Why Flying is the Most Terrifying Form of Travel EVER!

While flying to and fro New York over Thanksgiving holiday, I was reminded once again of my extreme distaste for aviation travel. So extreme is my dislike, that I’m contemplating driving to anywhere I will go in the future, including across water. One of my goals in life is to design a bubble vehicle that can tread over the Atlantic. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll just hoverboard over to Greece. It may take a lot of time, but I’m optimistic that I can do it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed an illogical fear of flying in airplanes. Now don’t tell me that planes are safer than cars. I know that. But try telling me that while strapped to my seat and falling to the ground with you and 289 other people. I’ll gladly get in an argument with you during the roughly two minutes we have before we disintegrate and become one with the Earth.

As you can see, I have a morbid outlook on flying. Before and during a scheduled plane ride, it is difficult for me to not be consumed by a Woody Allen-esque neurosis. This extreme anxiety have begun to push out any warm and fuzzy feelings I may have towards wherever my final destination is, and make me clam up into a ball of tension so tight, one could probably play Vivaldi on my muscles.

Where did this illogical fear come from?

Well, it’s not illogical, really. I mean, watching a bunch of airplanes fly into skyscrapers a few years back can definitely stir up a few nightmarish images before boarding a plane. Reading about how the free falling passengers of Pan Am Flight 103 passed out then came to right before they hit the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland certainly helps a little. Also, reading the Wikipedia list of “Aviation Accidents and Incidents” one bored evening kind of adds a lot to it (do yourself a favor and don’t read that link).

So what goes through my head while flying?

Well, typically while sitting with the other passengers at the gate before boarding the plane, I look around to see whose faces look like those of ones you’d see in the newspaper the next day. If no person’s face looks like that of one who is meant to die on a flight, I breathe a tiny sigh of relief.
Wow. Well, that statement obviously makes more sense in my head…
Then I size up the competency of the pilot and flight attendants while boarding the plane. If they seem confident and don’t look drunk, that helps a little. I did have a drunk pilot once who before taking off, broke the plane door and forgot to fill the plane up with gas. I know this because he went on a long commentary about his actions. An hour long commentary. Finally, amidst the awkward glances passed between passengers and crew, silence came from the cock pit and an off-duty pilot rose from his seat and announced that he would now be flying the plane.

Once I board the plane and walk through the aisle to my seat, I make sure to smile at everyone. I do this so in case they were thinking of killing anyone on the plane with a plastic fork, it wouldn’t be me because I smiled at them earlier.

I then find my seat and immediately attempt to fall asleep. This way I won’t be scrutinizing the flight attendants  and try to decipher if they’re masking sheer panic about a plane malfunction they aren’t telling us about. Usually I can fall asleep without the aid of drugs or alcohol. It’s not that I don’t want either. It’s just that I usually forget to take something before I go. Not that I have anything. Even if I had Xanax, I would have to take about 20 pills in order to feel anything.

Not being in a sedated slumber often means I wake up and focus on the turbulence that the plane may experiencing. I’m fairly certain any time the plane jolts that we’re about to embark on a out-of-control spiral down to Earth. If one looked closely enough, they’d often see foam building up in the corners of my mouth and tiny half moon nail prints dug into the arm rests.
It’s really unfortunate that flying has become such a hellish experience for me. It’s actually quite a lovely event. The few times I’m able to discard my Popeye face and peak out of the window, I usually enjoy what I see. Unless you’re an astronaut (and if an astronaut is reading my blog, fuck yeah!), there will be no other time a human is up in the sky. I think we often take for granted how incredible this experience is only because we’re using one sense while in an airplane- sight. I mean the other senses are used- like smelling your deodorant wearing off or touching the leg of the passenger next to you in order to feel some sort of bodily contact before what you are convinced are your last minutes alive- but those senses are used inside of the plane. We don’t get to feel or hear or smell the sky we are barrelling through in a metal funnel of death.

I hope one day I can appreciate air travel, but until then, I’ll keep drawing up my bubble car.

Do you like flying? Are there any forms of travel that absolutely terrify you?
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  • Reply bsimms8907 December 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    I hate flying too! My heart races every time I hear the pilot say "prepare for liftoff." I would rather spend the extra time driving somewhere over taking a plane any day! At least in a car I'm the one in control (more or less).

  • Reply Johanna December 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I think I'm actually more terrified of contracting some horrible respiratory or flesh eating disease, rather than the plane I'm on taking a nose diving. I carry this homeopathic thing I break out and breathe in to fight off bacteria and wash my hands at least once an hour. A lil extreme I know but the recycle air and peoples hygiene freak me out.
    And if I am to die via an aviation disaster I hope to be in a deep REM.

  • Reply theTsaritsa December 2, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I'm not fearful of flying, but I do dread it just because it's so damn boring and my ass falls asleep fifteen minutes into the ride and of course I have a middle seat so I have to squeeze past the large man I'm sitting next to to get to the bathroom every two hours.

    Flying. Fun…

  • Reply Daynya December 2, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    word for word, this is EXACTLY how i feel, and act, every time i fly. well, except the sleeping part. i've never been able to sleep on a plane. not even on a day long trip to new zealand. usually when we de-board, my boyfriend has bruises on his arms, and i'm pumped full of anti-anxiety pills and red wine. until i have alcohol in my body, i cannot calm down, i'm a trembling, crying, panicking mess. it's awful. i'm flying by myself for the first time next month, and i'm so scared! when people ask me what i'm afraid of, i literally have no response, i know it's irrational, but it's bad. i also imagine every bump to be our last, and i cling tighter. i also eye up the pilot. this past week, when flying, i said, "uh oh, our pilot has a mustache, this can't be good." in all seriousness. sigh. i know i have no control, i know if something happens, it's gonna happen, so getting upset about it doesn't help. i know it's safer than driving. it's still the scariest thing i voluntarily subject myself to. lemme know when you figure out your bubble car, i'll buy one.

