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.

IMPENDING DOOM

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

FLYING USED TO BE FUN

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. sarah

    hi… 🙁 glad I goin this blog. I’m really scared of flying.. I think this is due to watching too much air disasters.. On our last flight, I felt crying when turbulence occurred. I had a thought of someone will high jack us, or someone implanted a bomb, or the engine would burst.. i just hate it being like this. I fell helpless. I want to enjoy too… my flight is in 2 weeks and I’ve been worrying about it. can’t talk about it cos it won’t help anyway. what do I do… I been googling on how to survive plane crash n stuffs like that… please help

  2. Charlotte

    You’re totally not the only one! I found this after googling “terrified of turbulence”, and your story is exactly like mine. I’ve traveled across the world, for work a ton, and I used to think turbulence was “fun” – like a little massage chair – some bumps to keep it interesting. Now? I. FREAK. OUT.

    I had a flight today from NYC to LA and it was turbulent the whole way. I sit in my seat, plug my ears with my fingers, close my eyes and rock back and forth. I look psychotic. Everyone else DOESN’T EVEN FLINCH. They continue watching their movie, listening to their music, doing work. HOW CAN THEY BE DOING THIS WHEN THEIR LIVES COULD BE ENDING?

    I know “in theory” turbulence is not dangerous. It’s just very VERY hard to tell yourself that when you’re shaking 40,000 feet in the air. The ironic thing is, if someone next to me is afraid of flying, it makes me less afraid. I become the mother bear to them and make them feel better, which makes no sense at all but is somehow how it works for me.

    There is no better feeling in the WORLD than a bout of turbulence ending into smooth air. It embarrasses me that I’m so afraid because I have a bit of a “jetsetter” aura that I purposely try to give off, and I do love to travel so it’s not untrue. I just HATE the bumpy road to get there. 🙁

    1. kelli

      ditto all of this. i feel the same and echo many of the post’s original thoughts. i’ve been flying my whole life, i’ve even logged hours of flying time, and i want to cry each time the plane shakes a small amount. it’s awful. it started after a particularly turbulent flight about 10 years ago and got progressively worse. now i pick short routes and ‘ideal’ weather conditions – no storms, no winter travel, limited overseas trips, etc. i plan my trips around turbulence and have even started using meds before a flight. 🙁

  3. Jodi

    I have flown many times and have always experience some mild apprehension upon boarding, but last June 2014 flying home to Minneapolis, MN out of Orlando, on our return home flight, it was my 7 year old son’s second plane ride. We hit an unforseen storm front that appeared out of nowhere! The plane banked hard to the left, and was thrust downwards by some wake turbulence that we hit from the plane in front of us since the gust of the storm front thrust us forward super fast to make us hit the wake turbulence. The carts tipped in the alleys, and all children on board and many women suddenly screamed. My son turned white as a sheet crying out, “Mommy! Why is the plane so bumpy!!?”. The dad next to us had extremely white knuckles and mouthed, ” WTF”! I was scared. Then I was horrified thinking somehow the plane was starting to spiral out into a tailspin. My thighs were aching from the seatbelt being the only thing holding them down from the inertia force thrusting us all up very fircefully, over and over. We descended about 40 feet and banked left about 40 feet during the last of it, but as a passenger, you feel the transition speeds make it seem more like thousands of feet per second!. Anyways, on the way down to Orlando on his first flight, his ears popped and we hit small chops and he got a little nervous but my ability to remain calm showed him he could trust me, but inside I was a little scared too. I gave him the talk about turbulence being like pot holes in the sky. Now both of us never want to fly again. But, the past terror aside, I just booked a 4 hour flight to Los Angeles for a month from now and he cried when I told him. I think with climate change, the weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable and violent. This is why more people are waking up to the awareness. The wind is much more turbulent and the upstream and downstream currents are too unstable and the turbulence is getting worse. It can actually damage the airframe if the pilot doesn’t reduce speed quick enough. I hope we get through it on June 11th. I’m trying to remain hopeful. I love your blog!!

  4. Josh

    Flying, I get nervous thinking about it, it is the worst part of traveling. I have been horrified ever since the first time I flew, I am absolutely horrified. Horrified isn’t even the word, there are no words, after I fly I am wiped out. My adrenal glands have been in over drive for hours before. Even though I know landing is one of the most dangerous parts of a flight it is the best part for me. I have felt a big drop before. I had a panic attack, but instinctively (I was around people I wanted to think I was tough and not scared) I held it in. The plane was turbulent the entire trip and I honestly felt that this was it, I am going to die. I have only flown less than a dozen times and have actually flown a plane before. After the first horrifying moment I was scarred. I feel powerless. I now go to such lengths as staying awake for multiple days before the flight and then taking a triple dose of sleeping pills before the flight. But after we take off I am still having trouble sleeping, I have gone so far to stay up for 96 hours. It helped but it was difficult getting around with the occasional hallucinations due to extreme sleep deprevation. The rest of my vacation is ruined because I can’t stop thinking about the horrors of the return flight. You aren’t alone. I don’t fly frequently enough to be say if it is getting better or worse. I do extreme research before flying and would honestly rather spend a week on a freighter crossing an ocean for mor money than fly in a plane. I know that statistically it is unlikely to crash but this does little to distract me. I have had some good expieriences flying as well. But these are rare. I also spend extra money to fly sooner so I know that the weather around the time of my departure is good. I hate flying, I don’t think that there is anything in the world that makes me realize that I only will live once more than flying. It is good for me in that way but it will definately make travel more difficult, for me in the future. I am young (teenager) but I am always anxious to not live a life like everyone else. I pray that I will be a successful traveller and not live the life I used to think was inevitable (Sitting in a cubicle losing my mind, I would rather do labor than office work actually) thanks Earl. You have really opened my eyes to the world! Hopefully I will conquer these plagueing flying frights!

    1. John Calis

      Hello Josh. I was doing research for an In-flight Turbulence Avoidance module that I am writing for work and ran across your post. Sorry you have such a hard time with those all-too-common bumps and shakes associated with commercial flying. For what it’s worth, I work in aviation. In fact, I train the people that do the aircraft flight planning. Turbulence is definitely something we try to avoid in the interest of passenger comfort, but sometimes it occurs in spite of our best efforts to the contrary. Let me assure you. An airframe can take considerable G-loads without structural compromise. You seem like a thoughtful guy and I’m sure you already know this. The physics end engineering don’t seems to be your main concern. It has also been my experience that anxiety about flying often stems from that feeling of powerlessness and lack of control that you alluded to in your post. The good news is that you can find ways to take the power back. Suggestion. Before your next flight, ask the gate agent if it would be possible to meet the flight crew. Explain why. Go shake there hands and look them in the eye. Ask them for a weather brief. Most captains are very accommodating. Cheers.

