Edited by Benet Wilson
Aviophobia, or the fear of flying, is not confined to first-time flyers, but is also experienced by more seasoned air travelers. Dr. Nadeen White is the creator and editor of The Sophisticated Life blog, which covers topics travel, food and beverages and culture. She is a globetrotter who struggles with a fear of flying.
White said she started flying when she was only a few months old. “I flew between Jamaica, New York City and Florida every few months going into adulthood without issues,” she said. “I do remember that I never `enjoyed’ turbulence but it never stopped me from flying.”
But, in her 20s, White had a flight that changed her life. “I was flying from Jamaica to Miami during a storm. The lights on the plane starting going in and out, the oxygen masks came down and food trays were crashing into the aisles,” she recalled. “I thought I was going to die. After that flight I had such anxiety about flying I didn't fly for two years.”
Instead, White was... taking the train to Florida to visit family during those two years that she didn't fly. “One trip from Miami to Washington, D.C., took 24 hours. I knew then I needed to get back on a plane,” she said. “Plus, I had a dream to see the world and I knew I could not do that by train.”
White has five great tips on how people with a fear of flying can adapt.
Speak to people who fly for a living or fly a lot for work and even enjoyment. Ask them their thoughts on what you are afraid of when it comes to flying. For me it is turbulence. My mother, who was a jetsetter, told me to think of it like potholes in the road when driving.
Read and learn about airplanes and their safety records. It is the safest form of travel more so than driving. Think of that and how often planes take off without issues and the fact that you probably drive everyday.
Speak to a therapist about your fears. Develop relaxation techniques for flying. Breathing exercises when you feel a panic attack will be helpful.
Speak to your physician if the above doesn't help. For those that get panic attacks while flying, medications should be considered.
Take shorter flights first to adapt. Fly with a family member or friend that can help talk to you and distract you when your fear or panic kicks in.
“I also think a course or reading a book about the fear of flying is a great idea,” said White. “I know people with a fear of flying that have done flight simulation classes with success.”
There are lots of courses, both online and offered by airlines and companies, that are geared at adapting to and overcoming a fear of flying, which are highlighted below.
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This is a free guide to everything about flying covering everything from turbulence to what happens if the landing gear malfunctions. Written by Rich Pantone, a self-declared, former fearful flier, he interviewed airline employees with the expertise to answer many of the questions not only a person with aviophobia might have, but any passenger interested in learning more about how flying works and what sort of contingencies are in place in case of dangerous situations.
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Fear of Flying Help Course is a completely free online course to deal with the fear of flying. The course was put together by a pilot for a U.S. airline and includes lots of pertinent topics and also includes things such as the sounds you might hear on a plane. The course was constructed out of a pilot's desire to help passengers feel more comfortable about the flying experience.
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Flying Without Fear
This is one of the more popular self-help books for the fearful flyer. It gives strategies on conquering one's fear of flying as well as covering topics such as airline safety.