Fear of Crashing

airplaneI am afraid to fly.

I am afraid to fly for reasons. Bad things happen to some airplanes and the people in them, though from a probability standpoint, those bad things aren’t very likely. Flying, is, in fact, the safest form of mass transportation.

I’ll tell myself that when I get on the airplane later this week, and hope it lands safely in Edinburgh. My fears aren’t irrational, though. This is not a fear that a ten-foot shape shifting alligator will crawl out of my potty pipes when I’m engrossed in Kirsten Callihan’s Soulbound.  (Writer’s imagination strikes again!)

Crockodile-Clipart_3The t-word aside (please don’t anybody say it or write it), pilots make mistakes. Malcolm Gladwell has a lovely essay on this topic, about how something as hard to see as cultural deference norms can bring down a plane, because the co-pilot won’t sass the pilot. A long time ago, I dated a guy who worked for the National Transportation Safety Board. He was afraid to fly, too.

Seems that many aircraft maintenance schedules were developed on the assumption that planes would fly mostly at 80 percent capacity. Nearly every flight is 100 percent full these

steamertrunksdays and has been for years, but the maintenance schedules haven’t been updated. Never say that major corporations would put profit for the shareholders and CEOs above the safety of employees and passengers.

 I’m scared, and when I’m scared I’m more likely to be snarky and mistrustful. I do realize, though, that part of my fear is not about the airplane, whose physics I understand well enough. Part of my fear is because in other situations–as a

sir richardvery young child, as a single woman, as an employee, as a student in the compulsory education system, as an employer–I’ve put my fate into other people’s hands and It Has Not Gone Well.

So when I pack for Scotland, I’ll be tempted to bring along those old fears. Might not have room for them, though, if I’m to bring Sir Richard and enough clean socks. Sir Richard will help me keep those fears at bay, as will the example of every romance hero and heroine I’ve ever read.

Often, to find our heart’s desire, we have to walk through fear, and usually our courage is rewarded or at least not penalized. We can live safe, earthbound lives, and for the most part, I’m hacastleppy doing that. But every once in a while, it’s good to soar… and land safely.

What are you afraid of? How do you cope when you can’t avoid it? To one commenter, I”ll send a set of my MacGregor Scottish Victorians on audio book–so you can listen to them on the plane.


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38 comments on “Fear of Crashing

  1. I have only flown once, but it was enough for me so I can imagine how you are feeling.
    Right now, I can honestly say that I have a fear of bugs. I think the worst are the roaches, centipedes and jumping spiders. I used to have my husband kill the creepy crawlies, but I am divorced and it’s up to me. I will spray the heck out of the bug and then smash it with a shoe while trying to run the other way. HAHA!!! I have gotten better though, sorta.

    • I don’t think I’ll ever convince my daughter to live in the high desert. She saw some of the centipedes in northern New Mexico and nearly had to be medicated before she’d sleep.

      And that was at NICE hotel.

  2. I’m not a frequent flier. I fly on an average of once every 5-10 years. My last transatlantic flight was almost 50 years ago. I slept most of the way. Maybe you’ll be as lucky.

    What I have noticed as an un-frequent flier is how increasing unpleasant the experience has become. You are crammed onto this flying tube with God knows how many other people – packed in like sardines. Impossible to stretch your legs out. If the person in front of you reclines, their head is literally in your lap – eewh! The only good thing I can say is that it is still the quickest way to get from here to there.

    Any Julia Quinn book is a good choice to take along with you. She is one of my favs too. I get her sense of humor. In one of her books she had me laughing and crying at the same time. That’s a good writer.

    • I get the extra leg room, and it’s still sardines. I also fly in and out of Edinburgh because the flights are less likely to be full.

      But it’s NOT a pleasant experience. At. All.

  3. I am afraid of mice. Hate ’em, hate ’em, hate ’em. The menfolk around here handle them if need be. But, in this mid-century house of mine, they lurk under the kitchen sink in the fall and winter. We’ve finally figured out how they are getting in. Our attached garage, depending on the weather, has a gap under the door and we’ve put strong rubber weather stripping along the bottom. Helped with the temp in the garage and almost NO MICE since we’ve done it.

    I am not afraid to fly in the big planes….I take a Dramamine and then don’t give a s***! But I did have a panic attack when we were in Alaska, on a puddle jumper flying into the Bush. With my three sons, who were all under the age of nine…..it was not a pretty site. My husband…and we were in Alaska because he was working at the Native American Health Center……gave me some whiskey before we got back on that bitsy, flimsy thing. I was liquored up and babbling but I didn’t panic. My solution for that fear is to never get on one of those suckers again!

    • Small aviation is not for me, either, and I do know the over-water aircraft are the ones they take the best care of. Quantas, for example, has never had a major air disaster. Knocks wood.

