A few facts that will hypothetically make you feel much, much better
Some people take great comfort in statistics and knowledge. If you’re one of these people, this post’s for you. Personally my right brain (where imagination and emotion live) runs circles around my left brain (home of logic and intellectual knowledge) and always has.
Although the real core of the fear of flying program I tested is the isolation and control of the elements of anxiety and panic through conditioning, I’m a little comforted by the facts too. I tend to use them as a mantra in times of airborne anxiety, reminding myself over and over that the following things are true:
1. Flying is safer than driving
Even in 1945 when navigation was primitive and airplane engines had 20 unreliable cylinders, the chance of fatality when driving or flying from New York to LA was equal. In the 21st century, flying in modern jets is more than a hundred times safer than driving. Statistically, it’s even safer than being asleep at home in your bed.
2. Air is like jello at 500 mph
My right brain knows that airplanes are heavy and it doesn’t quite believe that something as insubstantial as air can hold one up. But air gets thicker the faster you go. At 50mph, it’s like water. At 100mph, it’s like molassass. At 150mph, it’s like jello. Jello can hold things up with no problem.
3. Modern airplanes are two airplanes in one
Modern airplanes are built with redundancies. Early airplanes had one engine, but modern airplanes have two or more. Airline safety depends on back up systems, and airliners have them.
But what if all the engines fail? Then the airplane drops from the sky, right? Wrong. Engines don’t hold an airliner in the air, they just push it forward on takeoff and at cruise. Airplanes are actually gliders. At 30,000 feet, they can glide 90 miles in any direction (and there are probably 10-30 airports where they could land within that radius).
5. Lightning? No problem
If a plane is hit by lightning, the air around it insulates it from the ground. The lights may blink or go out temporarily, but the plane will not be harmed. Thunderstorms are no fun to fly in due to strong updrafts and downdrafts. They can also cause windshear, which closes airports. Pilots avoid thunderstorms with Doppler radar though, so it’s not worth worrying about. You’re worrying, aren’t you?
6. Airliners are dynamically stable
Have you ever fretted about a plane flipping over? Well, don’t. It’s impossible due to the negative dihedral design (that is, the upward tilt) of the wings. They give planes dynamic stability. In other words, planes have the tendency to go straight and to require force to do anything else.
This is the fifth and final post in a five-part series about conquering fear of flying. If you’re a nervous flier, read them all. Topics include:
Too busy to read all that? Flying very soon? The online video-based fear of flying program I tried (and highly recommend) has recently published a book called SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying. It’s available on Amazon for much less than the cost of the full program.