Air Turbulence

Air Turbulence: The Older I Get, The More It Makes Me Cry

Derek Perspectives, Transportation 106 Comments

Air Turbulence
Let me start off by thanking every one of you who left a suggestion in the comments of my last post (and in emails) about where I should travel next. I really wasn’t expecting such enthusiastic recommendations and every single comment I read put a huge smile on my face.

And as soon as those comments starting piling up I began to spend some time pondering over the suggestions, as well as thinking about my own goals for my upcoming travels and what I wish to accomplish.

In fact, I had originally planned yesterday to be the day that I would sort it all out and make a decision. The idea was that I would use the one and a half hour flight from Cancun, Mexico to Florida to concentrate on choosing my next destination. Flying through the sky at 35,000 feet just seemed like a perfect time to think about travel.

And as the plane took off at 11:31am yesterday morning, I did begin to read through the list of possible travel destinations – which includes Africa, Azerbaijan, Philippines, Colombia, Antarctica, Latvia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, India, Tajikistan, South Korea, China, Japan and many more – I had written down from all of your comments.

However, the reality is that my flight came and went and I was not able to reach a conclusion, not because there were too many options but because my session of travel contemplation did not last very long after take-off.

I believe that it was about 20 minutes into the flight, as we soared high above the western tip of Cuba, that the airplane suddenly dropped straight out of the sky. One second the clouds outside seemed to be far below the airplane and the next second they seemed to be far above.

And I, my friends, was terrified.


Okay, maybe the above was a little bit of an exaggeration.

Perhaps the airplane didn’t exactly ‘drop’ out of the sky. I guess it was more like a quick shake, a little shimmy if you will. Actually, if I remember correctly, the pilot referred to it as a ‘small pocket of turbulence’.

However, it sure felt like more than a ‘small pocket of turbulence’ to me. I braced for the worse and remember thinking that I really should have been kinder to the woman at the airline check-in counter who had confusingly tried to charge me double the normal airport departure tax. Now I was certain that my life was about to end and that was going to be my last thought.

This never used to happen when I traveled on airplanes. But, and I really, really, really, hope that I’m not alone with this, as I get older, it seems that those little moments of normal turbulence have become significantly more frightening.

It’s as if the airplane hits one small ‘bump’ in the sky and the next thing I know the sweet elderly lady next to me is asking if I would be so kind as to release my insanely tight grip on her now black and blue arm.

All it takes is one little hiccup in the air and I immediately reach under my seat (while holding back tears of course) to ensure that my inflatable life vest is in place before lowering myself halfway into the crash position. Of course, I try to pretend that I’m searching for something in my backpack that I’ve placed under the seat in front of me but I’m really just getting ready for the inevitable impact.

Crash position


I’ve literally flown hundreds of times during my life and for years I loved every single minute of every one of those flights, even those moments when the plane was stuck in turbulence, both small and large pockets. Never did I find such common turbulence to be any reason for worry at all.

But these days, not only do I immediately think my life is in its last precious moments but I’m often unable to concentrate on anything else during the rest of the flight.

I can’t even concentrate enough to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 on my personal entertainment screen. The airplane shakes once and I close my eyes so tightly and my heart beats so quickly that I enter into a twenty minute ‘life flashing before my eyes’ session. And when I finally snap out of it, the damn Panda has somehow discovered inner peace and is now able to redirect cannon fire coming from Lord Shen’s armada. How did that happen? I missed it all.

Well, I suppose this is just something that I need to come to terms with. There is no denying the fact that as I get older, I find myself more and more uncomfortable while flying. Perhaps ‘uncomfortable’ is not even the best description.

Scared out of my flipping mind‘ is probably somewhat more accurate.

Has anyone else experienced this? Anyone? Please??

(Actually, I do know of one other ‘wanderer’ – sorry Jasmine! – who suffers from this as well. She even goes as far as researching turbulence online before flying in order to try and reduce her suffering on board.)

Photos: Brace Position (by kalleboo) / Light Turbulence (by Robert Couse-Baker)

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Comments 106

  1. Laura

    I’ve flown over 100 flights in the last three years and I’m increasingly scared when I board an airplane. You’d think I’d be more relaxed with experience, but, like you, my fear is getting worse.

  2. Jade

    Omg this is exactly me! The whole reason I found your blog is because I was researching turbulence before flying tomorrow! I used to fly all the time and enjoy it, I don’t even remember turbulence before because it was so insignificant to me. I live in Thailand now and have found flying around SE Asia a little more bumpy than Europe, but I can’t figure out why I now get terrified! Gripping the seat, sobbing to the person next to me, just trying to take deep breaths until it’s all over… This is what my journeys consist of these days! I also find drinking helps though. Keeping an eye on other passengers too… Their lack of reaction helps to calm the situation I find.

  3. Betty

    S.L., great suggestions, thank you! I agree that one glass of wine does wonders to reduce the sensitivity of my stomach to that “drop” feeling. Helps much more than any of the prescription medications I’ve tried.

  4. S.L

    Hi… I am terrified of turbulence too, not because of the thought that i might die but because i hate the ‘dropping’ feeling. I have found out 3 ways to make me feel better and less sensitive to the drop. The first method is to drink alcohol at the airport before my flight. Once i had a certain amount of alcohol, i do feel the drop but somehow it does not cause me to flinch.The second method is the way how i sit, i will tilt my body to the side (sitting on the side of my butt) and look out the window. I feel the drop less intense and by looking outside, makes me feel better. I always travel with someone and most of them know i have this fear so i have no problem sitting on my side even i didnt take the window seat. The last is to shake my legs if the turbulence comes. I don’t know why this helps too. Perhaps you can try out these methods. Hope they help.

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