Fear of Flying: Turbulence

Many nervous flyers will be scared of turbulence. But, truth be told, turbulence is nothing to worry about. In fact, turbulence is a mere annoyance to us flight attendants as it always seems to start when we are trying to drink coffee or fill out paperwork!

What is Turbulence?

Flight attendants call turbulence ‘bumpy air’ as this seems the most simple explanation. If you compare flying to being on a boat, you’ll find many similarities. The water can be calm, and you get a smooth ride. But, if the wind becomes stronger the water will be moved around and the boat will move around with it.

When it comes to flying, it’s very much the same. Clear Air Turbulence normally occurs when we cross over a weather front (known as a jetstream). If you watch the weather forecast, you’ll see many weather fronts on the map.

As the weather front moves forward it ‘stirs up’ the air. So, in simple terms, the turbulence you feel is just a change in direction of the air we are flying through.

We may also experience turbulence over mountainous areas. As weather fronts pass over mountain terrain it can cause the air to act as a flowing river does when obstacles (such as a big rock) are in it’s path. This can cause turbulence. Common areas in Europe for this type of turbulence are the Alps, and some areas in Spain.

The most common cause of turbulence at lower altitudes during sunlight is called Convective Turbulence. As the sun warms the ground, hot air rises, which causes the air to become bumpy. This type of turbulence is normally felt during take-off and landing (usually more so during landing, as the approach requires you to stay at this altitude for longer). Landing in hot areas, such as Spain, in the summer can be quite bumpy – but it’s not dangerous. In fact, be happy that it’s nice and hot outside, and you are going to be lying on the beach very soon!!

The most important thing you need to know, is that turbulence is not dangerous. We do suggest that you always keep your seatbelt fastened when seated though.

Those of you that are scared of turbulence, are concerned that it can cause damage to the aircraft. This will NEVER happen. The aircraft is designed to withstand much more than we will EVER encounter. The pilots will – usually – not even take the plane off the autopilot, as the aircraft is perfectly capable of handling itself during turbulence.

The aircraft is NOT going to drop out of the sky. There are no such things as air pockets that an aircraft can fall into. There is always air to support us. Our natural fear instinct is designed to feel the sensation of falling downwards. With every ‘down bump’, there is an ‘up bump’ to compensate for it. Similar to driving a car over a bump, it doesn’t take a very big bump to move us around quite a bit. In truth, the altimeter (the instrument that registers our altitude) will hardly even register turbulence – we really don’t move around as much as it sometimes feels we are.

A useful exercise for those of you with a flying fear is to pay attention to ‘up bumps’ as this will enable you to see that the plane is not just going downwards.

There will be much more to come on the subject of turbulence in future weeks – as it’s many people’s fear. Rest assured though, turbulence is not a danger to the aircraft, and will never cause the aircraft to fall out of the sky.

Comments

  1. says

    This site you’ve put together is fantastic. I’m trying to get over a fear of flying, and I believe your site is going a long way to helping with that!

    What I believe are helping me:
    – The facts of the situation being presented (e.g. the limits of turbulence, etc.)
    – Assurances that turbulence will never harm anything
    – The exploration of the loss of control, which I agree is probably a huge part of the fear — it’s even occurred to me before now!
    – The weight of your experience behind your words

    Before reading this site, I believe many people like me just hear about accidents on the news, and translate that information into “It can happen!” This little nugget of information/disinformation sits in our brain and comes out whenever our fear kicks in (e.g. during turbulence!).

    So, THANKS!

    • admin says

      Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m genuinely pleased that I’ve helped in some way. I’ve always been honest here, and will continue to be so.

      Feel free to ask any questions – at any time….

    • Melissa says

      I have to fly this weekend and I am already having panic attacks. I have to fly alone with 2 of my kids and I’m afraid that I’m going to scare my 9 year old…who is already quite dramatic. Thanks for your thoughts. I need to read on. There’s been incidents on planes in America since Bin Laden was killed and I’m getting worked up about that, too.

