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How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

Updated on August 28, 2009

Make great pictures on your next flight!

a farricelli
a farricelli

The main issue with your fearful flying problem is the amount of irrational thoughts that dart back and forth your creative mind. If you are a fearful flier very likely your journey begins many days in advance before your actual departure date. Indeed, you may be thinking about  your flight from the date that you have purchased your ticket. And no,  unfortunately your thoughts are not about enjoying the Bahamas or getting to spend your Christmas holidays in a ski resort.

Rather, as a great specimen of a fearful flier per excellence, very likely your thoughts can be quite dire. You may get clammy hands and rapid heartbeats just imagining yourself boarding the plane. Because, fearful flying may be a combination of various phobias such as fear of small places, fear of the unknown, fear of  crowds and fear of heights, very likely you start imagining yourself in  quite unpleasant scenarios.

With your vivid imagination, you may see yourself enclosed in the small cabin space if you are claustrophobic, with a window view of the Lake  Michigan 36,000 feet below you if you suffer from seeing heights and  crammed amidst hundreds of passengers if you hate crowds. If you fear the unknown or losing control, very likely you may even imagine your flight crashing and plummeting nose down in the ocean which of course is always full of sharks (no, unfortunately no lobster tails for you today).

Very likely when these wild thoughts get a hold of you, you will get into an agitated mode. And very likely your defense mechanisms may start taking action. In other words, you may have an irrational part of you creating wild scenarios and a rational part of you trying to combat these irrational thoughts. So you may hold internal conversations (or better internal conflicts) such as the following:

Worried Voice

''I am very nervous about this upcoming flight. What if something goes wrong? What if something terrible happens?''

Reassuring Voice

''Airplanes are very safe nowadays. I should stop worrying about it all together. I will try to stop this over worrying now and act normally''.

Yet, the worried voices may keep on coming regardless of the rational and reassuring thoughts. It may feel at times as if  you had Hurricane George trapped in your head. Why is that? The answer is very simple. Very likely it's like that because otherwise you would not be a fearful flier! 

At a closer view,  indeed a fearful flier is much more than a person with a fear of flying. More likely than not, fearful fliers are insecure people that tend to cater too much to their irrational thoughts. And the more they try to send the thoughts away, the more they will find them haunting them. Yes, compare them to an annoying fly buzzing around you and watch yourself armed with that swatter!  So what to do in this case? There are several coping strategies.


Every now and then try to bypass the flight part of you trip and imagine yourself relaxing at the Bahamas. This may take away some tension. Imagine sipping on a fruit cocktail with the seagulls saying hello and the waves caressing the beach. Imagine walking barefoot on the warm sand as the breeze flows through your hair. Ahhhh...Feels great doesn't it? Enjoy the moment and learn how to ''go to your secret place'' every now and then when you feel tense. If it helps try to close your eyes as you relax.. but watch for the seagulls flying over your head!


The Chinese have a nice philosophy of life. They say that humans often should resort to being a ''bamboo tree'' when facing difficulties. Bamboo tree branches compared to the branches of regular trees tend to not break when they are dealing with strong winds. So when it comes to dealing with your fears it is far much easier to just accept the fear than trying to fight it with all your strength. Just relax and accept your negative thoughts without fighting them. Very likely something amazing will happen... Since you are no longer fighting them like crazy you  find yourself relaxing for once.


Do you want to know the secret recipe for becoming a very fearful flier? Stop flying!  This may not make sense because rationally speaking how can you still fear flying if you are no longer flying? Well, you will discover this later. The fear will greatly intensify should one day you may find yourself having to be forced to fly. Yes, uncle Sam won the lottery and wants to share it with you, wanna see him now? Every-time you are escaping from your fear, the fear will double or triple in intensity, whereas on the other hand, the more you fly very likely the more power points you will gain that will make you more bold.


Once on the flight, recognize that the biggest part of your fear is all anticipation. In other words, you may come to realize that you have more fear than your fear than the actual flight. Many times, the actual flight is the less traumatic part of your ordeal, perhaps because you have spent so much energy thinking about the flight and all the drastic scenarios that little energy has been let to actually fear the flight itself! Yes, being fearful can be tiring!


Knowledge is always power.  Are you always worried about those noises you hear upon taking off? Do you get tense when you see dark threatening clouds? Do you know how many chances you have of being victim of a plane crash? Go buy a book about flying and learn as much as you can. Next time, you fly you may know that that scary noise in reality are the wing flaps opening, that those mean clouds may just create just a bit of  light chop and that you have higher chances of dying by driving to the airport than flying in the airplane. Yes, knowledge is indeed power. But now please, do not try to take over driving the plane should your pilot get a severe case of heartburn!


Still afraid of your plane crashing? Take a day off prior to your departure date and spend a whole morning, afternoon and evening at a very busy airport. Find a great window view and enjoy watching the hundreds of planes taking off and landing. Then think about this happening 365 days a year in hundreds of other airports world wide. Then purchase a newspaper and see how many of those planes have crashed. Next do a google and search for car accidents taking place in your State. Surpised? OK, now don't book a helicopter ride from your skyscraper to avoid the car ride to the airport...


Now that you are on your flight enjoy it to your best. Life is short isn't it? You should know this well since you fear for your life just about any day. Bring along some snacks, your favorite books, your best music and lots of things to do to keep your mind entertained. A great plus is to bring your camera. Why? You can make the most amazing pictures of clouds, mountains and lakes from the above. Collect these pictures and build a photo album of the flights you have ''conquered.''

As seen, your fear of flying can be reduced in many ways. But as a general rule, the more you try to be less fearful the more your fears will linger around you. Instead accept your fear of flying just as other people accept they are migraine sufferers,  allergic to cats or victims of  flatulence. Sooner than later as you draw your weapons down you will come to realize that there is no longer much to fight. So, accept your fear of flying and celebrate yourself for who you are, board that plane and watch the world beneath you as you get more powerful than ever! Bon Voyage!

Another amazing picture over Italy

a farricelli
a farricelli

Some helpful books to bring onboard

a faricelli
a faricelli

Stray clouds from my window seat

Cirrus clouds

Approaching the runway


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    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 7 years ago from West Kootenays

      I love the views from a plane but always feel vulnerable when up so high. With a car, if you have car trouble, you can pull over to the side of the road; with a plane, there's only one way to go and that's down.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 years ago from USA

      ''Unfortunately, your 1st two paragraphs did not help me & gave me some more to think about. ''

      Uh-oh... well was just trying to depict in an ironic matter the over exaggerated thoughts a fearful flyer may have. Didn't want to give you more food for thought... That's just how I am, my rationality goes out of the window when I am boarding a flight. I will be flying in 20 days so I guess getting all my thoughts out are is sort of therapeutic...Wish me all luck, or perhaps I should worry more about the 19 hour car drive to JFK?

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      Yes, the entertainment in-flight helps a lot. Unfortunately, your 1st two paragraphs did not help me & gave me some more to think about. Just being honest. I can actually sympathize with Tony Kornheiser why he quit ESPN due to the amount of flying.

    • profile image

      gwennies pen 8 years ago

      My very first airplane flight was in a two seated Cessna. I was only seventeen at the time, flying with a young pilot who attended high school with me and had just gotten his license. When I look back on it was quite daring for me to totally trust him up there. He did like to tease and flew upside down for a short time. But, I don't ever regret having gone.: )

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 years ago from USA

      Worried about an upcoming flight? Have something to share? Tips, advice, what worked for you? Share it here!