Fear of Flying: My job requires me to fly, but I am
always scared for weeks before my flights. Should I be?
Is it safe to fly? Are my fears justified? These
kinds of questions rank among the most often asked in the E-mail
No, you shouldn't be afraid, but such fear is a rather common
affliction. Some estimate that 30 million Americans describe
themselves as "anxious" flyers.
In view of the statistics, it is irrational to fear flying a
significant distance, if you are willing to drive that same
distance without such trepidations, because your risk of injury
or death is 10 to 40 times greater in an automobile than in an
airliner, in the safer areas of the world.
I guess the most important thing I can say is that news
headlines have nothing to do with actual risk. If
you judge your risk of injury or death by the latest headlines
in the news media, you will always have much more fear than is
justified by statistical reality.
The size and repetitions of such articles has no
correlation to the actual risk of being involved in such
accidents. The intense competition for market share in all
forms of the media, seems to dictate that certain types of
stories receive more frequent front-page exposure. The
general public, hearing such stories time and time again, begin
to believe -- apparently without thoughtful analysis -- that
media repetition correlates to actual risk. It doesn't.
MIT professor, Arnold Barnett, a statistical expert in
the field of aviation safety, researched the New York Times
front page stories, for the period of 1988 and 1989, and found:
stories for every 1,000 homicides, 2.3 AIDS stories for every
1,000 AIDS deaths, .02 cancer stories for every 1,000 cancer
deaths and 138.2 plane crash stories for every 1,000 airplane
deaths." (Catherine Trevison,
Oregonian, Feb. 6, 2000, edition)
Barnett, judges the actual risk of one person being
involved in a fatal airline accident, to be once every 19,000
years, provided he flew on an airliner once
each day of those 19,000 years. He bases that
estimate on what actually happened in the domestic U.S., during
also notes that:
" Measured in
deaths per mile, American commercial airline flights are 22
times safer than car travel. More people die in three months of
traffic accidents than in 40 years on commercial jets. More
Americans die each year falling from ladders, drowning in
bathtubs and freezing to death than by flying."
Thus, fear of flying is based on emotions, not rationality.
Most of the major airlines have fear-of-flying seminars, that
are helpful to many anxious flyers. I do not have time to
research each airline, but will post the information below for
any airline, or other company, that cares to send information about their
seminars. Send it to: Editor@AirlineSafety.Com
[See how one reader conquered his fear of flying in
to ASC, Ed.]
We now have a Fear
of Flying Forum where fearful flyers can discuss with
one another, their fears and experiences of flying.
Just click on the link in this paragraph.
you desire to post in that forum, it works best to use the
Internet Explorer browser, as that will provide you with all
the "goodies," like bold, italics, color, etc.
For other purposes, we recommend the Mozilla browser.
It is a free download at: http://Mozilla.org
http://www.hypnos.info/cd1/cdflying.html CD or tapes on how to deal with the Fear of
- More information can be found about this site, at the bottom
of the Faq
on Flying Fear.
- Fear of flying online course.
Free of charge help in overcoming flying fear,
flying phobias, flight anxiety, panic attacks, fear of
We are not endorsing any of these sites. We simply
provide the information for our Fearful Flyer readers, to
pursue on their own. The Editor would appreciate any
feedback, positive or negative, from anyone that has any
experience with these groups.
(last revised July, 2003)
Robert J. Boser
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