      Melissa

      • Adriana says

        I feel you Melissa. I have not flown since I was 15 .. now I am 22 and my mother wants me to go with her to NYC… I am dreading this situation but my psychologist said that the only way to overcome a phobia is to stand by and let loose.

  2. Janie Drewer says

    Thanks for all your comments about fear of flying. My fear is somewhat deep seated following a dramatic flight some years ago which left me and my family traumatised. However, we do still fly but it seems to take more courage every time! What I would like to know is why following an air disaster the accident is reported as being down to “bad weather”? I hear what you are saying about turbulence and would really like to believe it.

    • admin says

      Hi Janie – apologies for the delay in replying.

      Firstly, well done for continuing to fly. Facing your fear really is the best medicine!

      Turbulence is not dangerous I PROMISE you. I love turbulence, and I certainly wouldn’t be saying that if I thought I was in any danger. In fact, I wouldn’t even go to work!!!

      I have a huge problem with the way media report on air accidents. They NEVER get it factually correct. Journalists write articles to a deadline, and it seems they never seem to fully research an incident before reporting it.

      With any accident there is obviously always a cause. But it’s NEVER just one. Saying an accident is down to ‘bad weather’ is a sure sign of an article that has not been researched at all!

      Personally I’d describe such incidents as a ‘freak of nature’. It’s usually a chain of unforseen events that result in any accident. NOTHING is 100% safe. People get killed by lightning, trees, and by falling out of the bath (etc etc!). Aviation accidents are in the same category. It is the safest form of travel – by a big margin.

      Please do not take any notice of media reports on these rare incidents. The media exists on fear – and the report is certain to be full of half-truths and misleading rubbish. Next time there is an incident, talk to me instead and listen to fact rather than fiction!

      How many airliners crashed today worldwide? 0, cars? probably thousands!!

  3. fh says

    Thanks for this useful website. But what about the Air France flight leaving Brasil? Wasn’t that due to severe turbulence?

    • admin says

      FH,

      Thanks for your question. Nobody yet knows what happened to Air France Flight 447. This is a quote taken from the preliminary report on the incident;

      the meteorological situation was typical of that encountered in the month of June in the inter-tropical convergence zone,

      However, the report does suggest that some of the ‘storms’ in the area where AF447 disappeared may have cause some severe turbulence. The media have taken it upon themselves to report that this turbulence caused the disaster. But, how can the media know this, when official investigators (who are highly trained in dealing with aviation incidents) DO NOT know the reason?! Journalists DO NOT know about aviation, and rarely bother to research thoroughly before writing on the subject.

      Do not take notice of ANY articles in the media suggesting that turbulence caused the ditching of AF447.

      There are many theories surrounding this incident, but none are proven. We only have a very limited number of facts – and sadly, this may be all we have due to the fact the ‘black boxes’ have not yet been recovered, and may not be in the future.

      Turbulence is NOT dangerous, and does not bring down an aircraft. There has to be other contributing factors/causes – and as yet, these are unknown.

      Read my initial thoughts on the incident by clicking here. For those who would like to read the preliminary report on the ongoing investigation, all 128 pages can be found by clicking here.

  4. Jessica says

    Hello, i just read some of your articles based on the fear of flying. I must say it has been quite a help understand the mechanics of a plane. I myself am flying from my mothers house in Spain to Bristol in england on the 30th of this month and I’m still quite nervous. I’m 18, and it was my first flight over on my own, and the turbulence was quite bad, and now I’m afriad to go home!
    My fear runs in my family through my mother, father and even my sister. I was wondering if you have any key elements to focus on whilst i take my flight next week. I would really appreciate your help!
    Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Jessica,

      I’m glad the site has helped in some way. The best advice I can offer you is to pay very close attention to the Flight Attendants for the duration of the flight. Do they look worried?

