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Fear of flying? Post a question to psychologist Patricia Furness-Smith and Pilot Captain Steve Allright - ANSWERS BACK

(85 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 25-Jun-13 14:34:58

If you find flying a traumatic experience or avoid it altogether then we have help on hand this week. We're running a Q&A with Patricia Furness-Smith, a psychologist and psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience and Captain Steve Allright, a BA training captain on Boeing 747 and professional pilot who has clocked up over 10,000 flying hours. Patricia and Steve are authors of Flying with Confidence, a book based on the BA course. Both Patricia and Steve have been a member of BA's Flying with Confidence team for over 10 years.

Post a question to Steve and Patricia before the end of Monday 1st July and we'll post up their answer the following week on 7 July. Everyone who joins the Q&A will be entered into a draw to win one of three copies of Flying with Confidence. Watch out also for a page of tips from Steve and Patricia which we'll link to from this thread when it's live.

LeonieDeSainteVire Tue 25-Jun-13 17:15:03

Ok a simple question 'How do you stop being terrified of flying?'

I do fly but as my fear has got worse I have found I am avoiding/limiting flights where possible and it's starting to restrict my family so I would like to get over this. Also, although I have never had a panic attack, I really feel one might be likely on a plane and the thought of losing control like that is really worrying.

I understand, basically, the physics of flying and that it is a very safe form of travel etc but can't get over the fact that sometimes it goes wrong, and if it does go wrong there will be nothing I can do to protect my children. I know this is a fact so how can I accept it and not be paralysed with fear when I fly. And not only when the flight is imminent, we are flying on holiday in a few weeks and I've been waking up in a cold sweat thinking about it for months. I have Diazepam prescribed for the flight but tbh it has almost no effect, the fear is stronger!

Help!

justmuddlingalong Tue 25-Jun-13 17:20:48

During the flight, when the aircraft makes all the ding-dong noises, I panic thinking it's a code from the captain signaling to the air crew that something's gone wrong. Can you explain what these noises mean?

jamtoast12 Tue 25-Jun-13 17:36:07

I do not enjoy flying at all but even so still cant help watching all those air traffic investigation programmes. My question is... On occasions we hear that a planes engines can all go out and the pilot can land safely by gliding I.e the New York river landing. But then other times a plane can suddenly crash?! What's the difference? Surely if a problem occurs, could the pilot glide it down?!!!!

Mine is a slightly different question because I don't have a fear of flying, as such, but I do have a fear of vomiting. Do you think flying is less nausea-inducing than other forms of transport, and what would you suggest would help reduce the risk?

puffinnuffin Tue 25-Jun-13 21:18:12

Hello I am terrified of flying and haven't flown for 6 years. Just before that I did a 'Flying Without Fear' weekend course run by another airline. It involved hypnotherapy. After that I managed the flight to Guernsey (having not flown for 7 years before that).
I then managed another couple of 3-4 hour flights but on the way back from Italy we hit awful turbulence where meals and things started flying through the air. It was horrific and I felt like I was going to die. After that I vowed never to fly again! This really annoys my husband who travels all over the world and regularly flies.

We were recently invited to a wedding in India. I have always wanted to go there but in the end didn't go as I just couldn't cope with flying!

Is it possible to get over feeling like this and am I resigned to not fly any more? The thing I just can't cope with is turbulence and in my experience it always seems to hit over the alps. I also hate taking off and landing (also can't cope with things like roller coasters).

This sounds so silly written down. My fear of flying has become much worse since having children.

lastnightidreamt Tue 25-Jun-13 21:20:43

I have tried the Virgin 'Flying without Fear' course, but I still cannot get beyond the fact that the worst could happen. I also found it incredibly difficult to focus during the relaxation session.

Could you please recommend any therapies, such as hypnotherapy or CBT that would suit this phobia best?

(Leonie my fear is also greater than diazepam - how is that even possible!!?)

My landlord is a pilot and I quizzed him repeatedly about flying.

My fear has got progressively worse until 6hours of turbulence from St Lucia left me terrorised. I flew again after but I had five Valium!!! Five. They did nothing other than effectively trap me in my own body, my mind raced and raced with fear but my body didn't respond in a panic.

I know in my rational mind that flying is safe and normal but two questions, why do pilots not talk you through turbulence if its so normal. And if I really can't manage my fear are there short acting sedatives I could resort to?

