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Headed for a cruise...
How Will You Handle Flying Now?
by Captain Stacey Chance
Captain Stacey Chance

Capt. Stacey Chance in the cockpit

If you have an upcoming flight, how will you deal with your jitters? Below are ten valuable tips compiled by Captain Stacey Chance, developer of the free online Fear of Flying Help Course (which you will find at and author of the new fear of flying book, Wings of Discovery.

1. Turbulence may feel uncomfortable, but it is normal.
People often misunderstand turbulence. When encountering turbulence nervous passengers feel that the plane is "falling" out of the sky. It is natural for them to only feel the "down" bumps, but for every "down" there is an "up" bump. The "downs" are just more easily noticed. Next time you are driving on a bumpy road imagine you are a passenger on a plane and how you would consider it to be "bad" turbulence. Now take a look at the road. How big are the bumps on the roadway to create the rough ride? The air is usually very smooth, but sometimes small ripples can make it feel like "bad" turbulence.

2. The plane is strong, stable, reliable, and well maintained.
The FAA mandates that modern jet aircraft are designed and built with large safety margins. All aircraft and their equipment are built from FAA approved designs and manufactured under FAA approved systems. Coming out of the factory the planes are thoroughly flight tested before certification by the FAA. Structurally these aircraft can withstand many times the stresses and forces which can be imposed upon them in flight.

3. Trust the well trained and experienced crew.
When you board the plane mention to the flight attendants that sometimes you get a little nervous about flying, and ask if you may visit with the pilots. This is very important. The pilots are normally happy to have visitors. You might be surprised at how receptive the pilots will be. Ask questions and mention your nervousness, they will understand and reassure you. The pilot's confidence is contagious. Now you have a friend up front who knows and cares about you! But remember, visits to the cockpit can ONLY be made on the ground, not during taxi or in flight.

4. What makes a plane fly?
Basically, wings and some speed through the air is all that is required to make a plane fly. Airplanes travel through the air, a fluid, just like swimming or surfing. Air is similar to water. Air is just a little thinner than water, but it is still a significant mass. In fact, at this moment you are experiencing about 15 pounds per square inch of pressure from our atmosphere. You don't notice it because it has always been there and it acts on your body equally from every direction. Many people have a hard time believing that something as big as a jet can stay up in the air. Have you ever stuck your hand out of the car window at 60 mph? Now multiply the force your hand feels times five (Actually, the force increases with the square of velocity, so it would be even greater!). That is the force your hand would feel flying at the speed of a jetliner! The faster you go the thicker the air feels. To the plane it feels like a thick watery fluid capable of substantial support. Remember, airplanes are MEANT to be in the air, that’s where they’re the happiest!

5. Flying is routine, here's proof.
Many people take comfort in going to the local airport to watch planes takeoff and land. After a while you begin to see that flying is routine. Others like to study the ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE monitors in the airport terminal to see just how many flights operate safely. Did you know that worldwide nearly 3 million passengers fly every day?

6. Positive Thinking.
Always try to keep your thoughts in the present. Keep your thoughts positive. When you catch yourself thinking negatively stop and concentrate on the positive. Many people dwell on what might happen instead of what is happening. It can be easy to play a "disaster movie" in your mind and you are the in the starring role! When you catch yourself starting the production of one of these imaginary "disaster movies" turn off the projector. Try to occupy your mind with something more constructive. Read, do a puzzle, strike up a conversation.

7. Tense Your Muscles.
Be aware of your body. When you feel muscles that are tense or tight, you can relax them. Instead of fighting the tightness, show your muscles whose boss! You tense your muscles! You take control! Go ahead and tighten your stomach muscles or your leg muscles, then pause and let go. You will be surprised at how your muscles feel warm and relaxed, and you once again feel in control.

8. Overactive Imagination.
Quite often people who have a fear of flying also have a strong or overactive imagination. For example, they might hear an unfamiliar noise during the flight and begin imagining what might be wrong with the plane to cause this noise. Or, they may believe in "signs" or "premonitions" that their plane will crash. For example, they might have a dream or hear a song on the radio about a plane crash. Odds are you are not psychic! Remind yourself of this fact, and focus on reality.

9. How to deal with nervous feelings.
When you feel afraid your breathing quickens and your heart races. To calm yourself first push your stomach outward. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Try to fill your lungs from the bottom up. Pause and then exhale slowly whispering the word “relax”. Do this a couple of times and you'll feel much better. Practice your controlled breathing whenever you can. Try it whenever you feel tense. Slow, deep breathing is the easiest and most effective method for calming yourself.

10. Even if you feel panicky, it cannot hurt you or cause you to lose control.
Remember that fear is a normal reaction to a perceived threat. Once you learn the threat really isn't dangerous, the fear naturally goes away. Fear itself is not harmful, it is meant to protect us. Fear acts as our defense mechanism. It prepares us to fight or flee. A panic attack will not make you have a heart attack, faint, or lose control.

"It looks like a wartime evacuation" by Doug Lindsey. The story of cruise passengers Doug & Sherry who found their US Airways flight diverted to Halifax. Remembering 9/11/01 and what it was like to be en route to the United States from Europe that day, they were In Flight from Amsterdam on September 11th 

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