      A lot of fearful flyers tell themselves that the crew are hiding something from them – but, trust me, we are not! Turbulence is nothing to be afraid of, and the crew know that. We are not paid well enough to endanger our lives unnecessarily – so if we thought we were in danger, we’d never go to work!

      I always advise fearful flyers to tell the crew they are scared – especially if travelling alone. That way, they will make sure you are ok throughout your flight and explain anything that you do not understand.

      Obviously I am not a psychologist, so I tend to recommend either the SOAR Course or The TakeOff Today Program for more qualified help.

      Please do keep in mind that the crew all have loved ones, and we do not go to work in fear. We all feel safe, or we would not do the job we do. Keep watching the crew, and tell them you have a fear of flying.

      I hope that helps in some way……What airline are you flying with?

  5. A.B says

    Thank you so much for such an informative website. It’s great to have someone give you “straight” answers to a lot of the common questions regarding turbulence. I’m flying back to the UK from Buenos Aires in a few days and, while I’ve always broken out into a cold sweat during flights, after having read reports about the Air France flight in June and the ITCZ, the mere thought of having to fly through that zone makes me quite light-headed! I’ll certainly be keeping a firm eye on the flight attendents over the Brazilian coast!

    • says

      Thanks AB,

      I’m glad the site has helped in some way. Just a quick note regarding the ITCZ….. THOUSANDS of aircraft have flown that same route without any incident. In fact aircraft flew through that zone shortly before and after the disappearance of Flight AF447 and encountered no difficulties.

      Whatever happened to the Air France aircraft was a freak accident, and does not mean that this particular zone poses any danger to aircraft flying through it. If this was the case…… it would soon be a ‘no-fly’ zone, and that’s guaranteed!

      Hope you enjoyed your flight. Feel free to ask any questions.

  6. Zack says

    Hey, thanks for putting this site together…it helped me a lot.

    I’m flying in a few weeks with my family…and whenever I think about it, it’s like my imagination starts up and I think of myself in the plane going through terrible turbulence.
    The last time I was on a plane, there was horrible turbulence that seemed to go on during the whole flight. And for me, I was more worried about the ‘up bumps’ than the ‘down bumps’. The plane would just lurch upwards and shake.

    The pilot said that it would subside, and eventually, it did. But I was still worried that it would happen again.

    I wasn’t afraid of flying that much before that incident. And now, turbulence is one of my major fears of flying. Also, the whole ‘plane falling out of the sky’ thing scares me as well. The idea of the engine going off or something like that scares me a lot as well. Can you give me some more advice? Thanks!

    • says

      Turbulence is the biggest fear for many nervous passengers, but it really isn’t dangerous. Don’t get me wrong, it can be uncomfortable, but the aircraft is designed to withstand much more than it will encounter…..

      Contrary to popular belief, planes never just fall out of the sky, and if one engine fails the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying perfectly fine. If – and it’s almost impossible – both engines fail, the aircraft can glide safely to the ground.

      Obviously, accidents do happen, just as they do whilst driving. Nobody is ever 100% safe, but you are as close as you can be whilst in a commercial airliner with a team of highly trained professionals looking after you every step of the way.

      Next time you encounter turbulence, imagine yourself on a boat. The movements you feel are simply the waves on the ocean. Air acts in a almost identical manner to water, but you fear flying more as air is invisible whilst water isn’t.

      Check out the SOAR Fear of Flying Course for expert guaranteed help.

  7. Sarah says

    Hello,

    Thank you so much for your website. It is very helpful.

