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The Truth About Airplane Safety – Is Your Fear of Flying Justified?

Are you a bit jittery about flying? Not convinced that airplanes are all that safe? If so, you’re not alone. Lots of people worldwide are afraid to fly.

Many fearful fliers are willing to choke down their fears and board a plane when they absolutely must, enduring the torment of nerve-jangling anxieties from takeoff to landing – and suffering mounting dread for days or weeks as the flight draws ever closer.

Others just simply refuse to fly, no matter the personal cost. Whether flying for business or for fun, jeopardized careers or strained relationships with friends and family may result from missing out on the advantages of flying. But whatever the pain of staying ground bound, it’s not enough to get this group on a plane.

Are You in One of These Groups?

If you’re a fearful flyer – whether you’re in the grit-your-teeth-and-get-on-the-plane group, or the ain’t-no-way-no-how group – you might be thinking that you’ve got plenty of reason to be afraid. After all, anytime there’s an airplane accident it’s reported front and center on the news. When it happens, you’re sure to hear about it, fueling your fear of flying even more.

Consider the first several years of this century. In just that relatively brief time period, you’ve been scared out of your wits about flying from hearing news coverage about incidents such as these:

  • February 2009, Continental Connection flight 3407 crashed on approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in New York. 50 people were killed.
  • August 2006, Comair flight 5191 crashed during takeoff from Blue Grass Airport in Kentucky. 49 people were killed.
  • October 2004, Corporate Airlines flight 5966 crashed on approach to Kirksville Regional Airport in Missouri. 13 people were killed.
  • January 2003, Air Midwest flight 5481 crashed soon after takeoff from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. 21 people were killed.
  • November 2001, American Airlines flight 587 crashed shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. 265 people were killed.

These accidents all occurred in the United States, and of course additional accidents occurred in other parts of the world during this time period.

If you happen to be afraid of flying, you might be thinking, “There, you see? That’s why I don’t want to get on an airplane!” So if you’re avoiding flying because you feel it’s not perfectly safe, you’re absolutely right – flying isn’t ‘perfectly’ safe.

Oh, and here are some other activities that you’ll want to avoid because they’re even more dangerous – statistically speaking – than taking an airline flight:

  • Taking a shower
  • Going outdoors (because you might die from a bee sting)
  • Going outdoors (because you might die from a lightning strike)
  • Going outdoors (because you might die of skin cancer from solar radiation)
  • Staying indoors (because you might die of lung cancer from indoor pollutants such as radon and toxic mold)
  • Riding in a car (or just about any other type of wheeled vehicle)
  • Eating (because you might die from food poisoning)
  • Not eating (for obvious reasons!)
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Using any product imported from China (just kidding… sort of)

Yes, I’ll admit this list is a bit facetious. But each of these activities is statistically more dangerous than taking an airline flight (except for the last one… maybe). And the obvious point is that there are many, many activities you engage in on a regular basis that are far more dangerous than flying.

Airline travel is continuously becoming safer, but recent statistics show that 1 fatal accident occurs for roughly every 8 million flights of U.S. major air carriers. Put another way, you’d have to take one flight per day, every day, for more than 21,000 years before you’d be statistically likely to die in a plane crash.

Pretty good odds!

But it’s Really Not About the Numbers, is it?

If you’re afraid to fly, does reading the above help? I’d be willing to bet not. That’s because the fears and phobias that we all fall victim to are very rarely justified by facts, figures and logic.

I happen to know someone who suffers from a phobic fear of snakes. But she’s seen a snake in nature maybe 3 or 4 times in her entire life. And on each of those very rare occasions you can be sure the snake was far more freaked out than she was, terrified and just simply wanting to get away from the screaming, berserk human as quickly as possible. This person’s extreme fear of snakes is illogical and unjustified, but that doesn’t matter. She feels what she feels.

And if you suffer from a fear of flying phobia, I’m willing to guess that you’re not much different from my snake-fearing friend – except that getting on an airplane is your snake. You probably know that your fear is unreasonable and unjustified, but that doesn’t really change things, does it? It doesn’t change how you feel.

But if your fear of flying is impacting your life, you should know that you can change that. Many people have. And it’s not simply about learning facts, figures and statistics about flying. It’s nothing as trivial and unrealistic as reading an article that tells you how safe flying is, instantly dashing your fears.

It’s about grabbing your fears at the roots and weeding them out one by one, just as you’d weed a garden. It’s about learning to change your feelings rather than trying to ignore them. That’s how you can rid yourself of your fear of flying.

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