Fear of Flying

A turbulent airplane is a litmus test for being a superstitious person. I don’t believe in anything, but I get damned psychic when I fly. I suddenly see signs, symbols, and coincidences at every turn. Flight numbers synchronize with auspicious dates. A morbid song plays in the cab on the way to the airport. Maybe there’s an eerie crossword puzzle clue in the in-flight magazine. Or a Hugh Grant movie that makes me want to die.

My fear of flying fascinates me because it’s so illogical. Rather than denying my phobia, I’m learning to examine it. To dig into it. I’m teaching myself to steer into the skid.

Some notes:

i. The average age that somebody develops a fear of flying is 27. This is due to an increasing awareness of mortality as well as control issues that stem from the fading recklessness of youth.

ii. I developed a fear of flying on my 30th birthday during some turbulence somewhere over South Carolina. Something got rewired. Now I’m permanently irrational. I wonder if it can be reversed or if I’m destined to a life of white-knuckle travel.

iii. According to NASA, the average person is more likely to be killed by an asteroid than to die in a plane crash. You are also more likely to die while blogging. Sleep well tonight.

iv. Someday I will board an airplane without re-enacting David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. Which is tonight’s song:

David Bowie – Space Oddity
from Space Oddity. Philips/Mercury, 1969 | buy mp3s

v. Famous aviatophobics include Stanley Kubrick, Isaac Asimov, David Bowie, Kim Jong Il, Lars von Trier, Josef Stalin, and Whoopi Goldberg.

vi. There’s no such thing as an ‘air pocket’. Turbulence is caused by erratic movement along the jet stream. Because the earth rotates at a fixed speed, there is an absolute ceiling for how bad turbulence can get, and airplanes are designed to withstand twice as much.

vii. A self-help site asks, “Have you ever considered what holds your car up? It’s not really the tires, it’s air pressure – about 32 psi. That’s a lot of weight for just some air to support! Think about it…”

viii. 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.

ix. You have more of a chance of dying from the food onboard than being involved in an accident. You are more likely to die while blogging.

x. Virgin Airlines recently released a ‘Flying Without Fear’ iPhone app.

Time to get some sleep before my flight. And I’m not going to worry about volcanoes spewing molten glass into the sky.

Sources: Wikipedia, MSNBC, and other notes from compulsive Googling.

5 thoughts on “Fear of Flying”

  1. Lauren says:

    This makes me think of Louis CK: http://bit.ly/ztCOH
    (It’s all good, but 2:35 is what’s relevant.)

    On an unrelated note, I came across your blog through Hype Machine a while back. Now I read your Twitter feed for entertainment while at work. Thank you for always using proper grammar.

  2. Josefina Argüello says:

    I hate flying. No, it’s not the frustrating obstacle course of shoe removal, sweeps and patdowns, oppressive crowds, interminable queues, perspiratory delays and airplane food (or lack of it) that makes every trip a challenge. (Though all of the above are worthy reasons to dread air travel.) No, for me, it’s the loss of control that accompanies my first footsteps into the claustrophobic cylinder that my fervid imagination assumes will be my coffin. For the next however-many hours, my life is out of my hands — and I can no longer find refuge in my delusion that my health and safety are 100 percent under my control.

    Josefina – places to go in mexico

  3. Jeff says:

    As a pilot I am also afraid to get into an airplane sometimes..but I do it and then the pressure is on to perform behind the wheel! I have a cool flight simulator business at http://www.simsamurai.net Maybe if you fly in a sim a little it will help you to get over the fear. (It has for a freind!)However, once you actually learn to fly, as I have,…you are always worried that you are not the one behind the controls!

  4. Vic says:

    I am also a fearful flyer, and found your site on google.

    Some of the things you say here are not true.

    Firstly, turbulence can destroy a plane. It doesn’t happen because pilots simply don’t fly into mega-huge thunderstorms where that level of turbulence exists. The plane is built to withstand more turbulance than it will even experience in “normal flight”. Flying into thunderstorms or tornadoes is not “normal flight”.

    The average person’s -lifetime- chance of dying in a plane accident are about 11-million to one, but that’s not the same as being killed on your very next flight (i.e. the chance of dying given one random flight). If you fly on one of the worst (for safety) 30 airlines in the world, that chance is about 1 in 1.5 million. If you fly on one of the best 30 airlines in the world, going between two first-world countries, that chance is about 1 in 30 million. This is according to MIT aviation safety statistician Dr. Arnold Barnett. Unfortunately, it seems that that statistic drops down to about 1 in 1.5 million, even for the best airlines, when they are flying into or out of third-world countries.

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