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Tue 25-Jun-13 21:33:06

Fantastic! I asked for somebody to do a webchat on this subject some time ago. I'll be watching with interest because I've developed a fear since having my family.

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Tue 25-Jun-13 21:35:57

I should ask a question I guess. I'm a bit wary of the experience and competence of the pilots of budget airlines and holiday company airlines compared to BA, Virgin etc airlines. Is this a justified fear?

SwedishEdith Tue 25-Jun-13 22:00:08

Watching. Just reading this has made me realise how this has got worse over the years My dp is even worse and his fear has transferred to me. I just read out the incident about food flying through the air and he said he would never get in a plane again if that happened!

I cannot get over two things:

That if a plane crashes I, and even worse, my children, will know for quite some time what is about to happen and

I try mind tricks (like if you imagine something happening then that is never how it turns out i.e imagine crashing) But then I think that people who have died will have also tried the same technique...

I need to book some flights soon and I'm hesitating, thinking I wish there was another way to get there.

So, techniques for getting a grip please?

Wiifitmama Tue 25-Jun-13 22:09:27

My question is: why has my fear of flying got so much worse over time? I have been flying since I was a baby. Very international well traveled family. I never had any fear at all until about ten years ago. Nothing specific started it off. It has got worse and worse. The last flight was a tight are. Only a short flight from Venice to London and I was nearly hysterical over what felt like extreme turbulence to me, but nothing to anyone else. It has totally put me off the idea of a holiday abroad. I also find the turbulence (even mild) makes me nauseous.

So, why has it got worse?

loopyloou Tue 25-Jun-13 22:18:21

I am terrified when flying and would appreciate an explanation of how exactly a plane stays in the air and also what causes turbulence and when is it dangerous?

CocktailQueen Tue 25-Jun-13 22:26:37

Oh, this is a great thread. I used to travel all over the world with dh - to New Zealand, Canada, Samoa, America. But since we had kids, I have got more and more scared of flying, helped by a couple of incidents like being hit by lightning and an aborted landing. Now, if I think about flying, I am terrified - I am sick, get diarrhoea, and can't help thinking about our entire family dying in a plane crash. Please, please, what can I do to help myself so that I can go on holiday with my family??

sillymillyb Tue 25-Jun-13 22:36:03

Oh a fab thread - I too have tried the virgin fear of flying course, sedatives, hypnotism and finally, learning in as much detail as possible about planes and how they work etc. None have worked, and like others, my fear has just got worse now I have a child.

Am I a lost cause? What else could you recommend? I am a lone parent and my sons dad lives abroad, it honestly fills me with the dread the thought of putting my son on a plane - to the point where I considered moving to his country (by boat! ha!) just to avoid this journey :S

What is the most effective way to combat fear? What other avenues left are there for me to try?

AngryFeet Tue 25-Jun-13 22:43:36

My question is regarding turbulence. If it isnt dangerous how can you explain the Air France crash a few years ago?

Hassled Tue 25-Jun-13 22:50:28

Not so much a question as a sort of observation - I have been scared of flying for years and years but one thing that really helped was watching a programme (about some woman having an intensive "overcoming your fear" course) and they explained about the doors. That was one of the many things that freaked me out - they look so flimsy. But the programme showed the door mechanism and the inner bolt thingies and that really helped me - a trifling, little thing that made such a difference.

How can that be extended? Is there an easy way that little bits of mundane but actually really useful information could be disseminated?

loopyloou Tue 25-Jun-13 22:50:45

Another question I have is do viruses/illnesses get spread over the air in a plane as I have read the same air is pumped through continuously? I suffer from illness anxiety and worry about this.

Thesebootsweremadeforwalking Tue 25-Jun-13 22:54:56

Watching with interest. Like a pp ^ I am now a bit scared of flying but wasn't before DCs. Is this change after children a common experience? (I still fly, but no longer do so without fear IYSWIM.)

sunandstars Tue 25-Jun-13 23:31:56

My fear is also turbulence.

I also don't like rollacoasters or heights and I have a fear of nausea and vomiting steming from hyperemesis in pregnancy - so not alot going on really grin. i know from having had CBT ,it must all be due to lack of control and fearing the worst and it is about confronting the fear as avoidance doesn't help.

Just can't bring myself to book another flight.

I don't have any fear of the plane crashing,and do trust the pilots and engineers completely from a safety aspect.
But... I hate the fact that turbulence can occur at any time and you don't know how long it will last and how bad it will be. As soon as it gets a little bit bumpy I expect it to get worse. You can't get off if you don't like it!

