Facts to counter your fear of flying

There are 14,000 flights in the air at any one time. Your chance of dying on a flight is over fifty million to one.


I am going overseas but have a fear of flying. Can you give me any tips and strategies to help?

Flying on a scheduled flight with a commercial airline is the safest form of travel. You have a much higher chance of dying during your car journey to or from the airport than you do on the actual flight.

Your chance of dying in a car is small. However, Dr. Arnold Barnett of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells us that we are 19 times more likely to die in a car accident than on a commercial airline flight.

So why do so many people believe air travel is risky? Blame the media. An air crash makes headlines. The anguished relatives are filmed at the airport. The cameras pan across the charred wreckage. Experts discuss possible causes. In short, every major air crash, wherever it happens in the world, will be splashed across your TV screen, or newspaper or ap.

With this sort of media coverage, your perception of the dangers of air travel becomes distorted. You probably don’t realise how many aeroplanes are in the air at any given moment. If you did, you would realise an occasional air crash is inevitable.

On the morning of 9/11, there were 6,500 commercial aeroplanes flying over North America, carrying nearly a million people. They were all quickly grounded.

Today there are 14,000 airliners in the air at any given time.

When we consider these statistics, it’s amazing that there are not more air crashes. Logically, we have to conclude that flying is a really safe form of travel.

Let’s look at your chances of dying on a scheduled flight on a Western airliner flying in Western Europe, North America or Australasia in 2008. Statistically, you would have to take a flight every day for 3913 years before your number came up. This information comes from the OGP Risk Assessment Data Directory Report No 434 of March 2010.

Alternatively, consider the data collected by the NTSB Accident Report 1995 to 2004. It estimates your chances of being killed on a single trip in an airliner as one in 52.6 million.

You have a greater chance of dying of a bee sting (one in 5.5 million) than on a scheduled airline flight.

Some people feel fearful when they are not in control. Would you really want to be in control of a multi-million dollar airliner? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to trust the experience and expertise of the pilot, whose training has cost over a million dollars?

Understanding aerodynamics can also boost your confidence. Once you realise how superbly a modern airliner employs the rules of aerodynamics, you might feel much more relaxed. You might also feel safer knowing a plane can glide and land even when all the engines have shut down. Courses on basic aerodynamics are available online.

Unfortunately, people who are afraid of flying are often fascinated by air crashes. The show, Air Crash Investigations, dramatises nearly every air crash that has ever occurred. When fearful people watch this show, they identify with the terrified passengers.

The most effective way to handle fearful emotion is to surrender. Surrender means releasing a deep breath and letting go. Surrender brings peace and bliss.

The investigators in Air Crash Investigations learn from each disaster. Their findings help improve air safety. But if you are fearful, you are likely to overlook this fact.

Every past air crash has made your future flights safer.

If you consider all of this information carefully, you will realise that there is no point in worrying about such a tiny risk.

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