Monday, July 28, 2008


I am afraid of flying but I haven't always felt that way. Back in my twenties, when I didn't believe anything could kill me, I flew from Omaha to Chicago and Charlotte as often as I could. It also never occurred to me that the plane could go up in a ball of fire or blow out a big hole from an oxygen tank (I didn't even know they carried oxygen tanks) and drop from the sky like an anvil.
Back in those days, flying was also very special. You dressed up in your Sunday clothes and attempted to act like you used the manners your mother taught you. Of course, the experience of flying was different in those days. The seats were wide and comfortable. You got hot meals followed by snacks. The flight attendants spoke to you. Now it's hip to hip and elbow to elbow with maybe an inch of squiggle room. One false move and you can put your neighbor's kidney out with an elbow. You got hot meals followed by snacks. As for food now, well, be grateful if you get a tiny bag of pretzels and a soda.
There were no movies back in the 60's to take your mind off the monotony or terror depending on which way your mind tended to go. Of course there were no personal computers, CDs, DVDs, video recorders, cell phones or digital cameras either. Reading the safety rules passed for on board entertainment in the dark ages of my youth. I understand that airlines are considering to ending on board movies now. Take one step backward in the game of flying in the twenty-first century.
No one stood in security lines emptying their purses and pockets, explaining why the shampoo in in your carry-on or having the evil eye of security look at you accusatory if you had a nail file. God forbid.
These days I've become fearful of getting into the humongous chunks of metal that lift into the thin air. What keeps them up there any way?
Now that I am older, I treasure every moment I get to be alive. In spite of my fears, I fly any way white knuckling my precarious ride to my destination. I guess it beats walking the two thousand miles to Los Vegas. If I want to experience excitement and adventure, visit old friends and loved ones, I have to endure the security checks and death-defying ride in those metal birds. It's good they still serve alcohol on board. Or, at least they were still doing it yesterday. You never know. Things can change fast in the world we live in.
Happy flying!!
Sarah McNeal Author of The Violin, The Dark Isle and Lake of Sorrows.

1 comment:

Captain Tom said...

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the cause of fear of flying. It is not caused by a bad flight; most people on a bad flight don't develop fear of flying. Difficulty with flying is caused by insufficient ability to regulate feelings when facing uncertainty.

Research since the advent of the functional MRI just eight years ago has helps us understand how the brain works. We now recognize that the ability to regulate feelings is learned and that the part of the brain that does this regulation requires stimulation of the right kind during the first two years of life. The right kind of stimulation requires a caregiver who is empathically attuned to the infant and responds to the infants signals, rather than simply providing for the infant according to an agenda set by the caregiver.

Many of us, obviously, didn't get such optimal early development. Thus, when facing uncertainty, we control our anxiety by being in control of the situation, or by having a way to out of it.

That works fairly well on the ground -- except for annoying those who regard us as control freaks. But when flying, there is uncertainty, of course. And, not being in control and not having a way out, there is no way to regulate the feelings.

Therapists try to help with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), but anxiety can develop so rapidly that CBT techniques cannot keep up with the anxiety build-up.

Hypnosis is pretty "hit or miss". If it elps on one flight, it can fail to help on another flight.

Medications are not to be recommended -- according to the World Health Organization -- because when sedated, the passenger doesn't move around enough to protect against DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis. If a DVT clot forms, it is a serious and potentially life-threatening problem.

Also, use of medications -- according to research -- is only helpful in very mild cases of fear of flying. In more severe cases, medications make the flight worse!

I have tried to give a good understanding of the cause and cure of fear of flying in a video at