    I have family that lives across the country, and I have been flying at least once a year since I was a baby, with the exception of about five years when I was in college. When I started flying again, the first few times I was fine, and then I started noticing a growing anxiety. At first I was able to ignore it, but it got worse and worse. Then, a flight I was on last June hit some unexpected turbulence, and my fear shot through the roof. In retrospect, I don’t think the turbulence was very bad–I was sitting next to a frequent flyer who comforted me and told me that this was nothing–and it probably only lasted about ten minutes or so. But now I spend a significant part of every single day dwelling on the fact that I will have to fly sometime again. All I have to do is see an airplane in the sky (and I live near an airport, in flight paths) or even hear the word airplance, and I have a panic attack that can last an hour. This happens several times a day, every day, and is ruining my life. I had to fly again in November, and I tried taking anti-anxiety medication: it made no difference whatsoever. I was completely terrified the whole time.

    I try to think of all the statistics showing that airplanes are the safest way to travel, and it makes no difference. I just cannot understand how an airplane could be safe. You’re going against nature. People aren’t meant to fly. Birds are. What is to stop a plane from having a catastrophic mechanical problem in mid-flight? What is to stop turbulence from breaking a plane up in the air? No human being can design a machine that can never break. Look at the Titanic.

    I don’t want to never be able to travel, or visit my family. I have to fly again on Thursday, and I’m considering canceling, or driving from Minneapolis to California instead. Please give me some advice. It helps so much to hear things from a professional.

    Thank you,
    Sarah

    • says

      Hi Sarah,

      Firstly, you mention that it goes against nature. Birds fly, we don’t. Yes, you are right and that is why a commercial airliner is based on how a bird flies. In a plane, you are not flying…. the aircraft is. You are just a passenger on a giant bird.

      The basic principles of flight have always been the same, and always will be. Lift=Weight and Thrust=Drag.

      Wings provide lift to counteract the weight of the aircraft, and the engines create thrust to counteract the drag. These are the exact same principles that allow a bird to stay in the air.

      You also mention the failure of anti-anxiety medication to help. No surprise there….. many studies have found it actually increases levels of anxiety.

      I highly recommend that you download the SOAR course for a fear as severe as yours. It’s a guaranteed course that has helped thousands of others in similar situations overcome there fear of flying. Years of research has enabled breakthrough treatment for your fear, and…. it works! Click here for more information.

  8. Joel says

    The only problem i have every had with flying is during take off and landings when you get that sinking feeling in your stomach. I dont know whether everyone else feels it like i do cause its very severe, i feel like im falling through the fall and even though ive flown alot in the past five years and know to expect it…it never fails to cause me to panic.

    Its the same in lifts but not quite as severe, when you go up and then the lift comes to a halt.

    Turbulance is fine by me and none of the noises frighten me, i know im very safe and in qualified hands.

    So my problem is trying to find ways to stop or deal with this sinking feeling in my stomach, which to be honest incapacitates me until it stops. It puts a stain on every flight that would have otherwise been very enjoyable.

    Ive tried drinking, being real tired, listening to music, reading, talking.

    I dont think its any sort of negative mindset (thought i do get nervous bout flying), its just a severe physical feeling i cant ignore that causes me to panic.

    Any advise how to get better at dealing with this? Or why i get this feeling?

  9. Kate says

    Hey Kevin!
    I’m getting ready to fly to London from DC in a few days. I know that airspace is (for the moment) open despite the volcano still erupting. But I’m still nervous about the flight, given all the dangers the media has presented about ash harming planes and what not. Any advice to ease my fears?
    Thanks! Your site has helped a lot :0)

    • says

      Hi Kate,

      I’ve been emailed this question a few times, and have also had passengers ask me at work. Many people are slightly concerned that we have gone from complete airspace closure to flights being permitted again despite the Icelandic volcano still erupting.

      UK Authorities (including the Civil Aviation Authority) have admitted that they were ‘over-cautious’ regarding the complete shutdown of UK airspace last month. But, this should not be seen as a bad thing. In truth, it was a very unusual situation for this part of the world, and rightly so, it was important to gain more knowledge to better enable a accurate assesment of the danger of vocanic ash.