I had flown happily for quite a few years,but this fear began on a flight into Innsbruck when landing consisted of 15/20 mins of moderate turbulence due to proximity to the mountains. On the flight back I was petrified and spent most of it gripping the seat arms.

My last flight to France the flight out was fine,and I was thinking ok flying isn't too bad.
Then,on the way back we had an unexpected drop ( the ones where half the flight screams!),where 2 out of 3 stewardesses were injured as they were serving at the time - one was burnt by the hot tea and the other injured her leg and had to lay flat across a row of seats and was wheeled out in a wheelchair at the end of the flight before the passengers.

This unfortunately did help to confirm my fears that I can be subject to turbulence on any flight to a really unpleasant frightening degree and I now have avoided flying on holiday for 3 years and can't book a holiday involving flying.

Turbulence of some degree is normal when flying. This is what I can't deal with.

ToffeeWhirl Wed 26-Jun-13 07:52:25

No question, but I'm marking my place to show this thread to my DH who is phobic about flying. It started after a turbulent flight and he has tried hypnotherapy, but it didn't work. On our last flight (to Spain), he very nearly couldn't get on the plane and only managed it with the help of a betablocker. Now he won't fly at all.

CaptainJamesTKirk Wed 26-Jun-13 08:07:35

I too am afraid of flying. I avoid doing it at all costs and haven't done it at all since I became a mum.

What frightens me most is that these aircraft are always flying they barely ever stop (I think). I mean they do an 8 hour flight and then have a 1-2 hour turn around and then they're flying again. And the process is repeated. I worry about stress and wear and tear on aircraft, especially as some are very old. Your car couldn't cope with that and it doesn't have 4 jet engines and fly at 40000 feet.

On top of that the volume of aircraft in the air, I've seen the flight tracker apps. Are our skies getting too full?

I know you are all professionals, but pilots are not miracle workers if a plane is suddenly no longer air worthy. Air traffic control near misses are not unheard of and I know there are aircraft engineers to maintain the aircraft but they work through the night, people working overnight are statistically more likely to make mistakes because we are designed to be asleep.

Can you see how I've over thought this?

Can you reassure me that these aircraft are definitely air worthy, honestly (even on budget airlines)?

Thank you.

PeggyBabcockBoot Wed 26-Jun-13 19:32:46

I fly half a dozen times a year, but have always been scared of the plane take off and landing and hate that acceleration feeling on the runway. I spent most of my flights staring intently at the Flight Attendants faces, gauging whether they look concerned at the bumps and pings.

Couple of questions if I may?:

I worry about the angle of the plane on take off. Have there been many cases of airplane tails/back ends dragging on the ground and causing crashes? What stops this from happening (probably an insane question, but one of my concerns upon takeoff).

What happens if take off is not achieved? Is the plane capable of slowing down again before the end of the runway?

Do most crashes in the air happen in the cloud layer where there is less visibility? Should I add this to my long list of worries?

What happens if the wheels fail (i.e. don't come down). Are there a back up set?

After landing, what happens if the brakes fail to slow the plane - does it have to take off again, and has it got the capability to take off again?

mummylin Wed 26-Jun-13 19:54:52

I too hate flying. The minute I get on a plane I remember the plane that caught fire even before it took off and people died. Like a previous poster the only way I get through the flight is to watch the air hostesses faces. I think in my case it's more the utter fear of crashing more than the actual flight. How do you get relaxed enough to fly without the awful fears ?

PigeonPair Thu 27-Jun-13 10:07:32

So pleased to have found this thread.

I am scared of flying but love Air Crash Investgation/Seconds from Disaster.

I am not so bad that I can't get on a flight but last time I flew I had a glass of wine at the bar at the departures gate. I asked them to put it into a paper cup so I didn't look like a lush (it was 9.30am).

I have tried Diazepam and it does help a bit.

I do not want to pass on my anxiety to my children. Their Daddy died last month and he was a good flyer so balanced me out. Actually, when I think about it, reassuring them does make me feel more in control.

I think a lot of it for me is the lack if control. If you are in a car, on a boat, or a train, you at least have a CHANCE of getting out alive if something happened. With a plane crash, the chances are very slim and there would be a slow build up to the inevitable.

The upside is that at least we would all be together.

I also spend the whole flight watching the flight attendants - not just to check their faces, but to check if the drinks trolley is coming my way!

Can't wait to read the replies to this. Great initiative Mumsnet.

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