      • Grace, don’t know if you remember the movie, “Rainman.” But Quantas’ record was one of the statistics Raymond, the autistic main character, sited as the reason he wouldn’t fly to Vegas UNLESS it was on Quantas….so they drove across the country! As I have a son who has autism and that movie was the first time people talked about autism in my presence, Quantas is the airline I want to try someday 🙂

  4. Flying is not my favorite thing to do and thankfully, I don’t have to fly very often. I am definitely not as afraid of it as I used to be and maybe that’s because I am not as afraid of dying as I used to be.

    I’ve found as a mother a lot of my fears have had to be pushed aside or dealt with head on to show the boys that if mommy isn’t afraid then they shouldn’t be either. I’ve had to walk around a dark house, stay calm during awful thunderstorms, kill creepy crawly things, go on really scary Ferris Wheels and the list could go on. Although, I did call my mom a few weeks ago to take care of a bird that flew into the house. LOL.

      • A ship sinking terrifies me too. I think of the ferry in Korea that recently sank and all those 200+ kids that died because they couldn’t make it out. So, if an airplane goes into water, it’s worse! I have a flight within the next two weeks myself. I think I need to stop thinking about it…

  5. I Have a really big fear o snakes. I think the only good snake is a dead one. I don’t even like to see them on tv or in books.

    • I don’t mind them in their place, and know they have a job to do too. I’ll will move one off the road if they’re taking a sunbath where they’re likely to be killed. Or I’ll put great big rocks in front of them, so they don’t get driven over.

      Then I’ll get in my truck and drive the heck away.

  6. I have a fear of failure. I pride myself on doing a great job at work, keeping up with the housework and the yard and spending time with my family.

    I have not been able to put a title on a dog that I bred myself. Not attaining this goal bothered me. I have gone to classes, workshops and training seminars and have come close. About a year ago, my six year old corgi Celeste and I started training for a rally title and a tracking title. Celeste had a few difficulties–she would not “down” and she barked (a lot).

    Celeste finished her rally title this morning. I am so pleased!

    Even though I knew that Celeste could finish her title today…the old fears popped up.
    Would she bark ? (outside the ring-yes/inside the ring-no!)
    Would she heel or pull on the leash? Thankfully, she heeled.
    Would I remember the signs–yes!
    I took a deep breath and remembered that we could enter another trial and keep training. The world wouldn’t stop turning if we failed.

    I learned a lot about patience, facing my own fears and self confidence. And now, we are going to continue with tracking and Rally Advanced which is off leash!

    Enjoy your trip Grace & take lots of photos!

    • You must be so proud! Of yourself and of your girl! I love hearing how her “nose work” goes, and think she should be a fancy whisky evaluator.

      Best of luck with future goals, and if I had a tail, I’d wag it for you now.

  7. When I first started reading your post, I interpreted “fly” as “taking chances” as with sharing a WIP. Can you believe that you can almost read the entire post that way and it makes sense? I guess I’ll be sending out my WIP soon. Thanks for the motivation! And I’m afraid to fly in airplanes too. My husband bought tickets on Turkish Airlines to Malaysia from DC this past December 2014, and we flew practically over ISIS areas. We made it to Kuala Lumpur ok and back again, and I was petrified the entire flight both ways. Thank goodness you won’t need to fly over 24 hours like us! Enjoy your trip and have fun. Remember Meg Ryan in French Kiss. Watch that before your flight takes off!

    • Odd, how metaphors pop out at you like that, and that happens with my writing too. I’ll leave symbols around in the rough draft I didn’t realize were there until I’m on my third set of revisions.

      I admire your courage, and I’m glad you’re home safe. Really glad.

  8. Not a good post for me to read at the moment Grace. In a couple of months I will be embarking on a round the world holiday. First time in 30 years, flying within Australia, to UK, to USA, to Sth America, to Easter Island, to Tahiti, and back to Australia. 10 flights in all. For all that I am gradually getting very excitied because I love flying and travelling. So I hope YOU have a wonderful flight to Scotland and enjoy every minute of your time there. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the conversation. And enjoy life.

    • Jenny, your itinerary takes you over a lot of water, and those are the air craft maintained to the highest standards. Quantas, for example, who always flies over water, has never had a major air disaster.

      I know it’s not helpful to hear me fretting about air travel, so please recall it IS the safest form of mass transit. THE SAFEST, and the larger the air craft, the safer it is. You’ll be in the big birds, having the adventure of a life time. Keep a Journal!!!

  9. I had a fear of flying but for a very different reason. Last time I flew was 10 years ago and I was very overweight. My fear was that the seat would be too small. What happened was the seat belt was to small and couldn’t reach to click in. A traveling flight attendant saw me holding the belt on the side and whispered to me that they have extensions and brought me one. I admit that I was very embarrassed. I have since lost 100 pounds and look forward to my next plane trip. Scotland, here I come! Have a great trip.

    • Good for you, Sue, for traveling any way, and for getting the weight off. At a concert last night, I saw a gal who probably had to buy two seats, but my thought was, “Good for her. She needs the music as much as any of us, if not more.”