      Extensive research showed that volcanic ash is only dangerous if it is of a high density. Aircraft engine manufacturers, airlines, and safety authorites were all involved in this research, and all agreed that it was ok to resume flights if areas of higher density of ash were avoided.

      In the UK and Europe we are still seeing delays, and a small number of cancellations due to the continuing eruption. The situation is still dynamic, and you can be rest assured that NO aircraft will be flying through ash that is above the recommended ‘safe level’.

      So, in summary, yes ash is dangerous to fly through – but only if it’s high density. Extensive research has been completed and ALL airlines will be aware of where the higher density ash cloud is. The skies above us are currently safe to fly in – but if the situation changes, the authorities will not hesitate in shutting the airspace again. Your safety (and ours) is ALWAYS the number 1 priority – no exceptions.

      Kevin

  10. Sandra says

    I am leaving tomorrow for Atlanta from Philadelphia. (About a 2 hour flight ) and i am super nervous!!! I take medicine before but nothing seems to help. I just get so nervous and I lock up after every little bump or move. The weather says that it might storm in Philly tomorrow which makes me VERY nervous. Also I am taking an E190 plane .

    Any Advice?

    • says

      Hi Sandra,

      Hope I’m not too late with the reply. I was flying last night (UK time) and have only just got the chance to respond.

      Medicine is unlikely to work, and some studies have even shown it to increase anxiety – something you definitely don’t want.

      What you have to keep remembering is that planes are supposed to move around. Just as a boat moves on the surface of the water, a plane must move in air. As I’ve mentioned, air acts in a very similar way to water, but – of course – it’s invisible which leads to a fear amongst many airline passengers.

      Just keep the thought in your mind that there is air surroinding the entire aircraft, and this is what is holding it up. That air will never cease to exist, or lapse – or you’d see birds randomly dropping from the sky all day!

      Turbulence is caused by different air pressures, and weather fronts. It is 100% natural, and completely safe. Storms can cause increased turbulence, but pilots will always avoid them if they are too violent as they always try to make your ride as comfortable as possible.

      If storms are particularly violent, a flight will simply be delayed or re-routed to avoid flying near it. Never forget how many highly trained professionals there are looking after you. No other form of transport can offer you such safety.

      With regards to the E190 plane, it’s a perfectly safe aircraft to be on with a proven safety record. All aircraft owned and operated by reputable airlines in the developed world are safe – and that’s a fact.

      Enjoy your flight :-)

  11. Simon says

    Firstly let me congratulate you on a truly informative website. The comments i’ve read are very matter-of-fact and have helped reassure me in my fear of air turbulence.

    My fear is a strange one that has developed over the years. At first (in my naivity) I loved flying, but the more I thought about turbulence and air movement the more scared I got on subsequent flights. This has led to me being a very poor flyer. I literally grip the seat I’m in and cannot normally indulge in conversations on a flight as I am too busy ‘concentrating’ on whether the plane is moving about in turbulence or not. I have looked at the practicalities of turbulence and the more I read the more stupid I feel for reacting this way when on a flight. However, since visiting this website, your words and advice seem to be imprinted onto my psyche which has enabled me to relax and enjoy flights for the first time in years.

    Again once again congratulations on your site and a huge thankyou for enabling me to enjoy flying once more.

    Simon

  12. Jen says

    Hi Kevin!

    I have a big fear of flying, which led me to finding this website. I am planning on taking a big trip to Australia next year (I live in Florida). This information coming from someone who is obviously well-versed in flying is very comforting, so thank you.

    Jen

  13. Lilliana says

    As an ESL teacher in South Korea, I’ve flown many times from Raleigh,NC to Incheon, South Korea and back. It seems that my anxiety grows with each flight. I know a lot of it has to do with being in the air for so long. The last flight I took from ICN to RDU in April was turbulent for almost the entire trip. And the initial flight from ICN to Narita on April 4th was the worst and scariest turbulence I have ever experienced. I’ll be flying back from RDU to ICN in January and I’m afraid of turbulence due to cold fronts. My question is, is it more dangerous to fly during winter months? I know you’ve stated many times that turbulence isn’t dangerous, but it sure can be uncomfortable. Is there a season or month that you would suggest flying during to experience less turbulence?