      1. Rainey J

        Hi everyone turbulence drives me mad, but what is much worse is the movement in my stomach during the stopping part of the landing. I feel like I am going to past out. Wish i would beofre we touch the ground. I try holding my breath. Pushing all the airt out and hoding somthing against my stomach. Nothing works. I don’t think pills will fix this. Suchs to be me I have a new responsiblities that will require me to take at least 4 flights.I don’t know if all my organs are moving or just my sotmach. John Calis have you done any research on that?

  5. Cat

    June 2013 my Air Canada flight to L.A. was over Kansas when it started rocking and rattling, then dropped fast and it lasted too long. People were screaming, glasses in executive class went flying and shattered, a flight attendant would have gone flying too if that strong man hadnt grabbed her, overhead luggage was falling and we were like a plane crash scene in a disaster movie. Then it stopped and we climbed and kept flying. The pilot and copilot did not even make any announcement. But we came close to crashing for sure as we were diving down too long. It felt like they had lost control of the plane. This is not something one forgets. On the flight back the turbulence was only turbulence but it was too late for me. I will never be able to fly again.

    PS this is a great blog

  6. Felicity

    Gosh…. glad to now that i am not the only one…. 😀 I love travelling but hate this flying part indeed.. and so true that as i am getting older each turbulence moment feels like it could be my last seconds on earth as a living being… I always listen carefully announcement from pilot before take off…especially on the weather part…to prepare myself and got upset when i missed it because of the noisy engines or neighbours. Sometimes i check weather forecasts in big cities or areas on my flight route and match it with the time (more or less) when the flight is going to pass those places…. so hopeless 🙂

  7. Maureen

    Hi,

    I have too, in fact I just got off a plane one hour ago. About half way through the flight there was some turbulence and as a result I had a horrible panic attack, I still don’t feel 100% after it! I too have flown hundreds of times since I was 3 months old but it was around age 14 that I started to fear flying. Since then I’ve developed an OCD ritual Everytime I fly and tbh look like a crazy person during the flights! I think the fear possibly stems from a lack of control over the situation and being stuck in such a confined place. And of course that drop and pretty much inevitable (horrible) death if things went bad. Hope it gets better for you! Valium helps me sometimes.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Maureen – The good news is that my fear of flying disappeared all of a sudden and now I’m back to normal, enjoying it all again without any problems. So I hope that happens to you as well and hopefully soon!

  8. Ellen

    Hi Earl,

    I have been on the road for just over 2 years working and travelling, at the moment i’m currently in the ‘working’ phase (only for 3 more weeks though, next stop China!) and during this current 5 month working stint I discovered your fantastic blog. I’m a nurse and you have kept me very entertained on my long dull nightshifts, as soon as I start reading one blog before I know it 2 hours has gone by and i’ve got loads more travel inspiration (which keeps me sane while working!).

    Anyway tonight I discovered this post and it makes me feel so so so much better!! I am utterly TERRIFIED of flying, everytime i’m due to get on a plane I will be having nightmares about the plane going down for about a week before take off! So as you can well imagine by the time i’m at the airport I am just beside myself!

    Its an awful fear to have BUT I am ever a believer in pulling a positive out of a negative and my fear of flying actually gives me the biggest high everytime the plane safely lands. I am just so super grateful to be alive still that I just can’t wipe the smile off my face for a few hours (this may or may not also have something to do with the valium I self prescribe, buy hey ho, either way).

    So thanks so much for making me feel a little less ridiculous.

    Ellen

  9. Pingback: Air Travel – Fear. Cost. Frequent Flyer Points. - Wandering Earl

  10. Valerio Savasta

    It is very common indeed , many people as they grow find it harder and harder to fly.
    It is called ” awareness of fear “.
    I remember when I was young, I actually enjoyed flying wherever my destination was . Long trip, short trip , didn’t really matter.
    Now I panic to the idea alone of flying .
    I had few minor bad experience on the planes, a bad landing few years ago, nothing really frightening.
    If you want to conquer your fear of flying or at least make your flight the more enjoyable as possible there are 2 solutions .
    Short term solution . take some sleeping pills . they will help you great deal.
    Valium is the most common and perhaps the most effective along with Ativan which is a little stronger and lasts longer.
    Long term solution . If you feel, despite using meds, you haven’t conquer your fear or don’t feel 100% sure , then go to see a terapist .There are specific treatment for this fobia.

    Have a good flight !!!

  11. Poseyanne

    Thanks Earl…..I’m sure I’ll “force” myself to get on a plane again someday, but I don’t look forward to it. I know I’ll live through it but I sympathize with fellow passengers if I go berserk!

    Rob, I agree in theory anyway with your advice. I’ve had a few irrational fears since I was a child (no roller coasters for me). I read once that one person’s fear is another’s high.

    My retired life is happy as a full time RV’er and I don’t dwell on my fears. I really wouldn’t want to schedule in therapy with my constant moving around.

    I certainly hope I never get so bad I won’t want to go anywhere. At my age I really don’t relish unburdening my soul to a stranger either. I’ll give it some thought however…..who knows…..

  12. Poseyanne

    Age has amplified all fears for me. My worst experience flying didn’t affect me for years. Then slowly I noticed turbulence was spooking me…. gradually building to total unreasonable terror that keeps me on the ground. The last bad turbulence had me moaning out loud and scaring small children around me….. sheesh!
    I have taken a cruise and a few ferries that has given me pause also. I used to love being on the water. Now I’m afraid of that also. Riding in a car has it’s moments too…. I’m a mess.
    My drug of choice was Valium but now my fear overrides the calming effect. I really hate having my travel modes narrowed to over the road because it’s so limiting. I wish there was an answer but I’m “afraid” there isn’t.
    I KNOW the airplane and the ship is safe……….fear overrides good sense. I’m sure this didn’t help you, but staying off planes might….I mean me, next to you, screaming. Good luck!

