This sent me into a frenzy for awhile, but with this time I will take a sedative (and, I imagine, a few shots) and, hopefully, it will be okay.

“There is nothing you ought to do, for the simple reason that you know nothing, nothing whatever- make a mental note of that, if you please.”
-V. Nabokov

You folks need to get on a big plane, so 400 other people will die if it crashes. At least you’ll make the news and can go “I told you so” to your traveling companion. Bring your teddy bear.

Commuters, I try to avoid them. Once or twice someone else has booked me on one. Not exactly fun.

If it helps to know, flying commercial airlines in the U.S. is not just a little bit safer than driving in your car, it’s about 10 times safer.

Think about it this way: Watch a busy airport, and watch how many planes are coming and going. Now multiply it by the hundreds of airports in the U.S. Now think about the fact that there are often only one or two fatal airline crashes in a year, and we’ve gone some years without any.

Quantas airlines has NEVER had a fatal accident. Several other major airlines are close to this record.

On the scale of risks in your life, commercial air travel is completely irrelevant. It’s not even worth worrying about. It’s really true that the drive to the airport is more dangerous than the flight.

well, first off. you should be living in sf rather than chicago :slight_smile:
second, i’ve always told my boss that i refuse to fly. altho he did talk me into flying from sf to sd last year.

anyway. i understand your fear. statistics be damned, i just don’t trust a big metal tube hurtling through the air at 600 mph. i’m a software engineer, and i KNOW how even simple technology can blow up in your face.

but, i have flown before. i always try to avoid it, and xanax has helped me. my mom has a prescription and funnels it to me when i need to fly. you can probably find it on the internet these days. or go to your doctor and describe the problem. For me, being loaded up on prescription drugs makes me completely comfortable with the experience. Altho, if my plane suddently plummeted to earth, I’m not sure if I’d be quite so calm, medicated or not :smiley:

In all seriousness, though. If your fear is debilitating (i’m sure i misspelled that), and you don’t think drugs can help you, stand your ground and don’t go. it’s not worth the dread and agony.

I may be wrong here, but I think most people afraid of flying know that it’s much safer than driving the same distance. But that doesn’t help with the fear, since a phobia (mine is heights!) doesn’t come from the part of your brain that knows this stuff rationally.

I think some of it is also self-reinforcing. For whatever reason, humans equate familiarity with risk. Something that’s familiar doesn’t seem risky even if it is, and something unfamiliar can seem dangerous even if it’s not. And just knowing it’s not doesn’t really convince whatever it is in your brain that generates the fear. So you feel it’s dangerous, you avoid it, that makes it even more unfamiliar and thus more dangerous, and so on.

I don’t have any answers about how to conquer that sort of fear. I have heard some people have done it by actually becoming pilots themselves. It’s terrifying at first, but you have control, instead of being helplessly subject to somebody else’s control. And once you do it a bunch, you get familiar with it and it doesn’t seem so bad any more.

peas on earth

My fear of flying has dulled over the years, but I still get a little nervous during landings. When I flew back from Canada last weekend, I had a change-over in Minn.-St. Paul, and a stop over in Memphis. Three landings in one night was a record for me :slight_smile:

I don’t know what advice to give to you, except to echo a previous statement: Familiarity really does lessen the intensity of a fear.

You say “cheesy” like that’s a BAD thing.

Many years ago I was in a company aircraft that crashed. The plane was totaled, the pilot’s back was broken and I was lucky enough to walk away with only a cracked sternum.
The crash left me with an unreasoning fear of flying. I went back up a week later - based on the theory that if you fall off a horse you get right back on one - and I sweated a lot, even the palms of my hands were wet. I was also nauseous. After that I would feel sick just looking at a plane and didn’t fly again for a couple of years.
I finally had to make a job related flight and I still remember the way I felt as I forced myself to get on that plane. I think it was the toughest thing I have ever done. After college I got a job that ended up requiring a lot of flying - I probably rack up 75,000 miles a year - and over the years the fear and dread has receded to an unnoticeable level.
I don’t know if the direct confrontation approach will work for you or not, but it did for me.

It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Unfortunately my fear is extremely intense. For example the last time I tried my left arm went completely numb, (like when it falls asleep), then my right arm, then my neck and all my head went numb. I thought this must be a heart attack. And this was WITH 4 valiums in my system.

It never bothered me before as I don’t go on vacation anywhere ever, so the need to fly never really came up.

Also I don’t really buy the fact that airline travel is safer. Granted there are less (way far less) plane crashes then car crashes. But look at it like this. Around 70 million take offs and landings were recorded at O’Hare in an entire year. There are more than (I would guess at least) 70 million people driving a car every DAY. I think to make the statistic accurate you need to make it a proportional one.

