When did I become afraid of Flying……?
We were cleared to land at New York City’s JFK International Airport. It was sometime in the early 1980’s. As the plane, I believe a United Airlines DC-10, started lowering into ominous black clouds, the cabin grew dark as night…we were in a full-blown summer storm. Lightning was crashing outside our windows and exposing terrified faces. I quickly glanced over at my mother and noticed she was white as a ghost….it was a bit surreal…. We were all strapped in and it felt like we were on Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure….
A few minutes later we landed and the passengers broke out into cheers. Why all the fuss? What could ever possibly go afoul. I thought all the old folk were nuts!
15 years later
Having not flown for 15 years I found myself with my future wife boarding a Northwest Airways DC 9 for Detroit. As we sat down my nerves got the best of me. The doors closed and I felt like I was trapped in a sardine can. As we taxied down towards the runway, the cockpit doors flapped open and closed, adding to my anxiety. Airborne I was a white knuckled goon, sweating with clammy hands and stink breath!
SO WHAT GIVES?
How did I go from a fearless passenger bounding through turbulence to a pathetic nervous fool gliding over calm skies?
I pondered this question for a long time. I had travel plans in my future. I couldn’t go through the same horrible experience every time I boarded a plane.
I figured I had anxiety from a small case of claustrophobia and a slight fear of heights. But the big thing was a lack of control. I felt at the mercy of the aircraft, the weather and the Pilots. I would feel better if I was up in the cockpit, “controlling the thing”! But who was I to fly a plane? I will never be a pilot….So what could I control, how could I fly comfortably?
I addressed my fears by doing some of the following:
Fear of Heights: I take a pill before flying, this quells my anxiety. I am not a pill popper, but this little ones seem to take the edge off. xanex
Claustrophobia: I find the most spacious seat available. Economy class is different on certain airlines and plane types. Take control of where you sit and how much extra room you can get/afford. This website lets you compare different airlines seat set ups.Seat Guru
Control: I went about to learn as much info about aviation as I could, to the point of becoming an aviation buff! I researched the safest aircraft and safest airlines. This site has an awesome data base that let’s you decide who and where you want to fly. Aviation Safety Network
I found out that the best cure for my fear of flying, was Flying!
So we flew from JFK to Berlin direct on a Delta 767 ER. Straight across the Atlantic, over a lightning storm, and then landed in pea soup fog…amazing!
Then we flew from JFK to Johannesburg South Africa on a South African Airways A340-500. 16 hours on a plane. We slept most the time, enjoyed South African wines, and were happy with the very comfortable economy class experience.
More recently I took a solo flight to San Diego on a Jet Blue A320. First thing I did was take advantage of the seat upgrade for $40. This gave me a larger seat up front in the plane, which provides a smoother ride. Surprisingly, no one else took advantage of this option. When we took off the pilot let us know we were going to hit some bumps on the way up, and we did. I could see the engine pods bouncing up and down in the turbulence. Once we hit smooth air one of the pilots came out of the cockpit and apologized for the rough ride. Was I bit nervous? Yes. Turbulence always gets my heart racing a bit, but all was good. I seem to be able to fly again….and even enjoy it!