    1. Earl

      Hey Poseyanne – Wow, that sounds tough to be afraid of all those things! I’m definitely nowhere near that point as I’ll still choose flying every time. Perhaps you just need to force yourself to fly again or take a ship again so that you can see that it really isn’t so bad. Facing the fear might be the only option left!

    2. rob

      Poseyanne:

      Since you know that these are irrational fears and you know they are getting worse with time, isn’t it clear that there is a psychological problem that needs to be addressed, perhaps with the assistance of someone trained to do so?

      It sounds like you’re on your way to becoming a shut-in, afraid to *do* anything.

    3. Matthew Cheyne

      Hi Poseyanne,

      I not a Psychologist but I am a student of Counseling being mid way through a Diploma. From what you’re telling us it sounds as though you may be suffering from a fairly constraining form of Agoraphobia.

      I’d recommend you take a look at this Wikipedia article on Agoraphobia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agoraphobia . In particular have a look at the definition of Agoraphobia. It comes either with or without panic attacks. If you feel this could be you please consider one of the treatments of which they are many.

      Most anxiety conditions can be treated an overcome and Psychologists deal with this condition on a regular basis. There are also many support groups around the world for anxiety related issues.

      I myself suffer from social anxiety disorder along with general anxiety disorder so I know a little of how you feel at these times. I’ve found that seeing a Psychologist on a regular basis has helped me with my anxiety but you may find that something else is beneficial for you.

      Either way I wish you well going forward.

      Warm regards

      Matthew

      1. Poseyanne

        Thank you Matthew for your advice.

        I think I’m afraid of being afraid…..because sometime my fear is off the charts (during turbulence). So I do fit somewhat into having Agoraphobia.

        I really do have an aversion to counseling but did use it with antidepressants to get over a particularly low spot in my life.

        I will think about this….I appreciate your input….

  13. G @ Operation Backpack Asia

    YES. Thank you for posting this, I’m glad to know even if I’m crazy (or getting there) that it’s not just me, for who knows what reason. I was seriously starting to consider seeking psychiatric help. My mom was a flight attendant and I’ve flown hundreds of times with not even a scary incident, never scared at all, but now in the past few years it seems to get worse every time and I have NO idea why. Question though, is it just flying? I seem to be starting to experience it for a number of things, maybe any and everything… scuba diving, snowboarding, boat trips, hanging out in the ocean if I don’t have a mask and snorkel on and 30 ft visibility. It’s not paralyzing yet; I can still do all these things. But it’s an alarming trend that I fear could worsen. Still considering a shrink to see wtf and how to make it STOP. Double date? 🙂

  14. Rob

    OK. I have to laugh at this. I’ve been flying for 3 decades now and I’ve enjoyed some pretty turbulent flights. So far the only thing I’ve worried about is spilling my coffee. You do understand that planes are designed to deal with turbulence, right? And that flying is the safest way to travel by a huge margin?

    I’m *much* more cautious and concerned on the road to/from the airport. Whether I’m driving or not.

    1. Earl

      Hey Rob – Of course I know all of that! That still doesn’t change the fact that flying through the sky at 35,000 just doesn’t feel too natural, which is why I feel uncomfortable. I know it’s perfectly safe but whenever the thought of falling out of the sky comes into my head (which is quite unavoidable at times despite the safety of flying), it does lead to some unpleasant thought patterns 🙂

      1. Rob

        In the big picture, though, what’s the worst thing that will happen? Perhaps you’ll die after a few moments of terror. But we are all born with a death sentence anyway. Perhaps you won’t die, but you’ll have an exciting near-miss that you can talk/blog about. I can guarantee, though, that being afraid when you can’t control the situation is only bad for you body and mind.

        Betsy Talbot of http://www.marriedwithluggage.com observed in one of her postings that one should, every day, do something that scares the crap out of you. Perhaps this is nature providing you that opportunity. 🙂

        1. Juliette

          I love the your way with words Rob!

          I have a slight phobia of flying,not as bad as some folk on here,but when I used to travel on planes, when the children were younger,I used to panic all the way, could never concentrate and jeez I had some good buttock muscles! And those poor harassed attendants!
          I even knelt down on the toilet floor once(bit of a contortionist me )howling my face off..Much to the annoyance of the long queue when I appeared again!

          I got over(well a bit anyway) by traveling on my own to Europe,which I do now twice a year. Yes,I still hate taking off and I cry when there is some turbulence..But for example,when I travel to Prague,I time the flight. We take off,settle down,the ping goes off for the seat belt release,we get our drinks,they clear away and gather up the rubbish;most times it’s duty free..this depends on the timing of the flight, we chill(well some of us) for a bit while I read the airline mag(but not really,as I am overly concentrating on the flight) sometimes the turbulence will break that concentration..I ask those around me,’will we be alright?’ they say ‘yes of course,it’s only a bit of wind’ A bit?? :-/..I sometimes have to get up from my seat and make my way to the toilet,not that I need anything,just to take my mind off the wind! Then I usually ask the smiley attendant ‘we will be alright won’t we?’ It’s funny how soothing those words sound when it comes out of the mouth of a smiley attendant,lol..But what the hell…This is how I deal with it.

          1. Juliette

            I am off again to Prague to see a friend on 29th November..Flying with BA for the first time. Someone advised me that you don’t feel the turbulence as much with BA?? The mind boggles.

            I will let you know. x

  15. kandyce

    ohmygosh, yes.

    i was once on a 3-ish hour flight from south to north india (and then onward to the US) during monsoon season. not sure why i thought that was a good idea, but there i was… we were maybe 20 minutes into the flight and the flight attendants got up to serve, among other things, coffee and tea. we hit a “pocket of turbulence” so bad that i ended up wearing a large portion of that jug of coffee. the flight attendant fell to the ground and stayed there for a good 15 minutes, because it wasn’t worth the effort to stand up: the plane bucked the entire time. i kid you not.

    when we finally landed, everyone clapped. i would have, were i not too busy trying to calm myself down and hold back tears.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kandyce – That does not sound like an enjoyable flight experience at all and I can only imagine you ran right off that plane once you arrived! The good thing with all of these turbulence stories is that, so far, nobody has told a story in which the plane has crashed! So I guess that should be some consolation to all of us who suffer from this fear 🙂

  16. Annette | Bucket List Journey

    Sorry, but it makes me feel better that a fellow traveler feels the same way I do! I used to love to fly when I was younger, but now it scares the bejesus out of me unless I drink wine the entire time. Which is quite difficult on those 10 hour flights 😉
    A few things kind of help…a very little. I always watch an online video before I fly where they explain how a plane is meant to be in the air and how safe it is…blah, blah, blah. But, it does actually make me feel better. Also, having two means of diversion at once is very good. I usually listen to my iPod while reading my favorite magazine or doing a crossword puzzle.
    I promised myself that I will never let my fear keep me from traveling to the places I want to, so if you find a solution let me know!

