Wednesday, May 22, 2013

6 Ways I'll Face My Fear of Flying

Good news! I'm moving to China soon!

Bad news... I'm sort of afraid of flying. Like, just kind of moderately afraid... it's never stopped me from buying a plane ticket and getting on a plane, but seriously, all through the flight I'm trying not to think we're about to just fall out of the sky.

Good news! I have flown a lot. I've been to China twice, so, ya know, that's 4 13-hour flights right there, plus whatever silly places we needed to stop for layovers. Seriously, coming back from my first trip to China, I took 5 flights in like 48 hours and by the end I was like, okay let's just take off and land already, I am SO OVER this "fear of flying" thing.

All right. So. Here are Perfect Number's 6 tips on dealing with fear of flying:
  1. Statistics. Okay so in the United States, 28000 commercial planes take off and land every day and ALL OF THEM ARE FINE. (Couldn't find a super-legit-looking webpage that said this, so here are 3 mediocre ones which agree. And says 1.8 million passengers pass through US airports every day.) Seriously. ALL OF THEM ARE FINE. Like, we've heard news stories of plane crashes, but just think about all the days you DON'T hear stories of plane crashes. Yep. Each of those days, 1.8 million people are FINE.
  2. The pilot. The pilot has probably flown this exact route hundreds of times. Also, the pilot and whoever else is up front have a whole bunch of safety things to keep an eye on. They're not just going to accidentally not pay attention and the plane falls out of the sky. Remember, they are also interested in not dying in a plane crash.
  3. Engineering! A lot of people spent a lot of time building the plane and thinking of everything that could go wrong and how to put backups in place. This isn't like hopping in a barrel to go over Niagara Falls. This is decades of engineering, mandatory inspections, redundant systems. (And I think the more I learn about the technology behind passenger planes, the more obvious it will be that they are not just going to fall out of the sky.)
  4. Don't read the "emergency information card in your seat back pocket." Don't pay attention to the safety talk from the flight attendants. If you've flown before and you've already heard it, then there's no point to focusing your attention on worst-case scenarios. You already know the spiel. Use your seat cushion as a floatie. The nearest exit might be behind you. Put your own oxygen mask on first. You should generally know the information, but beyond that, DO NOT let your mind imagine horrible emergency situations and how much you are going to die. (Although, every now and then a plane has a problem but IT'S STILL FINE. Like this one, which had to do a belly-landing because its landing gear wasn't working. And EVERYONE WAS FINE. A little bumpy, but IT'S FINE. The pilots and flight attendants are trained for this kind of stuff.) Seriously, if it's going to make you panic, tune out during the safety talk.
  5. When there's turbulence or the plane seems to be tilting WAAAAYYY too much, look over at the flight attendants. Look how much they don't care. Seriously. They're just walking around acting like everything's normal. They've probably experienced a bunch of turbulence a million times and they know it's nothing to worry about.
  6. Just relax and think happy thoughts. Read a book. Try to forget the fact that you're flying through the air at hundreds of miles an hour, shoved in a metal tube with a bunch of strangers. I mean, if you're gonna die in a plane crash, it's not like there's anything you can do to stop it. Might as well just forget about the plane and read a book. OH ACTUALLY, wow Perfect Number, let's try to spin this in a more positive way. Ahem. During the flight, you might want to marvel at the amazingness of modern technology, allowing us to travel all the way around the world in a matter of hours. Oh isn't that wonderful! Think of the cultural exchange that takes place, think of all the awesome things made possible by air travel. And oh my goodness, you can be part of it! You can experience this fantastic phenomenon for yourself! They sell tickets!
All right wish me luck because I'm going to have to use all these tips in a few weeks!

One more thing: Seriously, check out for a real-time map of planes currently in the air. There are TONS. And ALL OF THEM ARE FINE.

Also, I'd like to point out that several of these tips are very meaningful for me because I'm a math and engineering person. I wonder if other people are as moved as I am by the statistics and the engineering things. So please tell me in the comments: Are you afraid of flying? How do you deal with it?


  1. Oh my goodness, I hate flying. And I'm moving to India a week from today, and the flights are just... so long. (All together, it's 3 planes and 18.5 hours of flight time, including one 10.5 hour flight, plus several long layovers). In good news, I've learned to be calmer on the longer flights after several... interesting... experiences on small propeller planes in India. But I did hear once that it's more likely to be struck by lightning than die in a plane crash, so I just remind myself of that whenever we hit turbulence. (I don't actually know if that's true or not. If it's not, I don't think I want to know haha). :)

  2. Great timing -- Mike is on a plane right now, which always makes me worry. I don't generally have problems flying, but I worry about other people. These are good reminders that planes are actually extremely safe.

    Interestingly, I actually find it more reassuring to read over the emergency information and listen to the flight attendants' spiel. It helps reassure me that even if there is an emergency, there are scripted steps to follow to be safe, and I will know exactly what they are.

    I will add this -- I have a family member with horrendous anxiety about heights, including flying. She takes anxiety medication when she has to fly, which helps her immensely, but she's always worried about what people will think of her and that she won't be "herself" when on the meds -- even though I know from experience that I'd much rather she be a little loopy for a little while than have to sit with her through a prolonged panic attack. So I just want to say, for anyone who has extreme anxiety about flying, if you can get anxiety medication and know it helps you, there is zero shame in taking it to get through a flight.

  3. (I tried posting this from my phone but it went kind of wonky, so sorry if this shows up twice or something.)

    I recommend saving up some books or movies or games that you've really been looking forward to reading/watching/playing, and then deliberately not letting yourself read/watch/play them until you're on the flight. That way, instead of dreading the upcoming trip, you'll be looking forward to FINALLY getting to do that fun activity. And it'll be much easier to take your mind off the flight if you're reading a book interested in and have been anticipating, not just trying to skim through a random boring paperback you picked up at the airport. Good luck!