  10. Good luck on your flight, Grace. My heart goes out to you.

    I’m not scared of flying but my daughter is terrified. We dose her with Dramamine and try to keep her occupied especially during takeoff and landing. She was in Kindergarten on 9/11 and it left a mark on her.

    Me. I’m scared of snakes. I try to avoid them but if they are not venomous I leave them alone when I find them in the yard.

    • Our children are growing up in a scary world, but you’re right that the take off and landing are the scariest. Once you get upstairs, it’s all pretty routine, and the planes are built to take the turbulence. I must have repeated that to myself a hundred times on the way here…

      And I’ll repeat it a hundred more on the way home. And then when I fly over again in June…

      I think for people like me, who are fraidy cats about leaving home, it’s especially important to leave home any way. I hope your daughter’s fears abate soon, because just sitting home being scared doesn’t help.

  11. I used to be really afraid of flying. Now I’m only nervous a couple hours before take off and during heavy turbulence. I attribute the (partial) amelioration of my fear to 1) flying a lot and 2) making a point of getting to know the flight attendants (more feasible on long hauls). Their blasé attitude toward flying is contagious–plus I get extra cookies. Also, I try to avoid American carriers wherever possible. The extra bells and whistles on a Virgin Atlantic flight, for example, are so civilizing. I also upgrade whenever I can (world of difference between coach and business or first–comfort and fear have trouble coexisting).

    What really scares me is disappointing people. It’s something I should SO be over by now, but I hate to let anybody down. It’s crazy-making because, of course, pleasing everybody is impossible.

    • Interesting approach, Ona. I betcha this is part of why Uncle John flies first class every chance he gets.

      As for disappointing people, oh, geez. If a reader tells me a book let them down, it doesn’t matter how many glowing reviews the book has, I want to rewrite the whole thing for them.

  12. I too hate to fly, and my late husband worked for Boeing Aircraft. I am a control freak, and if I was in charge (No I do not know how to fly) I would feel a lot better about flying ! Silly, but thats how it is. Get you nose in Sir Richard’s secrets (they are awful) take a pill, or have some juice of the barley ! Maybe all of the above. Oh and my husband did not like to fly either.

  13. For 39 years I was afraid to drive. I don’t have a good reason, I just was just terrified, and my fear got worse each year. At age 39 I was tired of my own fear. I worked with a therapist, a young female Russian driver instructor, who was very tough, and a whole lot of girlfriends who cheered me along the way. It has greatly improved the quality of my life. I am still afraid to drive, I just do a lot of praying in the car.

    • That is a quite a success story, and I’m glad you slew the dragon. Especially in the US, not having wheels can be very isolating. In the UK, different story, but I couldn’t live where I do without good wheels (and 4WD sometimes).

      I used to like to drive, but the past few years… nah. I’ve turned into a stay home lady, and that’s not entirely a good thing. I will keep your example in mind next time I get a case of the “But I don’t wanna’s”.

  14. Pack warm! One trip to Scotland in March – It hailed on us! Snowed then rained… Was an interesting time… Have fun.. Oh yes, the fear – well a lot more than when I was much younger LOL>>>>>

    • So far, the weather here has been nicer than what’s at home, but soon I’ll head West. On Lewis, they were having tornadoes in January, and the wind never, ever stops… I have layers, and I have a credit card, and tomorrow is my first shopping day…. Wheee!

  15. I wouldn’t qualify myself as a frequent flyer, but certainly a few times a year, and I generally enjoy it (I’m short and can be shoehorned into coach without too much trauma, and I’ve learned to bring my own snacks). If I do have an anxious moment, I find music settles me – usually something with a beat or bass.

    However, one white-knuckle landing had even the military helicopter pilot beside me gripping the armrests, and in that event, the only thing that could calm me was the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5. It’s my Xanax.

    Hope you have an uneventful flight and a wonderful time in Scotland!

    • HMMM. When I went into labor, I had the Brandenburgs with me. That cheery little No. 3 in G major got me through DAYS of pains. Not sure what would work in flight, but you’ve given me something to think about.

  16. Hope you are there safe and sound, and that you had a lovely plane ride. one time was I was scared, as soon as I got on I started drinking wine! it helped.

  17. I’m a pilot (altho’ I can’t pass the physical at the moment) so you will laugh when I tell you I have a fear of heights and the huge 2-inch cockroaches we get in Florida. Pesticide and pre-flight go hand in hand for me.

    • I’ve never been much bothered by cockroaches. They don’t bite, they’re a lowly life form that’s been around a loooong time (the horseshoe crab of insects), and they’re quiet. I don’t LIKE them, but they don’t creep me out like… other stuff.

      I wonder how many other pilots don’t like heights? Never thought somebody who dislikes heights (which I’m OK with) would get into the cockpit with intent to soar.