    1. Earl

      Hey Annette – No need to apologize as believe me, I feel much better as well after reading everyone’s comments 🙂 And I’m the same as you in terms of not letting the fear stop me from traveling. I’m just hoping that the fear will disappear one day and I’ll be back to normal. Hopefully the same happens to you as well!

  17. Lindsay

    It’s probably not comforting to you, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. 😉

    The big bumps of turbulence bother me more these days than they did when I was younger, and I actually decided I would book a repositioning cruise from the West Coast of the U.S. to Australia, because I’d always wanted to visit Australia, but I just couldn’t stand the idea of such a long flight (and the three-week cruise passage was less than a first-class plane ticket to Australia :P).

    Anyway, if you’re not ready for a Valium prescription, I’ve found a glass of red wine takes the edge off. 😉 I’m not much of a drinker so the one little mini-bottle they give you tends to be enough to make me “mellow.”

    1. Earl

      Hey Lindsay – I can see how a glass of wine could be a good solution. Actually, I just flew up to NYC this morning and there was zero turbulence at all, which definitely made me feel a little more confident about flying. And that’s quite a trip you’ll be taking to Australia! Hopefully you’ll be stopping in some interesting places along the way. When I used to work on ships and we would sail from LA to Sydney, it was always a beautiful run…especially if you visit places such as Kiribati, Samoa or Tonga!

  18. Scott Zienkewicz

    Derek – I love your site. Nice work. I find myself reading it often as the content is first-class. Having read about your recent flight experience I thought I would remind you of another. Remember our return flight from New Zealand to the US back in 1998 I believe. We made friends with a bottle of Red Label which somehow helped us get upgraded to first class mid-flight and eventually a visit to the cockpit. I think back to that flight occasionally as that could never happen in this day and age. Being in our youth we stayed up all night which somehow awarded us an invitation to the cockpit to meet the pilots and watch the sunrise. When we got to the cockpit the pilots showed us that they were working very diligently by sharing with us the details of their current game of hangman then printed off a weather map to show us. We could see the curvature of the earth as the sun turned the horizon red while the sky was still dark and star-filled. Flying east made the sunrise very rapid. I recall that the red glow of the horizon lifted to make way for a blue band of sky all while the sky overhead remained dotted with stars in the black of night.

    So yes – I think that time has complicated your air travel for more then one reason. I would suggest more Red Label next time.

    Keep living the dream and keep up the good work on the website; it’s a true body of work.

    Best,

    1. Earl

      Hey Scott! Your comment just put the biggest smile on my face as it’s not only so great to hear from you but to think of that flight experience you wrote about as well. That was probably the most enjoyable flight I have ever taken in all my years traveling, not only thanks to the Johnny Walker. I also can easily recall sitting in that cockpit (and of course the game of hangman) and being mesmerized by the surreal view of the earth below. I’m just happy that we managed to have such an experienced before such experiences became impossible 🙂

      I’m actually taking a flight tomorrow morning, right alongside the hurricane, so perhaps Red Label is exactly what I need to survive!

  19. Kale

    Yes, the older I get, the more fearful I am of flying, too.

    In my 20s, I used to love getting onto a plane, excited about the adventure that awaited at my destination. Big sudden drop on a smaller (twin otter) plane? No problem. Kinda fun, actually. I remember turbulence on a trans-Atlantic flight actually rocking me to sleep.

    Into my 30s, I travelled for business as well as pleasure. Started having dreams about witnessing plane crashes, but other than making me think twice about booking with specific airlines I’d dreamed about, I still enjoyed flying. But something changed in my late 30s.

    Now, at 41, even thinking about turbulence makes me uneasy. I get a little anxious if the weather report calls for high winds. If the flight itself is fairly smooth, I’m perfectly fine. Once that fasten seatbelt sign comes on & things start shaking, though, I start white-knuckling the arm rest or reaching for my spouse’s hand, & wondering why I didn’t use the restroom earlier. A movie, music, or food are helpful distractions. And if my travel companion is more fearful than I am, I suck it up & feign calmness, assuring that the chances of anything going seriously wrong are minute.

    My ritual is to tell myself on the way to the airport: “It’s a good day to fly.” And it usually is. But those moments of unease seem to happen more & more often.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kale – Thanks for the comment and I can say that your timeline from boldness to fear seems all too familiar to me (although I seem to have reached that final stage a bit earlier!). You mentioned distractions and I think those are key to dealing with this fear. A somewhat decent movie can do the trick on long flights. Maybe I should start traveling with someone else who is more scared than I so that it would also force me to feign calmness. Perhaps by feigning this often enough, it will become real calmness eventually!

  20. Joseph

    I love flying. Since 2003, when I flew for the first time to the US, I’ve had almost 60 flights under my belt. And each and every time the plane takes off, I think to myself “if the plane crashes, we’re goners”. Then we fly above the clouds and peace of mind comes. Naturally there are turbulences, and the sudden drops bring a sudden stop in breathing, my heart jumps between my ears and plays the conga, but after that all is good. I remember one time when I flew home from Chicago, we were just passing the coast of Canada, high above the ocean, when the plane starts to jiggle. For like 5 minutes. It was not a pretty sight. I was clutching the Harry Potter book to my chest and praying this is not how my life would end. Soon after, the flight went on without a hitch. So yes, flying does bring out the fear in us, but I’d rather fly, than be in a car, especially here in Romania – a country you should totally visit by the way, and if I’m still around, even stay at my place for a couple of days 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Joseph – You’re right, I’d much rather fly than use many other forms of transportation. It is amazing how we can be so afraid of flying but travelers often jump on an old beat up bus, with a driver who speeds through the mountains like a maniac. I’m quite sure that flying is significantly more safe than that 🙂

      And I am hoping to visit Romania soon. I shall write about my upcoming travel plans as soon as I make some final decisions! (And thank you for the offer by the way..)

