A Reader’s Story – The Fear of Flying in Perspective

A Flying Fear reader wrote this short story and emailed it to me to share with other readers;

A teenage girl of about 15, Kirsten, was travelling to her hometown in Sweden from her boarding school in America to see her family. She had always felt slightly nervous of planes, but she had agreed to go on the trip only because the prospect of not seeing her family this summer seemed worse than any of the dangers air travel could pose.

As she waited at the departure gate, she looked around to see many a face a picture of anxiety, much like her own. For although only a small proportion admit it, the majority of the population feel somewhat uncomfortable in the air.

One young woman, however, stood out. She was about the same age as the girl herself, and was wearing a brightly coloured shirt, skinny jeans and an oversized pair of old-school headphones, with her hair hanging limply, unstyled. Her aura of utter cheerfulness startled the Swedish girl – she was the only one in the room who seemed completely at ease. As mothers looked anxiously to check their children were still by their sides, and businessmen peered at their watches to keep their minds from the situation ahead, this teenager banged her head enthusiastically to the raucous music that could be heard coming from her iPod.

The passengers boarded the plane, and Kirsten found her seat, which was in the middle. The seat next to hers was empty for now, so she sat down and got out her book, beginning to read and quickly becoming engrossed in the story. To her amazement, when she looked up at the sound of the pilot’s first announcement, the cheerful girl she had seen at the departure gate was sitting beside her, still seemingly lost in her own world. Eventually, the Swedish girl was too curious – she just had to consult this seemingly angst less individual:

“You might find this a weird question, but how can you be so calm?” She asked

Her neighbour took off her headphones, having seen Kirsten’s mouth moving, and answered:

“Calm? What do you mean?”

“Well, calm, about flying. Everyone else feels at least a little nervous, you can tell by their faces. But you, you look like you’re really enjoying yourself!”

The girl laughed, a hearty, cheerful laugh:

“Oh, I see what you mean! Well, I guess I’m just not a pessimist!”

“But, doesn’t the thought even occur to you at all that you might not ever get off at the other end?”

“What? Now why would that occur to anybody?! Seriously, this is just the work of the imagination that makes people think like that. I mean, did you ever fly when you were a kid?”

She nodded.

“I did a few times, too. And back then, plane crashes and the like – they didn’t mean anything – I hadn’t seen them on the news, or heard about them, so I was unaware. I remember jumping up and down and laughing through the turbulence, and running up and down the aisles, even when things got really bumpy. I wasn’t holding onto my seat like the rest of the plane.”

“Yeah, but how can you still trick yourself into being oblivious now? I mean, even with the best will in the world you can’t help imagining the risk when you’re about to take off, or when you’re in turbulence, right?”

She laughed again.

“Nah, I never do. I mean, if we thought about the risk in everything, we’d drive ourselves crazy! Even when we eat there’s the risk we’d choke; when we take a shower there’s the risk we’d slip and hit our heads on the tap and knock ourselves out, then drown from the water.”

“True, but if you’re careful you can prevent all that. But on a plane, it’s like your life’s literally in someone else’s hands.”

“It also is when you get in a taxi.”

“Oh yeah, I guess.”

“Or on a bus, or on a train, or when you get an operation in hospital.”

“I’d be nervous about an operation too!”

“Haha, yeah but my point is, there’re risks in everyday life, a lot more than most people ever even think about. But if you worry about them all the time, then if nothing happens, which is by far the most likely, you’ve still lost your life – you haven’t lived it happily, that is. But hey, even if we die on this plane, in the next hour, I’ll have lived a happy life, and I think that’s better than getting off the other end having spent seven hours almost dying of fright. Am I right?”

To that, the Swedish girl had no retaliation. She just smiled and got back to her book – her favourite ever – not even bothering to watch the safety video which she generally memorised before they took off.

~ Lauren, Flying Fear reader

An inspirational story. I’m sure all of you would love to feel the way the girl does, and you can. As a fearful flyer it is so easy to focus on the 1 in 5million flights that go wrong. Your emotional response is; that 1 flight could be mine. But, why do you never feel this when you get in a car, or on a train, or boat?

I hope this story provides you with the inspiration to cure your fear of flying.

If you have any stories or articles you would like to be published on the site, just contact me.

Comments

  1. Chris says

    Great article and one which I think gets to the heart of the problem. You can discuss all the statistics you like, but I think at the centre of a nervous flyer, like myself, is a deeper fear of living a fulfilled life with all the risks that go with it.
    Just found this site and really impressed with everything that’s on offer for free – keep up the good work!

    • admin says

      Thank you Chris,

      I’m trying my hardest to keep adding more to this site, but spending most of my time at 38,000ft doesn’t help! I’m not a psychologist but thought could at least try and help people.

      Thank you for your kind comments.

  2. dave says

    I’ve been flying since I was a baby, so it comes natural. My girl friend, on the other hand used to fly but over the years she has progressively talked herself to a point of being so scared that she can’t even go through security without severe anxiety. Getting on the plane is out of the question.
    Having traveled a lot myself and it is frustrating to see her miss out on all the culture and experience that traveling offers because of something that isn’t real.

    • Natasha says

      I know how your girlfriend feels, Im terrifed of stepping onto the plane. Any ideas on how to controll my anxiety as its ruining my life. Im hyterical when Im in the air.

  3. Natasha says

    I have flown all over the place, Australia, Mexico, you name it. As I have got older I have become absolutley distraught and am so terrifed of flying, I have actually cried the whole 4 hour flight to Tenerife from London Gatwick. Im due to go to Tunisia in a couple of weeks and Im so scared I always think I will die or there will be a mechanical failure. However I love my holidays so I have no choice. Any ideas as to how I can relax and stop worrying as its making me ill.

    • jon underhay says

      hey i just read your post about you crying all the way from gatwick to tenerife..i gotta do that flight in a week and i am shitting myself! Is it a bumpy flight? Dont know how im ever gonna get on that plane.

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