15 years ago I loved to fly. I would always take the seat next to the window and enjoy the view. However, after few (in my opinion) nasty flights I developed a strong fear of flying. Since then my brain was every time in panic mode. I would hear every change of the sound of the engine and notice every change of speed or height we were at. And I was sure something wrong is going to happen.
At some point I thought it’s just ridiculous. I had to fly pretty often and was so stressed after each flight that all I wanted to do was go to sleep. So here’s what I tried (it’s not proven psychologically – it’s just my way):
One day someone told me that every 2 seconds a Boeing lands somewhere in the world. I never checked if that’s true, but it sounded possible to me, so every time I was afraid, I was repeating in my head: „every 2 seconds a Boeing lands – every 2 seconds a Boeing lands – every 2 seconds a Boeing lands“. It worked, because I was visualising landing aircrafts instead of the crashing ones.
I talked to a friend of mine who was a steward and asked him all the questions I could think of. What was his worst flight? What happened? How come he’s not afraid although he has to fly almost every day? What are the steps during the flight (also in terms of engine sound changes)? What are the procedures? What happens when one engine is broken? In what situation oxygen masks can fall down?
3. Reading & learning
I read a lot about flying. I listened to people who knew what they were talking about and believed them! So if they say, the turbulences are normal, I believe they are. If they say a plane can land during the strong wind because of reasons, I believe it’s like that. I prefer to trust experts rather than my own feeling.
I bought myself really good earphones so that I couldn’t hear the engine during the flight and I didn’t have to worry about it. And I always had music that was loud or noisy enough ;)
It was really getting better, but still I couldn’t relax during the flights. Lately I was flying to Dublin from Hamburg. The weather in both cities was really crappy, mostly because of the wind. The landing was horrible for me. That was enough. I gave up and started to think that maybe I will never fly relaxed again. And that even would be fine. But I couldn’t resist to just give it one last try:
5. Shock therapy
I don’t recommend this step unless you have your fear already under control, but it was a kind of shock therapy for me.
I watched some videos showing really severe turbulences and hard landings. I found out my landing in Dublin was totally normal, especially for this airport. I’ve also watched some emergency landings just to get the feeling when it’s really bad and how does it really look like. What I’ve learned from the that is that pilots ARE professionals and they know what they’re doing. I know it’s quite obvious, but if you’re afraid of flying you may question it from time to time. Now I also know what are the wind limits for different planes, how the fuel dumping procedure looks like and how the landing with only one working engine could end.
I just made a decision not to be afraid anymore. I told myself that this fear is completely useless, so I should just stop reacting like that. At the end of the day, flying is just amazing!
I don’t know what really helped and if there was just one reason, but it looks like it worked. I still feel a little bit uncomfortable sometimes, but than the music does the trick. Cheers from the clouds somewhere above the Irish Sea, where a stewardess is dancing while giving out drinks!*
* this article was posted after the landing!