  • Reply True story December 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I believe many people are afraid of flying. But for some reason each time I'm on a plane, it feels like I'm the only one afraid because whenever the plane jolts, I'm the only one grabbing onto the armrest like that would save me. (Trust me, I look for others each time.) Others continue to calmly read their papers/converse/sleep. Odd.

    At the same time, I wouldn't say I'm actually terrified of flying, but I find every jolt and every turn to be very unpleasant. I know some people who like the take off. I don't. I'll take landing over take off any time. I also travel a lot, this year from April to September I had 10 flights. In December-February I expect to have another 10.

    To anyone who thinks that they would choose any other means of transport, I'd like to say the following – think again, my friend!! I had the displeasure of taking a bus from the South of Russia to the South of Germany 3 times. Can you imagine yourself for 72 hours on a crowded bus? Including stops at all border especially the ones that last 10 hours, from 8pm to 6am (Ukrainian-Polish border). All this accompanied by people consuming food 24/7, some beer-drinking, snoring, it's always either hot or cold, etc.

    Flying doesn't seem like such a dreadful experience after that. 😉

  • Reply Vanessa December 2, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I hate, hate, HATE flying. It makes me so anxious, I get that crazy feeling and my thoughts make zero sense. Basically, I have a panic attack before and during the entire flight. Ugh…

  • Reply Sarah Alaoui December 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    my favorite: Once I board the plane and walk through the aisle to my seat, I make sure to smile at everyone. I do this so in case they were thinking of killing anyone on the plane with a plastic fork, it wouldn't be me because I smiled at them earlier.


  • Reply IT December 2, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    It isn't the flying that disturbs me. It is the darned inconveniences we must now suffer in order to fly anywhere. And WTF is this $25 per checked bag but if you can't fit it in the overhead bin it travels free crap? Why is it, too, that they get my bag anywhere up to an hour before the plane leaves and it still takes it until the next day to arrive?

  • Reply Ruthie December 2, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Fear of flying is perfectly rational. One of my earliest memories is when my family took the train from New York to Chicago to see my grandparents. Then for some reason, my parents saw fit to fly back. I was less than 5 and I have such vivid memories of the horrible pain as the cabin pressure squeezed my eardrums in like a gravity vice. I only fly loaded. Passing the Fuck out is the only way I'm guna make it through.

  • Reply inflammatory writ December 2, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Flying is the fucking WORST.

    I agree with all statements you posted, especially the "don't read about Lockerbie" part. I cannot board a plane without taking a Xanax. I then sit in white knuckle palm sweaty terror during takeoff (I'm better than I used to be; I used to cry), and again when we land (although, by the time we land, I'm usually so dazed out on drugs and booze that I start fretting over how to stagger off the plane with all my belongings intact and how to find where the fuck I'm supposed to go).

    The security madness makes the experience 219409283094 times more unpleasant.

    As for the "flying is safer than a car" thing: the difference between a car accident and a plane crash is that in a car accident, you at least have a shot. Plane crash? No shot. And, if by some miracle you do live, you have permanent PTSD and probably 3rd degree burns over most of your body. No thanks!

    I fly anyway. I just fucking absolutely hate the whole process.

  • Reply CatnipTARDIS December 2, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I don't fear flying but I hate it. Waiting to check my bags with a ton of cranky people, waiting to go through security with a ton of cranky people, waiting for the plane to defrost so we can board into a tiny fuselage with seats so small my size 8 hips touch both armrests at the same time…with a ton of cranky people. And crying babies. And squealing toddlers. And fat armrest hoggers. And coughing. And the permeating smell of crab jerky–I will never forget that flight. Give me an empty plane (or at least a row to myself) and I'm otherwise as happy as a clam.

  • Reply gunsirit December 2, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I never like flying.The most terrifying experience to me is taking off and landing.

  • Reply Ludwig December 3, 2010 at 1:12 am

    The only time I didn't like flying was a flight from Pittsburgh to San Jose, connecting in Denver. Something about the air pockets in the Rockies gave us the worst turbulence I ever felt in my life, flying into AND out of Denver. Everyone around me seemed calm, I guess they went to Denver pretty often, but I was about ready to pee myself.

  • Reply ISRAEL CARRASCO December 3, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I'm a little bit scared if flying so I make sure to order wine and fall asleep. My friend used to get real bad panic attacks RE flying so much so that she took a class to overcome her fear and she took medication.

  • Reply -Your Friendly Neighborhood Dentonista December 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I love to fly, but one thing a friend told me years ago helps, if I feel tense.
    Her father was a life-long airline pilot and she said, "As much as you want land safely, the pilot wants it even more."
    And I thought, "She's right."
    Flying isn't a crap shoot, there are trained professionals up front who are JUST as invested in this flight as you are.

  • Reply Benny December 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I'm weirdly swayed by statistics and theories in that way. I suppose air travel is one way that that's actually valuable. Never really been scared of it.
    On the other hand, I do have a sillier fear- claustrophobia. For that reason, I prefer buses and trains. Oh yeah, and cars.

  • Reply Christina In Wonderland December 3, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I've never flown before. Seriously, I'm terrified of flying and heights and falling, so, there's all of that together that makes me never want to be near a plane- EVER!

  • Reply Nicole December 6, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Damnit me! My impatience made me click the link before reading the warning…we're all gonna die.

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