Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If You're Not Scared of Flying, There's Something Wrong With You

It's time for me to schedule my next trip to Bogota and spend time with my girlfriend-slash-future-wife.  And that means facing my old friend, the dreaded fear of flying.  I hate flying.  Correction: I hate turbulence, and I hate being knocked around five miles off the ground.  And I hate the way the airline industry tries to sugarcoat this experience.

I know these websites are doing their best to help people like me overcome their fear of flying, but this doesn't help.  If anything, it just gives me new reasons to panic.

If you have to fly on a commercial airline, you must make yoru peace with two very unpleasant facts.  One, the airlines are trying to calm you because it's good for business - "Turbulence isn't a problem at all!"  Two, you're going to get kicked around like a bean in a tin can.  Turbulence isn't in your head, and there's no such thing as a "smooth flight."

An engineer on this site offered his own measurements (using a glass of water on the plane) to measure turbulence, and there is some comfort from rationally knowing your situation.  But it's still going to scare the hell out of me to see the plane rocking and the wings flapping.

It's such a wonderful scam the airlines pull on you.  Before the flight, they will calm and comfort you, assuring that violent turbulence is a fantasy from Hollywood disaster movies.  It doesn't really shake like that.  It's calm!  Then you get on the plane, and the flight attendents cynically sneer about the last time they smacked their head on the ceiling from yesterday's sudden nosedive.  Here's yer drink, now quit yer bawlin'!

I've been on 12 flights last year, all round trips to Bogota and back.  I've flown to Houston, Atlanta, and New York.  I have never been on a calm flight.  Never.  Two flights qualified as "calm" only because the cabin was shaking on two axis occasionally.  They're "calm" by default.  Every other plane was a panic-inducing roller coaster.  And everybody else on the plane will tell me that I've had it easy.  You don't know what real turbulence is like.

So, kids, the moral lesson is this: Don't believe anyone who says you shouldn't be afraid of the turbulence on the airplane.  If you're not freaked out, then you're not paying attention.  Mammals have a moral obligation to be freaked out at 35,000 feet.  You're on a roller coaster and you might as well make your peace with it.

1 comment:

Capt Tom Bunn LCSW said...

To get more insight into fear of flying, see the video at