Fear of Flying

I’m not a good flyer.  Let me be honest with you now.  I am not a good person to have in an aeroplane beside you if you happen to be scared shitless.  I’m just not.

It isn’t that I’m curled up in a ball saying Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus.

I’m not doing that.  Indeed, I might even be completing the crossword as the pilot hits that button marked FULL POWER.  but my every nerve-ending will be fully attuned to what’s taking place behind that door at the top of the aisle where those ultra-cool guys sit, in full control of all our lives while smoking their Rothmans and practising their eyebrow-twitches.

flight deck

How’s my jaw-line, Dirk?  

Pretty damn good, Brad.

I don’t fucking like it.

I don’t like the way the plane roars down the runway at maximum thrust and I don’t like the way we suddenly leap into the sky, all of us together, a bunch of complete strangers, thrust together for the next hour or two or three, although to be honest with you, there’s only about ten minutes when we feel fully united, unless, of course, the flight is between Poland and Ireland, in which case the plane will be full of screaming babies in both directions.  I like Polish people, but babies of any nationality, not so much.

Why am I afraid?  Simple.  I’m afraid because that’s the natural state of all living things unless they happen to be utterly stupid.  It’s how nature works.  Being afraid equals being alive.

When I fly, I realise two things.

First, this aircraft is at the pinnacle of design and its pilots conform to the best possible practice.

Second, these fucking things crash.

There’s no comfort in somebody telling me that flying  is statistically the safest possible way to travel.  All I want to know is this: how safe is flying when we slam into the planet?I’m glad that the cabin crew have stopped that ludicrous charade of trying to tell us about the yellow jackets and the oxygen masks when everyone is ignoring them and reading their books instead or playing with their smart phones like I’m doing.  We all know that the yellow jackets have only one function — to find the  bodies when we crash in the sea.  Don’t be giving me that shit, Ryanair.

I don’t like flying because I have a good understanding of the underlying physics and you’d have thought that this would be a positive thing but it is not.  I look out the small window – so shaped to avoid metal fatigue and thus to avoid the fatal crash of the De Havilland Comet  – and I see the wing flexing.

Am I thinking, This is a natural response to loads imposed on this flexural member?

No.   I’m thinking Jesus Christ we’re all going to die!

It’s not rational.  This I understand.  It is entirely outside the realms of rationality, just like homeopathy and chemtrails, but when I find myself at the edge of fear, that’s how I roll, though unfortunately, that’s just taking off.

You see, when I take off, all I can think of is when we’re going to land.

Last week, I  had to take off and land a couple of times and you know, being me, I pride myself on knowing the details of the technology.  That’s just me.  It’s boring but there you go.  I like to know how the aircraft is designed and built.  I like to know about the engines.  I understand all about relative velocity.  I know that planes crab as they come in to land.  I realise that the entire process is overseen by an incredibly clever computer-controlled system.

Does any of that make the slightest difference when I’m strapped in as a powerless passenger?

Of course not.



21 replies on “Fear of Flying”

…get roaring drunk before during and after..then again u need to be flyin further than Poland my case anyways…nice piece and I share ur pain . ( I also work at airports etc so……that’s not good for me…Flyin’ scares de shit outta me !!!…with reason )

I do a kind of bargaining when I get on a plane.. “if we’re gonna go down, let it be soon after take off and let it be quick” kind of thing… After that, I’m not plummeting 30,000 ft, so fuck off, it won’t be happening. Can’t be helped.. the bargaining stops once we’re up there and there’s no turbulence or some loud mouth yank burning the ear off me.

When myself and the senior partner travel by air which is about four times a year,I have the track of her fingernails on my hand for days afterwards.I don’t know what she thinks I can do about anything.I find flying boring and take comfort that the people up front know what their doing.Your not alone Bock.

Excellent description. For me it’s the lack of control. If I was able to step out at any time I’d love it. But the body clenching tension I experience and wondering how to turn my clothes into a parachute is my normal reaction. That and boredom. It’s the journey not the destination doesn’t seem to apply with flying.