    • says

      No, it is no more dangerous flying in winter than in summer. Winter tends to be more challenging on an operational front as snow and ice can interfere with schedules, but danger is not increased.

      Yes, I agreee, turbulence can be uncomfortable (I was having to hold on very tight on a flight last week, and my feet left the floor several times!), but not dangerous. As long as you have your seatbelt on, there is nothing to concern you. It will not cause damage to the aircraft.

      Turbulence is pretty much the same all year round. Convective turbulence is more common in summer due to the temperature, but weather fronts and jet streams to cause turbulence regardless of the time of year.

      Hope that helps.

  14. Michael says

    Thank you for posting this wonderful article which is very helpful , I am also very scared of flying , I´ve been told that the take-off and landing are the ones to be worried about , I´m flying soon with a AZ 0687 of Alitalia , I have traveled and crossed the ocean with transatlantics before but the ones I´ve flown with before were Airbus and this one is a Boeing so it looks like a small plane to me and it scares me to know that the fact of being a small boeig can be dangerous to cross the ocean , do you think this boeing is safe and this Airline too ? this is my first time flying on this airline . Thank you in advance .

    • says

      Glad the article helped. Take-off and landing are the critical stages of flight, but not something to worry about.

      Alitalia are the Italian flag carriers, and as with any European airline, have excellent safety standards. With regards to Boeing aircraft, they are American built, and one of most widely used aircraft manufacturers. In fact, a Boeing aircraft takes-off or lands every 2 seconds somewhere in the world. That’s over 40,000 flights per day!

      Hope that helps.

  15. sawsan says

    Dear help,

    It is very helpful reading all these comments , may i ask you about the mechanical sound that we hear during any normal flight , i am always afraid of the change in this sound that i don’t even concentrate on anything else just trying to hear if there is any change in the mechanical sound.
    iI have read everything you wrote about turbulence and i feel okay now but still need the have more information about the change in the sound that we hear .

    Thanks for your help

    • says

      Hi,

      Do you mean whilst in flight? If so, engines power is increased and decreased all the time depending on whether the aircraft is speeding up or slowing down. Also, during the descent you may hear flaps extending and possibly even speed brakes/spoilers. All these noises are 100% normal and are just a part of controlling the aircraft. Does that help?

  16. vicky says

    Hello , first off i thank you and congratulate you for this wonderful site where you help people with flying fears . I have a concern about Hurricanes , I´m going to fly soon to Europe and I am in Venezuela , these months are hurricane seasons , I would like to know if it is dangerous flying when it´s hurricane season and if it can affect to the plane while crossing the ocean ? Thank you .

  17. Megan says

    First off, I would like to thank you for the information you’ve provided on this website. Your experience and knowledge is very comforting. My fear for turbulence is mainly the sudden falling sensation. I am not a fan of any amusement park rides, in fact, I can only tolerate a swing ride for so long until I reach a certain height and then the fear would seep in. Likewise, any pulling back sensation (associated with fast speed) makes me nervous as well. Take offs and landings are challenging but I guess in comparison, I fear air turbulence more. I suppose logically I know take off and landing will only last so long and are somewhat expected since there would be announcements beforehand whereas it may not necessary be the case with air turbulence. Of course, when it gets rough we would be warned to sit in our our seats and buckle up. But sometimes it doesn’t take that big of a turbulence to freak me out..it could be just an occasional bump here and there. You’ve suggested to concentrate on the up bumps instead of the down bumps. In my mind, what goes up must come down. When there’s an up bump, it almost reminds me of the roller coaster, how it pulls up to anticipate the sudden fall. So the down bump itself is scary cause of the physical sensation, the up bump is also scary due to the anticipation of the next sudden drop. Given that flights to the places I travel to often last for at least 10 hours. A minute of intensity is long enough, let alone for hours on end.