  21. Andrea

    Wow, you’ve just described exactly how I feel about flying. I used to be fine with flying and have flown hundreds of times but over the last few years I have been getting more and more anxious (petrified really) to the point where I consider my last flight from Australia to be my last. I want to go back to Australia this summer but there’s no way I can fly any more. I’ve been researching ways to get there overland/sea but it’s really not feasible. I think I’m stuck in Europe until I can overcome my fear.

    1. Earl

      Hey Andrea – That’s a tough situation…I don’t know if I could ever let my fear stop my from flying altogether! Perhaps you should take a few shorter flights to hopefully get comfortable in the sky again. And then you can increase the duration until eventually, you’re back to normal 🙂

  22. Pingback: My Fav 5 Reads Aug 2011 « georgialivelaughlove

  23. Payman

    Earl,
    Nice post and I can relate to it very well for also being a very frequent flyer. The first time I had a scary moment was just before taxing in São Paulo on my way back to Toronto, all 4 engines of the plane just shut down as we were ready to go taxing before take off. The entire plane went dark, total silence for like what seemed an eternity (about 30 seconds) then the captain came on the line to say that there were some slight technical problem that will required a few minutes to fix. Those few minutes turned into an hour an half and during that time sitting there, I was really tempted to miss that long flight and take the next one the following day. But thankfully that the engines stopped on the ground and not in the air. That would have been a different story. Another time, on a short flight between Brasilia and Rio, it was raining cats and dogs and there was a heavy thunderstorm and you could see the ligthning lizarding the sky. That was a pretty intense 1.5 hour flight.
    Other than that, turbulence wise, now that I’m older (30) I get more stressed by them and notice them more than in my earlier days of flying. Since I fly frequently to Asia and I pass through NRT quite a lot, I’ve noticed that the area with the most turbulences is when flying over Japan. Did you or anyone else notice that too?
    What I usually do to remain calm is pray in my mind and think of positive things, of the destination and all the cool things/activities I’ll be doing once there. I’ll talk to my Dr about the any flying stress medecines. Which ones would you recommend?
    Terrific site man!

    Cheers,

    Payman.

    1. Earl

      Hey Payman – You sure said it right when you said that having all 4 engines stop while in the air would have been much worse than while on the ground! And it’s funny because I’ve started to notice which areas of the world have the worst turbulence as well after flying so much. There’s an area over Guatemala that is always bad as well as an area over the Carolinas on the east coast of the US that always seems to have bad turbulence. I haven’t noticed it at NRT but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve passed through there.

      As for medicines, I have no idea. I’ve never taken any myself for flying. So far it’s just been the ‘close the eyes and hope for the best’ method!

  24. Yencie

    Hey Earl!

    You’re not alone at all. I even remember when I was so excited waiting for the plane to take off on the runway, and now all I can do is pray nonstop with the Sky Mall magazine in my face until we’re at 35K feet! I don’t know, maybe it is that we know we have so much to left behind if we die (family, friends…), and also so much to do yet with our lives that every small threat to it feels like a slap in the face to wake up and do something about it before it’s too late.
    Loooove your website, just discovered it today through Stumble! Greetings from Puerto Rico! :o)

    1. Earl

      Hola Yencie! Actually, the Sky Mall magazine can be a good way to take your mind off of the fear of flying. There’s so many bizarre things in there that it’s easy to get lost in the pages.

      But I do think you’re right…the older we get, the more we have to lose and the more we realize how many things we have yet to accomplish. I guess the only solution is to get out there as quickly as possible and start achieving more of our goals!

      Thank you for commenting and for visiting my website 🙂

  25. Dina

    Hi Earl, cute post 🙂
    Of course I know the real danger of air plane crash, and one day I could be just in that unfortunate one. Let’s hope that will never happen to us. But I guess, I’m still in the phase of what you described as “used to be fun”.
    Flying is kinda boring, and I think the cloud bumps as the excitement. THe most fun one I had was flying from Bandung to Surabaya (Indonesia) when I was in university. It was raining heavily. A thunder storm. And our tiny airplane that had just took off rattled so badly. going up and down and up and down in the movement that tickle your belly.

    1. Earl

      Hey Dina – I remember those days very clearly when the bumps were ‘fun’ but I can’t seem to find that same sense of adventure while flying now. Glad to know you’re still enjoying all of the shakes and thunderstorms and movement!!

  26. Megan

    I know exactly how you feel. Both jobs I had after leaving university required me to fly pretty frequently and I was very much the seasoned flyer. But after a long period of no flying, when I got back on a plane and we experienced some severe turbulence during our ascent I completely freaked out.

    Since then, I’ve held hands with a Kuwaiti woman on a flight from Jordan to Amman (she was scared, too), burst into tears on take off from Hong Kong because it sounded like we had a tail strike (we didn’t) – amongst others.

    Inexplicably it actually got a lot better towards the end of my RTW trip – now I just freak out on take off and landing. I actually prefer longer flights because it gives me time to calm down – shorter ones means I have my adrenaline pumping the whole time!

    I found that listening to meditation podcasts/music/chanting monks helped. Also I got some decent headphones so I don’t listen to every single noise the engine makes. And I take motion sickness tablets an hour before I fly which also act as a sedative and I find I don’t notice turbulence as much 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Megan – Well, I’ve yet to hold hands with a Kuwaiti woman during a flight. Perhaps that’s the next level 🙂

      I’m normally able to sit quite calmly during the flight but it’s more of what goes on in my mind. I’ve yet to try any medication but it does seem to be a popular method!

    1. Earl

      Hey Laura – A cocktail probably would do the trick, although I rarely have a drink on the ground, let alone on board a plane!

  27. Mack Reynolds

    luckily, i’ve never expereienced turbulence on any of the flights i’ve taken. i’m sure that the first bout i have with it will make me question flying as a means of getting around, though.

    1. Earl

      Hey Mack – That’s probably how it happens. It all started for me a couple of years ago when the plane I was on to Costa Rica literally did fall out of the sky. The Captain came on the speakers and instructed everyone to sit down and anyone standing should sit on the floor. It was a terrible 15 minutes of continuous drops. Had that never happened, I’d probably still be alright today when flying!

