I have zero training in psychology and now having put that admission on the table, here are a couple of thoughts.
Over the 52 years that I've been a licensed pilot I've met numerous people that are afraid of flying. I even spent 20 minutes talking to one yesterday who's not only afraid of flying, but has managed to raise a daughter that is so afraid as to be traumatized at the thought of getting in an airplane. At Thanksgiving, I saw a woman whom I gave her first general aviation airplane ride. She reminded me and we had a nice laugh about the fact that she fainted during the ride.
First and foremost, there's no reason to be ashamed of having a fear of flying. Most things that people are afraid of have some reason to be afraid.
Think about it. Flying is about going UP in the air in a slender tube with someone else in control. Sounds pretty scary, huh? Bear with me...
Fear has two entirely different sources.
- Irrational -- This fear has no basis in reality. You just have it. My father had 10,000 flight hours and was afraid of standing on a chair to change a light bulb.
- Logical -- This type of fear is based upon some reality. For example, walking through the Arizona desert in the late afternoon where rattlesnakes abound. Or skydiving without a parachute.
For many people, a given fear might be a combination of both.
Back to the question. Here are some thoughts about how to mitigate your fears of flying.
- Spend some time doing research on how safe airline transportation or just flying in general is. There is no mass transit system on the planet safer than flying the airlines. Researching facts addresses the logical fear issue.
- See a psychologist. Learning to deal with fear is right in their wheelhouse. They can help address the irrational fear issues. There are even organizations that focus on helping people overcome a fear of flying.
- Go flying. If you know someone with an airplane or if you are willing to rent an airplane and an instructor you can go for a short (as short as you want) flight just to see what it's like. Sometimes flying in a general aviation airplane where you can see out the front window helps a lot. My father-in-law was very nervous about flying in general aviation aircraft so I took him on a flight to Las Vegas. He was so captivated with the view that he forgot to be nervous.
- If there is a component of physical distress either when flying or even just thinking about it, there are sedatives like Dramamine that can help manage nausea and nerves.
The fact that millions of people fly both in airliners and in general aviation aircraft each and every day should give you a sense that you can overcome your fear of flying or at least learn to manage it.
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