I have a slight anxiety of flying. There, I said it. The main reason why I have such a hard time falling asleep on an airplane is that I have the teeniest ounce of anxiety and that prevents me from reaching the REM sleep phase. Every little bump and  movement wakes me.

I’m so jealous of the people that pass out on a flight. You know, the mouthbreathers. Head back, mouth wide open in a fly-catching stance only to wake up a few minutes before touchdown. Unbelievable. What a life they must have!

I don’t know about you, but I find some solace in being seated near other airline pilots. Their calmness keeps my nerves together. Yesterday I had the pleasure of being seated next to a FedEx pilot. On takeoff (typically the portion of the flight I fear most), it was comforting being able to watch him be still and relaxed; He would also be my indicator that something is actually wrong. I hate noise abatement measures because it requires a roaring aircraft to throttle back the engines immediately after takeoff, giving you the feeling that you’re going to drop out of the sky. My rule of thumb is don’t panic unless the pilots or flight attendants panic.

As someone who flies thousands of miles per year for business and pleasure, you might find it hard to believe that I have a slight fear of flying. My fear is irrational. Most of my life I’ve dreamed of being a pilot and am a huge Microsoft Flight Simulator addict. I was also an Airman in the Civil Air Patrol, a U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. I know how airplanes work and I know the basic principles of flight, but why my anxiety?

It stems from the lack of control. I don’t like being out of control of something as powerful as an airplane, even though the folks up front are entirely more qualified to fly than I am. This is why my fear is irrational.

Does this sound like you? You’re certainly not alone. With all of the fear in the world, aviation is still the safest form of transportation and the growing innovation, especially with the advent of the A380 and 787 Dreamliner, is nothing short of amazing.

What Would We Do Without Flight?

The principles of flight!

The principles of flight!

Think about it. Without flight would you even be reading this blog today? Would you have been able to get to all of the destinations you’ve experienced?

Next, think about this…

There are roughly 100,000 flights happening around the world…each day. Think about how many people are moving around the earth at any given time. Some on business, some on leisure. All have one thing in common – freedom to explore.

Flight is an amazing gift that we all share so the next time you get nervous about a particular squeal coming from the wing or the reduction in engine thrust soon after takeoff remember that you are one in about 10 million people that will fly that day. It’ll be okay.

The Truth Behind Turbulence

No doubt the most popular fear when it comes to flying is turbulence, and rightfully so. It’s scary! There is nothing more unnerving than bouncing and shaking violently at 30,000 feet.

Rest assured that airplane manufacturers are required to perform a series of rigorous tests in order to become fully certified to fly the airplane. Below is a clip from a Discovery Channel series documenting the creation of the Airbus A380. In this clip, you see engineers performing what is known as the flutter test.

Essentially every aircraft has a top speed and the A380’s is Mach 0.96. The flutter test pushes the aircraft to its maximum speed, testing whether or not the airframe structure fails or remains intact. Scary, right?

What you should know is that people put their lives on the line to ensure that the airplanes we fly are extremely safe and up to code, taking into consideration every possible scenario.

Bottom Line

My grandmother dreads taking vacations because she is afraid to fly. In fact, fear of flying affects millions of people around the world.

I came across FearOfFlying.com which is a personal consultation service founded by Captain Tom Bunn. Captain Bunn has flown everything from the USAF F-100 to the Boeing 747. The existence of this service is proof that flying anxiety is real and is something experienced by a sizable portion of the global population.

Flying enables us to reach the far ends of the earth and to experience the unimaginable. Education is the cure to this fear. Learning about how airplanes fly will help ease your mind whenever you think about your fully-loaded 747 not being able to lift off the ground.

I end with a Socrates quotation (yeah, I went there 😉 ):

Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.