  28. Ashley

    I had a bad flight over the past couple of years, and I can’t shake the fear anymore – though it’s nice to know it’s not just me! We were flying over a storm in the Midwest and hit the drinks spill and people get tossed around type of turbulence. It was awful! And went on for waaay too long. Since then turbulence does that whole life flashing before your eyes thing for me. Don’t have a solution, though for long flights I opted for the drug me up and fall asleep option.

    1. Earl

      Hey Ashley – I think it does take one bad flight like you described to get the fear going. After that one incident it’s as if we have flashbacks every time there is a ‘bump’ on any other flight.

      And I see you’ve added your vote for the medication method as well!

  29. Matt

    I’m still pretty ok with it. I attribute this bravery to the large amounts of alcohol consumed on the flight. That and I always watch the flight attendants. If they are still cool then I’m ok. If they panic, I’m gonna stark freakin’ out.

    1. Earl

      Hey Matt – That seems like a reasonable approach to watch the flight attendants. I had one flight a few years ago where the flight attendants were instructed to sit on the floor of the aisle and they were definitely freaking out. I just can’t get that image out of my head whenever there’s turbulence on any other flight.

    1. Earl

      Hey Jasmine – I still think you’re on to something with the pre-flight turbulence research 🙂 That just might be the best solution.

  30. Roger

    Amanda,
    I just love your explanation of turbulence when compared to a Jello mold… It will shake but wont fall out… Love it, I will always use this to further clarify what turbulence is about.
    Earl,
    A nice and light subject to ponder when relaxing and thinking about travelling.
    Enjoy your flight my friend.
    Roger 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Roger – It is nice to have a lighter subject to discuss and I can see that you caught the slight exaggeration of the post 🙂

  31. Eliz

    I know the pain, Earl! I use to fly between New York City and Cincinnati several times a year and I LOVED it. I even found myself missing the airport in between flights. Then, I had one bad flight. One flight where I looked around at all the faces and actually thought to myself, “I’m going to die with these people.” I did not, in fact, die. Ever since then I have been terrified of flying. My flight to Germany a few months ago was basically a seven hour anxiety attack. When we’re up in the air I cannot help but think, “this is not natural! we should not be floating on massive machines! we are going to fall!” Yet, every time, we stay soaring in the air.

    I think everyone with this fear has to find what works for them. Music, movies, prayer, rituals, whatever. Music helps me sometimes and I have a little shout out to the universe that I say in my head every time I take off. I also have a good friend that works in an airport tower who reminds me that flying is safer than driving, a lot of systems and backup systems have to fail for a plane to go down, and that turbulence and strange noises just mean that the plane is working. Maybe those thoughts will help you!

    The most important thing is to keep on keepin’ on. Never let fear hold you back. Instead, let it challenge you.

    1. Earl

      Hey Eliz – Well put and I can guarantee I won’t let it stop me from traveling. And I agree that one bad flight can ruin the flying experience for years to come. I do also use music to help keep me calm and close my eyes in the hopes that I’ll find a way to fall asleep for a while. But on these short flights, like the one I took the other day, it’s worse as there’s no time for anything but looking out the window and noticing every little shake of the plane!

  32. Heather Rae

    It’s funny you mention this. I was starting to think that I’m the only avid traveler that is simply terrified of flying. Unlike you, I always have been. My solution? Xanax and melatonin before every flight and during layovers. It’s the best thing I’ve found to ease the tension. And when the flight takes of, I have a little thing I do. I start singing “Que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be)”. Yes, I know it’s ridiculous, but it seems to calm me. Oh…and once I was flying to Maui, and in the middle of a very smooth flight, the plane literally dropped 500 feet (as reported by the pilot after the fact). He said, “Sorry folks, we just hit a little air pocket.” I was pretty sure death was impending. So now, I’m terrified of ever hitting another such air pocket again. But the xanax helps (as prescribed by my Dr. specifically for flying). And the melatonin helps ease me into a state of “almost” sleep.

    Funny note: I recently flew from Bangkok to Las Vegas. The entire flight, I was perfectly calm. And just as I was congratulating myself for *finally* getting over my fear of flying (about 10 minutes before landing in Vegas), something in the plane spooked me, and I was pretty sure I was going to die. So much for that! 😉

    1. Earl

      Hey Heather – I guess you got a little too excited a little too early on the flight Bangkok to Vegas! And those air pockets are the worst, must worse than a simple shake due to turbulence. That one or two seconds of ‘dropping’ is not a fun feeling to experience. I can see how medication would be the answer after one of those kind of flights!

  33. Matthew Cheyne

    Hi Earl,

    I’ve never experienced turbulence in a flight so I can’t imagine the fear that went through your head at the time that the turbulence hit. That said two little pearls of advice come to mind. First from the Buddhist tradition of which I am a part; all things are impermanent. That is in your case your feelings are fear won’t last forever. From what you’re saying they last only during the flight. You can take heart that you won’t always feel that way. When the fear hits if you can imagine yourself in a happy place where you feel safe and relaxed, your feelings of fear will begin to diminish. Now for my second pearl of wisdom. I’m currently a counseling student and in my studies thus far I’ve read up on fears and how they are extinguished. There is a therapy called exposure therapy where you expose the client to the fear they have in gradual steps and as the client becomes confident at one level you then increase the intensity and repeat the cycle until the fear is gone. What you could consider doing for a short time is to break down your journeys into smaller flights for the time being and once your fear diminishes you can then consider a bigger duration of time in the air. This may or may not be practical for you. If that doesn’t work you could always consider a few sessions of therapy specific to the fear that you’re experiencing. Whatever route you choose I wish you well:)

    1. Earl

      Hey Matthew – Thank you so much for your comment and thoughtful advice. I really do appreciate it. I’m actually quite a calm person (‘too calm’ as many of my family members and friends like to remind me) and even on the plane everything that I describe is really just taking place in my head. I manage to survive and I wouldn’t describe my thoughts as suffering or anything like that. It’s just an uncomfortable feeling that only occurs when there is some turbulence. And I think it’s natural as it is an uncommon feeling to drop out of the sky while 35,000 feet above the ground. So it can be expected that some fear would follow.

      If it does ever get to the point where it really has an effect on me, then I would certainly follow up on your advice, which I think is excellent stuff for anyone who may really suffer from such fears of flying.