Bock, sorry to worry you more, but I’m sure you will be thrilled to know that, in the fairly near future, we will probably see “pilotless” aircraft carrying passengers.

As these articles describe, BAE systems are currently testing “pilotless” flight over the Irish sea.

I guess Michael O’Leary will love this….he wont have to worry about “difficult pilots anymore”.

Unlike you, I quite like flying and love the feel of roaring down the runway before take-off. I used to fly about 5 times a week for my work, but much less now.

“Touch wood” I’ve never had a bad experience – except once in Canada when a plan had to make three attempts before landing on a snow covered runway.

The key thing that puts me off flying now is the hassle of security at the airports – but, unfortunately, its necessary.

I am weirdly reassured by this because I always think I am the only quivering wreck on a flight.
I went from being almost an adrenalin junkie to a closet terrified anxiety fuelled passenger after a couple of tricky flights.

The entire process of flying, from security to the actual experience makes my stomach churn and I shut down internally from the neck down.

However, I have learnt some methods to deal with this because there are times I just have to get on a plane. My son-in-law used to get off a plane in Shannon, having flown, just from Stansted, he would be deathly pale and struggling to speak such was his level of fear. Now he flies 6/8 hours on cargo planes carrying up to 40 four legged very highly strung creatures, all that stands between him and the animals is a camouflage net ! he told me that on one flight they stopped to pick up explosives and dry cleaning fluid which they stacked right beside him !

He told me he dealt with his fear by simply putting a stop to exploring the potential of danger because it contained no reason or rationale and was paralysing him, sounds too simple but it is the potential that causes the brain to search back to the links which produce the visuals and then force internal response.

I now alway’s book an aisle seat, I become transfixed on the cabin staff, watching for any change in their behaviour, I put in ear plugs so weird noises don’t trigger irrational fear and I still don’t like it but I can do it, every potential for danger thought that enters my head is replaced like the stroke of a keyboard to something more rational. I now just struggle with take off and climbing, after that I’m reasonably relaxed even with turbulence.

One can be feeling well until someone says something.

Going to Salzburg on a 5am charter one January morning, we arrived over the destination while the morning mists still covered the airport. Visibility was far less than what was required and we flew around for 45 minutes before being sent to Munich.

Having sat for a while on the tarmac in Munich, the pilot announced that Salzburg was open and that we would leave once the plane was de-iced. Someone further back said aloud, “Didn’t Manchester United try to take off from Munich in the snow?”

Air Crash Investigation.

I am not one of those who start to watch this program, with its terrifying root cause and less than comforting outcomes, and am still sitting perplexed one hour later.

No, I am not one who sits, transfixed, praying for any rational as to why a jet falls out of the sky.

I am not one of those.

I have no fear of flying, I just don’t like it. Get there 2hrs before, put all your stuff in the tray for security, take off your belt, take off your shoes, laptop out – back in, sit around then get onto a big flying bus. I don’t like getting the bus either.

Love planes, love flying. Take-off is as much of a thrill for me now as my first time over thirty years ago. I still have to have the window seat and i can’t sit still for the whole flight, face flattened against the window to see the clouds from above and comparing different landscapes from 10km up. love it.
i remember the first time i saw a 747 fuselage bend from nose to tail. It didnt bend much but thank feck it did bend.

I wondered a few times ok why your conversation was a bit…shall we say reticent, whenever we happened to fly together. Now I know. I’m kinda like Daddy-owe in that I still get a thrill when flying. Having worked so long as I did in the aviation business hasn’t changed that a bit either. The maintenance in aircraft checks are extremely thorough, in the western world anyway. Its the boredom and the pissed off with their lot male flight attendants that get me. Nothing wrong in the way you yourself handle flying though. Keep :-)

Flying a plane is similar to riding a motorbike – It’s no fun if you’re not at the throttle yourself. And, I hate being a pillion passenger because I can never trust the driver.

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