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Flying Without Fear

How to manage and learn to fly without fear

Location: Sri Lanka

NOTE – Hi Everyone!  Still working on our blog upgrades but today we are flying without fear to Sri Lanka and this will be my 36th and 37th flight in the past 13 months!  Which reminded me of this blog (below) I wrote nearly four years ago, after the mystifying disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370.  So I thought it would be a good reminder to any of you who suffer from the fear of flying.  We will be back soon with new, fresh and fun blogs for 2018!  Thank you for following!

It may come as a surprise to many of you, given how much I travel, but I have a fear of flying. In fact there was a period in my life when I couldn’t get on a plane.  I have worked really hard, not to overcome this fear, but to learn to manage it.  But this past week as I have waited with the rest of the world for news about Malaysia Flight 370 I have definitely had a set-back in my continual goal of learning to fly without fear.

There was a specific moment, a specific flight, when my flying fear was born.  I had never had fear like this before; I had aspired to be a flight attendant; I had parachuted  from a tiny airplane; I had traveled by air tens of thousands of miles.  But in January 1993 on a flight from Puerto Rico to Washington DC my fear was born.

About half way through that flight we lost an engine.  I knew immediately something was wrong.  I could hear something had changed and I could see on the flight attendants faces things were amiss. Eventually the pilot announced the engine had failed and we were going to continue on into D.C. on one engine.  What?  One engine?  What if that ones goes? I was totally no longer flying without fear!

Okay so everyone remained calm (except me – nearly hyperventilating.)  We had to travel at a lower speed due to having only one engine.  Finally we were on approach.  No additional announcements came from the cockpit.  My fear was under control and I was ready to land. BUT the fear of flying was born after we landed.  Although the crew did not prepare the passengers in any way, when we landed we were met and chased down by multiple emergency vehicles and as soon as we came to a stop (well away from the terminal building) with sirens blaring, the firetrucks doused the plane with white foaming fire-retardant.  Unprepared for this unexpected foam bath, most of the passengers, including myself, were frightened near to death.

How simple it would have been to have schooled the passengers in what to expect upon landing. With a little preparation, I may not have developed my fear.

When we finally stepped into the terminal we learned from our waiting friends that all the people waiting for this flight to arrive had been moved from the gate (this was pre-9/11 when you could still wait at the gate) to a holding area away from the windows but also kept in the dark as to why.

In 1993 I had two small children ages 2 and 6.  In the days and weeks following this incident I began to have fears about traveling, fears about something happening to my children, and fears about me and my husband dieing and leaving our kids behind.  It developed slowly but eventually consumed me.

It was two years before I got an another airplane.  During that time I planned family vacations that revolved around car travel.  We went on a cruise that left from Vancouver BC, where we could easily drive.  I pretended this didn’t have anything to do with my fear, but it did.  My husband knew it did too.  I needed help to learn how to fly again – how to fly without fear.

And a fact I haven’t yet mentioned has to do with my husband.  My husband works for Boeing.  He is a mechanical engineer for the largest airplane manufacturer in the world.  But his wife couldn’t get on an airplane.

My husband, as in most things, tried to use logic with me.  He spewed statistics on air safety, compared highway deaths to airplane deaths, explained away all the safety features on modern jets.  All that just pissed me off.

Because my fear is not logical.  And all the logic in the world cannot, will not help.  My fear is emotional; without logic.  And I knew back then, and I know now, the only person who can come up with a solution for my fear, is me.

I started the process with a simple book “Flying Without Fear” by Duane Brown, PhD.  I still have this book, it is sitting next to me as I write this blog.  I haven’t pulled this book out of my library in a very long time.  But my renewed fear this past week had me go in search of it.  The very best thing about this book; the thing that helped me the most both 20 years ago and now, is a section that takes you step by step through the flight process.  The book explains what to expect from smells, sounds and feel from the minute you step into the terminal to when you arrive at your destination baggage claim.

  • Why do you smell diesel?  I used to fear that smell.
  • What do the ringing bells mean?  I always feared the bells.
  • Why does the plane slow down after about three minutes in the air?  I’m always sure we are crashing right then.
  • What is the clunking noise under the plane?  I’m sure the plane is breaking up.

These are just some of the things the book “Flying Without Fear” helped me with.  The book also helped me learn to breath deeply and do relaxation exercise during take off ( the time I fear the most). The book helped me emotionally, with some logic thrown in, to manage my fear of flying.  It didn’t take the fear away, it just helped me live with it.

My children are now grown and I don’t have the same fear of leaving them motherless that I used to.  In fact, I am, in my fabulous fifties, much less afraid of dieing.  I know I will die, and I know it could happen tomorrow.  I no longer let fear keep me from traveling, even if I still feel a pang of it each take-off.

But the strange and mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 still gives me pause.  I can’t help but think of each and every one of those innocent souls; did they fear?  Did they suffer?  I hope not for all of them.  I hope they had peace in their hearts and no regrets.

Just like me.

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