  34. Tony

    I’ve always been a nervous flyer and hate turbulence. I fly a couple of times a year. I explained to my doctor how shaky and panicky I get, and he prescribes me a small dosage of valium/diazepam that I use ONLY the days I fly (I’m a grown up, I know not to use it as a crutch for every little worry). It works – the pill takes the edge off the shaky part of the trip completely.

    1. Earl

      Hey Tony – Thanks for the comment! And it’s interesting because I never realized how many people do have medication prescribed specifically for flying. I can imagine that a small dose of valium would work quite well in these situations!

  35. Matt

    I know what you mean Earl. My fear of flying has gotten worse the older I get. I love looking down at the world from great height but it scares the hell out of me. I think it all started with one flight from Denver to Portland when there was a leak or something in the cabin door and the oxygen masks fell down and we were all instructed to put them on. Since then I’ve been terrified. But one thing I do before any flight is read through this free online “fear of flying” class written by an airline pilot. He talks about turbulence and noises and anything that typically freaks passengers like me out. It’s the best thing I’ve read on combating the fear of flying.

    http://www.fearofflyinghelp.com/intro.shtml

    1. Earl

      Hey Matt – That seems to be the common denominator – one bad flight. After that, the fear is hard to shake! And thanks for that link. I just read through the first three chapters and that’s quite interesting stuff. I can see how that would ease one’s fears a bit. Even the way it’s written is very calming.

  36. Jeremy

    For a long time this was the case for me too…I feared every flight more than the last. I became slightly neurotic…having to tap the plane three times before I stepped in, saying prayers over and over in my mind, adrenaline rushes and headaches. I started trying ativan (sp?) and even went to the doctor who thought I might be OCD set off by the stress…
    Well, it hasn’t completely gone away. I still get nervous during a rough flight. But what really helped me may sound a bit morbid, and dramatic. I made sure I called my parents before the flight (thinking last words) and then I just decided, I’ve lived a good life, better than most of the 6 billion on this Earth. Knowing the pilot doesn’t want to crash either, I was able to reality check myself and just cope. I wasn’t willing to give up travel, so I just had to get over it. I’m about 75% cured. 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Jeremy — I like your method, as morbid as it may be 🙂 It’s just facing reality really. You’re right, nobody wants to crash the plane and the plane is obviously able to handle some intense situations. And calling your parents before a flight is a good idea. We never know what is going to happen in life and so why not tell those close to us that we love them. It doesn’t hurt of course!

      Glad to hear you’re almost 100% cured…75% is a good way there so it should be just a matter of time before all the fear is gone.

  37. Mike

    MARISSA: The Colombia/Columbia thing used to confuse me. In English we changed Colon to Columbus; so, Colombia became Columbia (that’s the English/ Gringo version) :-). Why did the Spanish change United States to Estados Unidos, or Sweden to Suecia, or Switzerland to Suisa? There must be many more examples.
    EARL: One time while flying into Houston the turbulence was so bad that I thought we were all goners. For the short time that it was going on, I felt so bad for the mother’s around me that were with their small children. People were screaming. Then, in an instant, everything was calm. You can imagine the applause when the plane finally landed. I always get slightly nervous when the plane takes off and lands, but I tell myself to play the percentages. Along the lines of what Phil mentioned, I try to think about how many commercial planes are in the air at once, and how often one actually goes down.

    1. Earl

      Hey Mike – That’s a great point and I’ve used that method before as well. I’ll think of how many planes must be in the sky that day, that week and even over the past year. And not many of those come crashing down. The percentages are well in the favor of the passengers 🙂

  38. Julia

    Hey Earl,

    I actually have been thinking along the same terms lately, but not with flying. Lately, as I have gotten older, I realized that certain things I used to never fear are starting to scare me and make me second guess a fun activity or day of thrill!

    When I was 21 I went skydiving in a beautiful part of Australia. At 28, I was scared out of my mind to do zip-lining in Costa Rica. I literally had the guide go tandem with me on the first line!

    I sorta chalked it up to getting older. I think we start to get more afraid of things that we once thought were exciting. I have no idea why and wonder if there is a scientific reason to it all.

    I hate getting older and to be afraid of things I once thought were so adventurous and fun is just plain depressing, so I force myself to do it all out of spite 🙂 also, after all is said and done it is always a good time!

    1. Earl

      Hey Julia – I think that we just become aware of our mortality as we age and the balance between risk-taking and preservation starts to shift! But I’m like you and will force myself do ‘crazy’ things because I know the chances of something bad happening are slim and that I’ll most likely regret not doing something!

      And your skydiving in Australia didn’t happen to be in Broome??

      1. Julia

        The skydiving was at Mission Beach, right over the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef (near Cairns) – one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had.
        I was in Broome later that year and loved it there too. I got a chance to do a a star gazing tour where I camped out in the middle of the outback, laid on my back and relished in the milky way while a guide explained all of what was going on up there. Broome was amazing 🙂
        Australia holds a special place in my heart. I made so many unforgettable memories while there.

  39. Amanda

    The older you get, the more you realize how much you’re living for.

    Think of it this way. Imagine your plane is in the middle of a Jello mold. If you shake the mold, the plane shakes too, but it won’t fall out of the mold. That’s kind of how I visualize turbulence.

    And if that doesn’t work, just think of your destination 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Amanda – Now that I’ve spend a few minutes picturing airplanes in Jello molds, I actually think I feel a little better 🙂 Perhaps it would be more helpful to actually carry a jello mold onto the plane with a miniature plane stuck in it. Surely I could get that through customs as a ‘medical device’.

  40. Lindsay

    I’ve done a fair bit of flying, but I haven’t experienced terror at the hands of turbulence just yet… Supposedly the likelihood of being killed in a plane crash “for the average American” is approximately 1 in 11 million. I’d place you outside of the “average American” category… considering the number of times you’ve been in a plane, you’ve probably significantly increased the likelihood that you’ll be in a plane crash. That said, even if your chances were more like 1 in 5 million, it still seems like you dying in a plane crash is pretty unlikely 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Lindsay – I agree with you as even 1 in 5 million are odds I should be happy with. The chances of being run over by a speeding truck in India are probably much higher than that and I never feel any fear running across a busy street over there! Looking at numbers always helps as it shows how slim the chance is of anything ever happening.

      Thank you for your helpful comment 🙂

  41. Caz Makepeace

    Earl this post made me laugh.
    i have been on a plane hundreds of times as well but I still freak out every time. And yes it does get worse the older you get and the superman syndrome begins to fade.

