Have a fear of flying? You’re not alone. Research shows that around 25% of people have at least some fear of flying, while around one in ten have an actual phobia (known as aerophobia). We spoke to Captain Steve Allright, from BA’s Flying with Confidence to get his top tips on managing aeroplane anxiety – from the simple knowledge that could help, to ways to fend off a panic attack…
Remember Turbulence Isn’t Dangerous
It may be uncomfortable, but it’s not unsafe. It’s a perfectly normal part of flying caused by nature. Don’t be alarmed if a pilot asks the cabin crew to take their seats during bad turbulence, this is only to stop them from potentially falling and injuring themselves – not because the plane is in danger.
Learn To Control Your Breathing
When you feel anxious, hold your breath, then take a long deep breath in, followed by a long deep breath out. Continue this long, deep breathing until you start to feel your anxiety subside.
Try Clenching Your Muscles
Combine this deep breathing technique in with a muscle contraction. Clenching your buttocks is most effective, as it overrides other nervous signals going up and down your spinal cord.
Split A Long Flight Into Sections
You could try half-hour, one-hour or even two-hour sections. Ahead of the flight, plan how you’ll use the time and take a list of things to do, perhaps things you never get around to.
Use Visualisation Techniques
Visualise yourself stepping off the aircraft into the arms of loved ones, or into a lovely warm climate, or into a successful business meeting.
The wings enable aircraft to fly, not the engines. A commercial aircraft flying at 30,000ft can glide for 100 miles even if all the engines fail. And remember, flying is actually the safest form of travel.
Know Pilots Undergo Rigorous Training
They also undergo a rigorous selection procedure and are the most highly trained and tested professionals on earth – subjected to simulator tests every six months. Air traffic controllers are also trained and licensed professionals operating under a very strict set of rules.
And That Commercial Aircraft Are Well-Maintained
Not only are they incredibly well-maintained, they’re also checked before every flight by pilots and engineers. Routine maintenance is conducted at regular, specified intervals by licensed engineers too.
Know Which Noises Are Normal
The are many strange, but totally normal, noises on board an aircraft. Here’s what they all mean…
Ding dong: The most common noise you hear on board an aircraft is the single or two-tone cabin chime, the all too familiar ‘ding dong’. To the nervous or anxious passenger this can set pulses racing, but it’s only the cabin interphone system or the seat belt signs coming on.
Barking dog: Another very common, but unusual sound, is the infamous ‘barking dog’ on board short haul Airbus aircrafts. It can be really quite loud and increase and decrease in frequency – but it’s only the aircraft hydraulics.
Change in engine tone: This can be a very disconcerting noise for a fearful flyer is any sudden change in the engine tone, especially soon after take-off, is accompanied by a perception of falling. However, this is simply the noise abatement procedure whereby the pilots reduce the rate of climb (but the aircraft is still accelerating) after the landing gear has been raised and the extra power used for safety on take-off is no longer required.
Whistling: The BAE 146, or RJ, produces an extremely loud whistling sound when land flaps are in transit – but this is all perfectly normal.
Rumbling: When a plane is in decent, speedbrakes or "spoilers" are often used by the pilots to help the plane slow down. These panels on the upper surface of the wing produce a variety of noises and rumbling in the cabin depending on aircraft type.
Try A Specialised Course Beforehand
Before you fly, book yourself onto a British Airways Flying with Confidence course. This a one-day course that addresses all of the above and much more in great detail.