    My question is, does the size of the aircraft and the position of the seat within the plane affect the sensitivity to air turbulence?

    Some people suggested to me to ride in bigger aircrafts as they tend to be steadier. Also to get a seat in the mid section of the plane as opposed to the tail end of the plane (which for some reason I always end up in). My last flight was again sitting in the very back row. During take off, I can hear and feel the sound and vibration of the accelerating engine under my seat and felt the very steep incline motion. As for checking other crew members and passengers’ responses go, everyone I spoke with said they didn’t feel a thing and the crew said it was a very smooth flight indeed. But I felt every little bumps and turns the whole way through and thank goodness it was only a 3 hour flight. Yet, to me it was a 3 hour long roller coaster ride. It was like I was the only person going insane.

  18. Tanya says

    thank you very much for your web site, it has helped me since it’s turbulence i’m freaked out by.are the flights in winter time much more turbulent than normal. on friday i’m flying from dublin to lanzarote and i have to be honest i haven’t slept in 2weeks thinking about flying .. i feel stupid really. i suppose just want to know am i more endangered flying in winter??

  19. Esmeralda says

    Hi!
    I found your website after looking for ways to get rid of my fear of turbulence on Google. I’m 16, and my mom used to work at the airport in the city we live in. So, since she got plane tickets at a reduced price we were constantly traveling. Our usual destination is in Mexico which is a 2 hour flight from Houston(where I live). In August 2010, my mom & I were flying back to Houston like any other normal flight. I had never been scared to fly, it was a usual thing, I was always comfortable up in the air. So anyway, the day we were coming back, there was a storm in Houston that we didn’t know about. During the last 15 minutes of our flight, I experienced my first turbulence EVER, in all my years of flying. We’ve been flying since I was about 2 years old. It was HORRIBLE! The plane would shake & DROP horribly ( I do admit the “up bumps” were very relieving!). I was seriously traumatized. In November, that same year, we took a flight to Dallas(the first time I got back on a plane since the incident). I didn’t think about the previous experience I’d had, I was all fine & dandy. But when the plane began to move, I panicked. Any little move the plane would make would stir me up. My heart would begin to race.
    During Spring Break, my mom & I are planning to visit our family in Mexico.
    I’m DETERMINED to not let this traumatic experience overpower me & keep me from getting on a plane again. I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me out & tell me how I can overpower this. Thank you SO much!
    -Esmeralda

    • Sanjit says

      I had exactly the same experience. I was a very frequent flyer till i took a flight from Spain to London. It was a horrible bumpy ride for 2.5 hrs. I could not recover even after 2 years of the incidence . I still get very panicky when i take a flight (specially the long distance ones). Now a days i do not travel alone on long haul flights. It makes me even ‘angry’ when i see my wife having a drink and enjoying a movie and me sitting by her absolutely traumatized for no reason at all :)..i even tried to talk about it with my friends and everyone seems to think there is no reason i should be worried..I don’t know how to get out of this stupid fear of mine..

  20. Dean says

    Hi, this website does help somewhat for my fear of turbulence. I like most was a frequent flyer from the age of 1 until now. I’d travelled all over the world on planes, and then on the way back from a regular holiday in Benidorm, we had bad turbulence which was a night flight and I think that made it worse. After that it was a couple of years before my next flight and that was to Australia to see my Mum, I couldn’t not go despite my fears, but they hadn’t kicked in properly, in my opinion that was just the beginning. The flight there was almost turbulence-free and I thoroughly enjoyed it, however the flight back was also good, but a little bit came for about 20-30 mins and it wasn’t that bad- but extremely uncomfortable.