Also I know that a jet engine is acutally less complex than a car engine etc. But it is a phobia…

Anyway thank you people…Hopefully they won’t axe me. I wonder how long you have to be on a job to get unemployment anyway.

If your job isn’t that exciting, anyway, just refuse to go. OTOH, I was serious about the train. http://www.amtrak.com has an interactive schedule checker (and an Adobe® download of all schedules). The trip from Chicago to SF leaves around 3:30 each afternoon and arrives in SF around 10:00 p.m., two days later. If the training is worth it, your boss shouldn’t be that concerned about an extra couple of days of travel. (The train might even be cheaper, but I’m not betting on that.)


I had a client that was the president of his company and deathly afraid of flying. The only way he could get on a plane was getting looped at the airport and taking a couple of valium. He also always had to fly first class. The guy logged 50k a year in the air and always had to have someone pick him up on the other end. The way I looked at it is he used his fear as a crutch to keep on drinking and getting hammered.

You are more likely to get into an accident within 5 miles of your house than you are flying a plane.

There are “fear of flying” clinics out there that help people get over their fears. Also, you may want to check into seeing a shrink.You’ve already admitted you think it’s a control issue, talking to a professional will help you get over this step. I mean, if I, a Michiganian, had this fear and had to do all my driving to see something, the farthest I would have ever seen is Indiana and Ohio, given my lack of patience in the car. And I’ve seen these places and they are not impressive.

Your fear is making you miss out on the whole world.

Count me as one of the people with a fear of flying. I never used to have it, either. In fact, I used to like flying. And then, the last time I got on a plane, I somehow decided that I was never going to do it again. I’m terrified just reading this thread, that’s how bad my fear is. I was on edge picking up my parents at the airport earlier this summer, and I didn’t even have to get on a plane.

Haven’t been on a plane for seven years now. Probably won’t do it again, either. I really enjoy land-based trips.


Here’s some info I’ve been able to dig up on that subject, if you’re interested. Don’t take this as me trying to rationalize away your phobia; I know that phobias don’t work like that (I have enough of my own :-). But just for interest’s sake, below are some numbers I looked up on the web. I can’t vouch for their accuracy, and one has to be careful how one draws conclusions from them in any case.

First off, you’re absolutely right that you need some sort of proportional risk to make much sense of it. There are a lot of ways that is commonly done. Risk of death per passenger mile is one, and risk of death per passenger hour is another, and per average trip is a third. And the comparison is harder between cars and airplanes; for instance, the riskiest part of flying is in takeoffs and landings - cruising along is quite safe. That doesn’t apply to cars.

Anyway, here’s what I found on the web, and then my own cautionary notes at the end.

The death rates per 100 million passenger miles for:

Automobiles: 0.94
Commuter railroads: 0.04
Airlines: 0.06
Intercity busses: 0.01
Transit busses: 0.02

First, I would note that these are a per mile risk, not a per hour risk. Since commercial airplanes tend to fly somewhat faster than you drive, they look better in a distance comparison than a time comparison.

My other cautionary note is that these numbers are aggregates for huge numbers of people. If you are a better than average driver, you might well beat the airline per-mile risk when driving. In the aggregate, it seems the airlines are about 15.6X less risky per mile, but individuals can easily be 15X safer (or more dangerous) than the average driver. The most dangerous drivers seem to be at about 1000X the risk of the safest drivers. So the risk can vary widely between individuals.

No black and white answer here - just some info to mull over.

You can always take the train. :slight_smile:

peas on earth

I’m the same way Mark, been flying since I was a fetus and all of a sudden in my teens developed a pathological fear of it. And all the statistics about safety don’t matter. I can’t die on a plane if I don’t get on one.

I do end up flying about seven or eight times a year though (family on both coasts, and a travel bug that’s just that much stronger than my phobia). You just have to do it, basically. It will get easier (up to a point) with time and experience.

Vodka shots help too.

I’ve never had a fear of flying (see my post in Weird-Ass Fears") But my big tough brother does. Once I told him to think of it as being on a boat-he likes boats- except there’s air holding you up, not water. Only took him 3 beers to get on the plane the next time, not 6. The point is to psyche yourself out and override your fears. If you hit turblence, raise your arms like you’re on a roller coaster.

“On the edge of sleep, I awoke to a sun so bright…”

Markxxx (et al.): Perhaps this will help.


I’ll also add my voice to the train chorus :).

Good luck!