    It also gets way worse when you have children. I panic the whole time now with Kalyra beside me and thoughts of what could happen. She actually forces me to be much braver outwardly.

    She tells me that she is scared and I have to hold her hand. She doesn’t understand that me holding her hand is actually helping me to feel a little braver. And when I tell her there is nothing to be frightened of, that we are safe and mummy is here, I really am telling all of that to myself!!

    Thanks to Phil for sharing the above information and calming my nerves. I also met a stewardess who said if you knew the amount of safety checks the pilot and crew went through you would never worry about flying as it is so so safe.

    1. Earl

      Hey Caz – I can’t even imagine what it would be like to travel with your own children, with double the fear but having to put on that strong face. In a way, you have no choice but to deal with the fear so your daughter is comforted and maybe this will eventually lead to you actually being calm inside as well. If you have to spend a good amount of time comforting her, at least that’s less time for you to concentrate on every bump and shake of the plane 🙂

      And yes, a big THANK YOU to Phil for that information he shared. Of course, reading it is one thing, remembering it while on board in the midst of turbulence is another!

  42. Vishal

    Hey Earl,

    The only time I was scared on a plane was on my flight to San Francisco last March. But it had nothing to do with turbulence or anything else. Just in my head. I had just started watching LOST and I was fearful of what would happen if the plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. Completely idiotic, isn’t it? But fear begets fear and it’s all in your head too. Better luck next time. 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Vishal – That’s funny because ever since I watched the film “Castaway”, I’ve always dreamed of ending up on an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific for a few months. Naturally I don’t want to crash and have to make an underwater escape but oddly, I find the idea of a light water landing and time on an uninhabited island to be somewhat pleasant!

      I wonder if you’re more afraid of the plane crashing or of ending up in the middle of nowhere???

      1. Vishal

        Hey Earl – Firstly, it’s amazing you take time to answer every one of your comments. Anyways, I would not mind being stranded on an island for a few weeks/months and just survive like an ancient being. But I was afraid of the crash especially at the takeoff and couldn’t help thinking about it.
        P.S. “Castaway” is a great movie.

  43. Phil

    Earl,
    Turbulence was starting to really put me on edge as well. Then I started doing some research and I found that it is almost impossible for turbulence to crash a plane. Here is a good excerpt from a salon.com article:

    “For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash. Turbulence is a nuisance for everybody on the plane, including the crew. But it’s also, for lack of a better term, normal. When pilots change altitudes and routings to avoid bumps, this is by and large a comfort issue. The captain isn’t worried about the wings falling off, he’s trying to keep his customers as content and relaxed as possible.

    So that I’m not accused of sugarcoating, I freely concede that powerful turbulence has, on numerous occasions, resulted in damage or injury. With respect to the latter, it is typically people who fell or were thrown about because they weren’t belted in. But airplanes themselves are engineered to take a remarkable amount of punishment, including stress limit criteria for both positive and negative G-loads. The level of turbulence required to seriously damage a plane is something that even the most frequent flier will not experience in a lifetime. Around the globe each day, about 5 million people take to the air aboard 35,000 commercial departures. Yet over the past half-century, the number of airliners downed by turbulence can literally be counted on one hand, and almost always there were extenuating circumstances.”

    Rest of the article is here: http://www.salon.com/technology/ask_the_pilot/2009/06/02/askthepilot322

    maybe that will put you at ease a bit??

    1. Earl

      Hey Phil – Yeah, that worked quite well actually. It’s all stuff that we would assume to be true but it’s quite easy to forget while flying. But the more we read about the reality, the more it should stick in our heads. I do like to think about how many people are flying each day and that does put it all into perspective. 5 millions is no small number and day in and day out they all (are just about all I guess) land safely at their destinations.

      Thank you for the link to the rest of the article as well!

  44. Lori Bonnell

    Earl, I laughed out loud a few times as I read this post. You are in good company my friend. Flying became more difficult for me as I got older as well. Sometimes I was scared out of my mind! I must say that I am surprised that long term travelers experience it though. I would not have guessed that as I just “thought” that if you do it so often, for so long, it must be easy for you. Things change I guess. I don’t like flying, never will. But I do like traveling — so I do what I have to do….

    1. Earl

      Hey Lori – It doesn’t seem to make sense at first but I think that the more one flies, the more instances of turbulence of all sorts that they experience. And this could go either way. It could help a traveler become used to any kind of flight experience or it could make a traveler more nervous with so many memories of rough flights. Perhaps there’s another stage where the fear is once again replaced by the calm we experienced when younger! I certainly hope so and am ready for it!

  45. Sarah

    Oh yes I know this feeling – it is the same as the realisation that roller coasters no longer excite you but put your in fear of your mortal life. A most disappointing turn of events which I am also convinced is due to age.

    Regarding the flying, I seem to have no problem with take off, a definite problem with turbulence, and a now massive problem with landing which means I can’t look out of the window during descent as I am constantly anticipating touch down. I have been known to close one eye (the one nearest the window) so I don’t see how close we are to landing but can still keep on reading something to take my mind off current events. I have to really concentrate on not putting my hand on the seat in front to brace myself – like that would make any difference!

    Ironically I have never had a bad flight, never had any real scares or issues. As everyone says, age makes you realise your mortality all the more and perhaps I am just superstitious… but at least you know you are in good company! I expect you will get loads of similar replies 🙂

    Happy travels!

    1. Earl

      Hey Sarah – Thank you for admitting your flying issues as well! It’s interesting that you haven’t had a bad flight as it seemed that one bad flight was what had turned many people into frightened flyers. It was one crazy flight that brought about my fear as well. So you’re a mystery then 🙂

      I’m just hoping that by continuing to fly (and possibly continuing to ride roller coasters), the fear will eventually leave me alone again. After reading your comment, I certainly hope that happens to you as well!!

      1. james

        no man. i read an article about it a while back. There’s some adrenaline hormone, i forget exactly what its called, that naturally diminishes as we age.

        We’re much more likely to do scarier things when we’re younger and not be fazed by them. I bungee jumped when I was younger, not sure I could do it now. Even with driving, maybe it was inexperience, but I was a speed freak. Nowadays I’m much more cautious and rarely speed.

        Being frightened by turbulence simply means…you’re getting old 😀

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