    Having thought I’d overcome the fears of flying it never occured to me that I had any fears until another flight to Benidorm with the Wife (pregnant at the time), while in the process of landing there was turbulence which kicked off my original fears. And the flight back was another night flight and almost a carbon copy of the returning flight a few years prior to that one.

    I have recently been on another trip to Australia (Sister’s wedding- so again couldn’t miss it) and I took a diassipan tablet which helped my nerves whilst in duty-free, but didn’t lift the fear fully. But the flight wasn’t too bad after all but the returning flight was (the tablets had been removed from my suitcase on arrival) and I had my wife next to me asleep and my then one year old son asleep on me and the pilot told the cabin crew to sit down (I feared for my life) and how refreshing it was to think there was still over 16 hours of flying time to go.

    We returned safely and I’m flying in November to Tenerife and I’m a bag of nerves now in March. I don’t know what to do. I just feel so unsafe on an aircraft.

  21. Paul says

    Hi, I too have found this site helpful. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in wrestling with the fear of flying. Like Joel and, even more, like Megan, my anxiety is triggered more often than not by the sensation of falling (and falling and rising). Indeed, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the sensation of sudden motion of any sort (roller coasters, elevators, even swings). It’s not so much that I fear disaster, although on a plane I often do. Rather, the sensation itself seems so intense that I get rattled. It’s almost as if the physical sensation is so close to what I would experience in an anxiety attack that the one flows into the other.

    I’ve searched high and low for an explanation, but thus far without success. Is it a physiological quirk, a psychological problem, or both? I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else has the same problem or has any insight into it.

  22. Brent says

    I Fly out tomorrow and I have been having panic attacks all week. It should be a happy occasion, going home for the first time in 9 months but all I can think about is turbulance, the plane crashing everything that can go wrong. I have adivan to keep me calm but I am still worried. The Saturday forecast has scattered storms the entire way. Im freaking out someone help please.

  23. Bill says

    Over the past 6 months to a year, I have developed a real fear of flying and have developed a horrible reaction to turbulence. I travel somewhat often for work (approx. 2x per month). On my last flight, I had taken two Xanax, but to no avail, I thought I was going to have a heart atttack. Everyone else around me was drinking, reading and laughing. It felt as if we were dropping hundreds of feet in the air and being thrown around. The pilot and the flight attendants called it “bumpy air”. It feels as if you are on a two hour roller coaster ride. My whole body throbs and I sweat profusely. Is there anyway to avoid “bumpy air” while flying? Do pilots enjoy riding through this type of air just to liven things up a bit?

    • Laurent says

      Me too.

      Here’s the most useful tip I’ve been using so far:

      If you’re in a 10 seconds turbulence, there is no time to worry. Right?

      If you’re in a 10 minutes turbulence, try to think that it’ll probably not last more than another ten. So you’ve survived the first ten, why wouldn’t you survive the next ten? Also try to think of the _future_ moment you will be _out_ if it. Look into the future for the relief. Don’t try to think of how smooth the flight was _before_.

      An if you’re in a 1 hour turbulence and still alive, this is the proof that nothing will ever happen!

      Have a nice flight.

  24. Marnie says

    I fly approximately once a month. I’ve flown on everything from an Airbus A380 to a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver in the past few years. Recently, though, I’ve had major anxiety– sweaty palms, fast heart rate, trembling hands– whenever I take a regional jet from my home in the Ohio River valley to visit family in Dallas. It’s an almost 800-mile trip, but it’s actually becoming more attractive to drive 14 hours rather than experience an hour and a half of fear.

    My fear is triggered by turbulence, particularly the sudden drops that seem to occur periodically throughout the flight. It’s always worse in the winter, too, so around the holidays it’s just another contributor to general anxiety. I’ve tried writing about it, talking to friends and family, doing various stretches and exercises, taking a muscle relaxer– and so far, nothing helps.

    Like Bill, I fly often and have for years. It’s just in the past few months that I’ve really had a problem. But boy, is it a problem.

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