At least one out of six Americans suffers from such an intense fear of flying (flying phobia or aviophobia) that they avoid flying altogether. Many more grudgingly endure flights as they grit their teeth or depend on tranquilizers to ease their anxiety. Although flying phobia is as consuming as it is common, it is possible to soar above it and find a new level of comfort and control in flight.
Phobias tend to fester where knowledge is lacking. On the other hand, knowledge shines light on the dark places of ignorance, clearly illuminating reality and facilitating more rational decision making. Aviophobics often hold myths and assumptions that feed their fears about planes and flying:
Myth: Tragic plane crashes happen all the time.
Fact: The odds of dying as an airplane passenger are one in 1.2 million. The odds of being killed in an automobile accident are one in 114. Should a plane crash occur, following safety instructions and bracing for impact significantly increase chances of survival.
Myth: If a plane’s engines die, the plane will suddenly fall and crash.
Fact: Most commercial planes have four engines: two primary and two backup. However, the engines do not keep the plane in flight; they help keep the plane moving forward. A plane can operate as a glider for several minutes in the remote scenario of total engine failure.
Displacing fears with facts is a crucial step toward alleviating aviophobia. It is also important to recognize what triggers uneasiness about flying. It may be anxiety over the unfamiliar or the sense of not being in control. Diffuse those triggers with these steps:
- Face the fears. The mind naturally seeks protection from unfamiliar circumstances. However, fear can be reduced or eliminated as it is dealt with head on. Often, the fear of flying proves to be more debilitating than flying itself.
- Associate fear triggers with positive memories or images. This helps the body to produce “feel good” or “love” hormones instead of stress hormones.
- Research facts on airplane safety. Knowing what to expect reduces fears of “what if” scenarios.
Acknowledging negative emotions and replacing them with positive ones will loosen the grip of fear. Training the brain to process experiences differently takes intentionality and practice. With persistence, apprehension about planes can give way to appreciation for the wonder of flight.