A frequent flier’s fear of flying

I am scared to death of flying. I also fly more than most people I know, I easily average 25-50 flights per year depending on the year….I have been somewhere on a scale of “managing to keep it together on the surface” to “terrified for my life” on every one of those flights.

I’m excited when I book the flight, I’m fine when I’m boarding, I’m calm while I get everything situated on the plane and while we taxi, waiting to take off. I do pay particular attention to all of the safety features, always sit on the aisle fairly near to the exits, but other than that I don’t give it any thought until we start picking up speed. That’s when I start praying, I keep my eyes closed and I pray quietly to myself until the little ding alerts the flight attendants that they can get up, then I listen to music and read or work on a logic puzzle or watch a movie to distract myself.  I’m generally fine, forcing my brain to pretend that I’m not thousands of feet in air and that the slightest problem would result in certain death.  If we have the slightest bump or sway, my sweaty palms have a death grip on Gil’s leg until things smooth over. When it’s turbulent, you’ll find me closing my eyes repeating things to myself in my head like “This is statistically one of the safest activities on earth, this is the safest mode of travel” and if things get really bad, like on our flight from Ireland to Scotland, you’ll hear Gil whispering to me “Just face forward and pretend you’re on a train…you’re on a train”.

We flew from Belfast to Edinburgh on a flight with actual propellers under the wings, not the engines I have grown used to. It’s a 30 minute flight, super quick and at a low altitude, but a small plane (which I absolutely hate) with PROPELLERS! This one made me nervous from the moment I saw the plane. I couldn’t even go through my normal routine to distract myself on the flight because my hands were shaking too bad to do a puzzle or anything. I’m happy to say that we arrived safely and that I will definitely pay more attention to the type of plane when booking from now on, but I have had recurring dreams about being in that plane ever since then (except I’m looking out the window of the cockpit instead of back in coach) and I keep waking up terrified. Below is a picture of the airline and type of plane we were on…it was just not ok.

flybe plane

A few brief thoughts on types of planes:
Small planes with propellers: Nope, never again.
Small planes: I’ll do it, if the weather is good, but you do not want to sit by me…poor Gil.
737s (most US flights): This is the smallest plane that I can have a decent experience on, Southwest is the best airline ever for many reasons and not having any planes smaller than this is definitely one of those reasons.
Euro discount carriers: If you were not already afraid of flying, this will do the trick for you. 14 year old boys as flight attendants, steep ascent and descent and dramatic turns (I can only assume that the pilots are living out fighter jet fantasies) and planes that shake uncontrollably on takeoff and landing. If only other airlines were anywhere near competitive on last minute pricing, I would never fly on these. It’s a battle of facing my fear vs. sticking to my budget every single time I book.
Huge planes: Love them. As soon as we are airborne and I am no longer concerned that there is no possible way that this thing can get off the ground, it’s almost always a fairly smooth flight and sometimes I can even sleep and forget that hundreds of miles of ocean separate me from civilization and safety.

It’s all worth it though, my love for travel is stronger. As soon as we are on the ground, even while still taxiing, I completely block out the flight and have a great time wherever I have just landed. For as long as I continue to arrive back on the ground in one piece, flying will always be 100% worth it…although Gil’s leg may disagree with me.


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