Having a fear of flying is much like having anxiety in general. It is a crushing and debilitating feeling of dread. Except this dread manifests itself at the mere thought of being in or around an aircraft and its resulting proclivity for leaving the ground.
Maybe it was growing up with The A-Team that did it. B.A. Baracus and his fear of flying never seemed like it had an impact on my life until much later. I was in my late 20’s when I boarded my first “fool plane”. A 3-hour stint to Spain with family. My parents informed me that I had indeed travelled at altitude at the ripe age of 1 or 2 and slept quite comfortably the entire trip. My forays into air travel would then accumulate further trips to America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Philippines and Spain over the next 3 decades.
I have a basic understanding of how air travel works. I know that there is enough physics and engineering at play to make the metal tube go hundreds of feet into the sky. But still I feel completely uneasy when it comes to this form of travel.
To say it is a “fear of flying” would be a gross inaccuracy. Flying doesn’t scare me. Dying a brutal and painful death scares me. So what goes through a fearful flyers head?
It begins with the assignment of a space. It’s not quite a space in the sense that you would place something in it. It’s more a space that nothing else seems to occupy. That I am now expected to place my ample 6ft + personage. I wouldn’t define myself as being necessarily claustrophobic, more unhappy being in a space that is uncomfortably smaller than my frame.
Sat on the Tarmac those alien noises that signal the checks being conducted do not fill me with the same feeling of security that you the reader may enjoy. Those whirrs and clicks to me indicate parts of the plane falling off, exploding, rusting, being recalled by the manufacturer and becoming obsolete due to a newer model.
The taxiing to the runway, a sure sign that a plane is about to land on us and that we are in mortal danger. When we are not killed during this procedure I assume that the other plane has missed us by mere millimetres.
I’ll never forget that rising panic the first time I was forced back into my seat. The very same uncontrollable fear that has gripped me each and every time since. The building roar of the engines while we are still stationary surely indicates an imminent explosion. The momentum and sudden burst of acceleration is without warning to the passengers and most likely the pilots too.
And then the nose is in the air. We are in trouble. The ground begins to fall away at a rate that defies logic.
I have decided we are going too fast to survive. As we rise I assess the distance we would fall in the event of an engine failure. I survey the gardens of the houses below and wonder which green house my charred corpse will land in, grinning and still strapped into the chair.
Further the ground disappears and the whole situation becomes a farce. So high up now that my brain begins its reset procedure. Having maxed out its ability to understand the logistics of what is occurring.
And then we’re free.
The plane levels out. The ride is smooth. Outside is a thick blanket of brilliant white fluff.
Hopefully that gives you a little insight into the mind and thoughts of someone who feels anxious about flying. All you can really do for the person (as an outsider) is be there to reassure them.
If you do suffer from “fear of flying” you may find this article helpful : https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/flying-fear-how-to-get-over-claustrophobia-quickly-turbulence-tips-a8444421.html
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