Single Women Take Flight: Face Your Fear of Flying

By Melanie Nayer

airplane sitting on tarmac with boarding ramp extendedIf you ask my Mom what one of her secrets to keeping sane was when she had two kids under the age of 6, she’ll tell you it was learning to fly. No, she didn’t fly herself, but she taught her two girls not to be scared of flying.

When my parents needed to get out of town, they packed us up, put us on the plane and off we went – no worry, no fear, no problem. I was the kid with her nose pressed against the glass window at the gate watching the planes take off and land. I ran down the corridor and counted the rows to my seat, and insisted on the window seat so I could ‘ride on the clouds.’

It’s no wonder I grew up to become a travel writer.

I’ve flown on airplanes of all sizes -from 9-seat Cessnas to 200+ seat Boeings – and I’m still amazed at the physics that make planes fly. But, I always wondered how technology kept up with the times. Today’s planes are computer-controlled and require little pilot force for aviation, but what happens if the technology fails? Can the technology fail? The simple answer is: it’s very unlikely.

I recently had the opportunity to go inside Virgin America‘s Airbus 320 and explore the unknown first hand. I curled up in the engine, crawled in the cargo hold and sat in the cockpit, where I got first-hand information on all the gadgets and gizmos that make these steel wonders fly. While I’m not afraid to fly, checking out the cockpit and talking with the engineers actually made me feel more comfortable about being on a plane (and only intensified my desire to go to flight school).

Your luggage goes here!

Your luggage goes here!

Still, the fear of flying is real and can stand alone or stem from a fear of heights, claustrophobia, strange sounds, crowds and of course, terrorism. But understanding how a plane operates can help ease the anxiety during flights. Let’s look at some statistics:

  • Your chances of being involved in an aircraft accident are approximately 1 in 11 million. Your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5000. You do the math.
  • Airplanes are designed and engineered to handle all types of environments, including rain, snow, storms and of course, turbulence. Turbulence is the usually at the top of flyers ‘hate’ lists, but keep this in mind: Ninety-nine percent of turbulence injuries are from unfastened seat belts, or falling luggage. During one flight with intense turbulence a pilot turned to me and said, “This doesn’t hurt the plane anymore than a speed bump hurts your car.”

So, how to can you conquer your fear of flying (for at least the duration of time it takes to fly to your destination)?

Kicking back in the engine

Kicking back in the engine

Here are my tips:

  1. Be honest. If you’re scared, say so. The reality is – everyone will understand. Make sure you tell the flight attendant when you sit down, as they will check on you from time-to-time and ensure you’re doing OK. If you’re flying alone, tell the person sitting next to you that you’re nervous. You’ll find that strangers fast become friends when you need some comfort.
  2. Choose the right seat. The front of the plane or over the wings are generally your best bet. One caveat: While the ride might be smooth over the wings, it is also one of the loudest areas. If the sounds are going to bother you it’s best to sit near the front of the plane.
  3. Use your numbers. Therapists and hypnotists use numbers and mantras to help calm anxiety. If panic sets in, close your eyes and start counting. Breathe in for three seconds, and out for three seconds… repeat until you feel at ease.
  4. Bring entertainment. Don’t get on the plane without some distractions. Get a good book, some trashy magazines, crossword puzzles, etc. The more occupied you are with other things, the less focused you’ll be on the flight.
  5. Create a playlist. Before you leave home, create a playlist of your favorite songs on your MP3. When you get antsy, turn on your MP3 and rock out… you’ll forget you’re on a plane and start practicing your GRAMMY acceptance speech.

Travel is meant to be a fun and unique adventure. Don’t let the fear of the unknown prevent you from seeing the world!

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