The fear of flying is a common affliction and not even the boldest of frequent flyers are immune to feeling from flight fright and fret from time to time.
While there are no quick fixes or magic cures to help ward off all feelings of uncertainty, worry or anxiety, there are ways in which these can be more manageable.
Kulula.com's and British Airways' teams have crafted a list of eight ways to fight the flight fright and fear while cruising the air.
Know the limits of logic
It's worth acknowledging that commercial air travel is very safe. Statistically it’s far safer than, for example, travelling on the roads. According to David Ropeik, a risk communication instructor at Harvard University, the chances of you dying in a car crash are about one in 5 000.
While the risks of dying in a plane crash are about one in 11 000 000. In fact, stats show that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning, with a one in 13 000 chance. While there are fatal accidents and tragedies that do occur, they're far and few between. Most aviation incidents are not fatal - planes are engineered to lose altitude, slide off the runway, and hit extreme turbulence without any injuries. Read more on this here.
So accepting that fear feels real even though it’s not rational can be a first step toward overcoming it.
Find a goal
Before you board your flight, focus on something that you're looking forward to experiencing when you land in your destination. Whether it's seeing loved ones or finally getting to snap that one sight to grace your social media feed and fuel the envy of all your subordinates (or friends). It's a way to distract your mind from the plane itself and focus on surviving the flight and enjoying what awaits you ahead.
The flight attendants are there for your safety and comfort, so don’t feel self-conscious about confessing any feelings of uneasiness or nervousness to them.
Know what ignites or triggers your fear
Recognise what triggers feelings of anxiety, whether it's noise of the aircraft engines starting to rev, or the aircraft doors closing and consider ways to alleviate or prepare for those triggers. Perhaps invest in block-out or cancelling-out headphones to ward off the worrying sounds or rumblings and focus on regulating and soothing your breathing.
There's no better distraction than digging into a new book, whipping out your latest fire playlist of favourite songs, or binging on a new TV series on your device. It will help entertain and distract you from the flight and any stress and angst you might be experiencing.
Trust the tech
Modern airliners are so overdesigned that the very worst turbulence won’t damage them. In fact, turbulence is the sky's version of a bumpy road or cobble stone street.
Allright, a British Airways pilot and co-writer of the book Flying With Confidence, says that turbulence is as normal and as harmless as driving over a cobble stone road.
The main reason pilots do their best to avoid turbulence is because it’s annoying. They want to be able to sip their coffee without spilling the same as you do. Think of turbulence the same way you would think of bumps in the road on a long drive. - Patrick Allen
Airplanes also undergo rigorous and thorough testing before being approved for flight.
We always see the tests cars are put through from various car brand advertisements, but unless you really go looking for it, you're less likely to see the tests planes undergo. Read more on this here.
And should turbulence arise, as long as you follow the safety procedures and keep yourself strapped in when the seatbelt light is on you’ll be safe and sound.
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Some nervous fliers find that distracting themselves by writing with their non-dominant hand, or squeezing a stress-ball, or holding worry-beads helps them endure short and long-haul flights.
Perhaps invest in some interactive games or small self-challenges to keep you occupied during your flight - such as: puzzles, quizzes, mazes, sudoku, trying to recreate the mona lisa or anything you feel would be a fun and useful challenge to try out during a flight.
Talk to a pro
If you still find yourself feeling frozen or incapacitated by fear when it comes to flying, a professional can help you find ways to deal with your fear. Should you need more help, contacting the South African Depression and Anxiety Group at www.sadag.org can be useful.
- You're not alone in your fear - one in four passengers are likely to experience a fear of flying. According to British Airways this is a common scenario for as much as 25% of travellers, who at some point in life experience a sense of fear while flying. As much as you may feel alone in your plight, these stats show that you will have at least one friend with a fear of flying.
- The oxygen masks do work - even if they don't look like it or visibly inflate. The age old myth about airplane oxygen masks being a hoax and prop because it's 'not hooked up to oxygen tanks' is just that - a myth. Oxygen masks are deployed when there's a loss of cabin pressure. Without the mask, you could lose "useful" consciousness in as little as 15 seconds due to lack of oxygen. When you pull the mask over your face, a mechanism loaded with a spring sets off a chemical reaction that generates oxygen within the mask’s apparatus itself. This is why you're instructed to tug on the mask like they suggest during the emergency procedure demonstration on every flight.The bags on the mask act as an oxygen reservoir, and won't inflate like a balloon, but will still keep any oxygen from escaping into the thinning air around you.
- Commercial planes can fly safely with one engine and can land with none - Engines, believe it or not, is not what keeps the plane in the air. It's part of the reason, but not the whole reason. The engines provide the plane with thrust which allows planes to propel and move forward, but even so, a plane can fly fine with just one of them as well. If they both somehow fail, the plane can safely glide it's way to a landing. In fact, you might have glided in a plane before without even knowing it. Pilot and author Patrick Smith in his book Cockpit Confidential explains that idle thrust is doing harder work than engines cut out altogether, but not by much. He likens it to coasting down a hill in a car with the clutch down.
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