Fear of Flying

A fear of flying is a fear of being on an airplane (aeroplane), or other flying vehicle, such as a helicopter, while in flight. It is also sometimes referred to as aerophobia, aviatophobia, aviophobia or pteromechanophobia (Wikipedia, 2010 [1]).

How Common is the Fear of Flying?

Early studies of the problem focused on military air crews. During the 1914-1918 War when high psychiatric casualty rates were recorded among military air crews. In 1919 Dr H. E. Anderson (1919 [2]) investigated the problem and diagnosed their symptoms as a fear of flying.

During and after World War Two more in-depth studies on the nature of flight-related anxiety among military air crews appeared.

It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that air travel anxiety among civilian passengers was first studied.

According to aviation specialists who treat this problem, over 500 million people worldwide have a server fear of flying. The Boeing Aircraft Corporation carried out a study on the subject twenty years ago and found that 25 million Americans were afraid to fly. More recent estimates suggest that this figure has now risen to over 30 million.

In other countries, such as Australia, showed that 20 per cent of the population are afraid to fly. Fifty per cent of the Dutch population have never flown and 28 per cent confess to being too frightened to fly. In Sweden a similar study showed that 36 percent admitted to feeling very apprehensive when flying and 8 per cent admitted to a severe fear at the prospect of boarding an aeroplane.

Causes of the Fear of Flying

Terms of Reference: not having any terms of reference when travelling by air, especially at night. With no forward view as to where they are going and only a lateral view through the cabin window sends confusing signals to the brain.

Outcome of a trip

Family Influence: travel anxiety often starts in childhood when children take their cues of behaviour from parents or adults they are close to.

Maternal Instinct: many couples find that they become more responsible when they have a family, particularly women, whose protective, maternal instinct comes to the fore at the prospect of doing something they perceive as life threatening.

Lack of Knowledge: with regards to normal engine noise and aircraft movements and sensations contributes enormously towards fear.

Media: they are more inclined to publish reports and articles about crowed skies, overworked pilots and air traffic controllers and delays at airports, than about the positive aspects of aviation.

Personal and Flight-related Fears

Personal Fears

A Situation where you have No Control

Fear of Enclosed Spaces : It is called claustrophobia which can occur as an isolated phobia.

Fear of Heights : It has been reported by a considerable number of flight phobics in various studies around the world. Linked to the fear of heights is the fear of falling, if there is no support within a few feet, and the fear of being drawn over the edge, as if pulled by a magnetic forces.

Fear of Having a Panic Attack:

The Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations
  • Pains or discomfort in the chest
  • Feeling smothered
  • Feeling as though you are choking
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Wanting to go to the toilet
  • Tingling in the extremities or numbness
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Trembling muscles or shaking
  • Feeling nauseous

Flight-related Fears

  • Take-off
  • After Take-off
  • Motion Sickness
  • In-flight Fears
  • Unfamiliar Engine Noises
  • Cruising
  • Descent
  • Landing
1. WIKIPEDIA (2010). Retrieved from Wikipedia on 1 August 2010.
2. ANDERSON H E (1919). The Psychology of Aviation in the Medical and Surgical Aspects of Flying.Oxford Medical Publication (London), 1919.

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Wikipeida - Fear of flying
You can find information on the Fear of flying on this page in Wikipedia.
Flying Without Fear
An established and successful program for the flight anxious.

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