Flying is very much a hassle for a lot of people. A convenient way to travel, yes, but in the wake of stories such as the disappearance Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 and the recent downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, it can be an unsettling way to spend your time.
But fear not, because flying is actually the safest method of transportation, as the chart below indicates.
Yet for some, statistics still won’t quell the nerves. Remember legendary Arsenal striker Dennis Bergkamp? He suffered a bad case of aviophobia after an engine cut out mid-flight when he was flying with the Netherlands national team at the 1994 World Cup, and it resulted in him missing some European away and international games over the course of his career.
It happens to the best of us.
But there are some things you can do to take the edge off flight-related nerves. Here are five of the best.
1) Take some reading, listening or watching material
This can be a great way to pass the time when both waiting around at the airport and eating into those hours and minutes spent in transit.
Whether you want to take a book, newspaper or magazine, download music or podcasts to your music player or phone or take television episodes and movies on a device with you, they are all good ways to take your mind off of the daunting task of flying.
2) Grab a window seat
Turbulence is one of my least favourite things. The sensation of falling is not one I particularly enjoy, but I have found that sitting by the window can lessen the sensation and make you feel more at ease, because you can actually visualise the movements of the plane in relation to whatever's beneath.
Plus, you’ll always get the good views, if, of course, there are any. Such as I had on a night flight back from Cyprus in the summer when we flew over the moonlit Alps.
Make sure to check-in online as soon as it opens to ensure you can get a seat next to a window. You can pay up front to secure a seat of your choosing, but it’s a frivolous cost and can be made redundant with a bit of organisation and forward planning.
3) Play a flight simulator and read up on aviation
Playing a flight simulator if you have aviophobia (the fear of flying) probably won’t settle your stomach. But it is a surprisingly good way to learn more about flying and how aeroplanes work.
If you can’t afford, or don’t want to lay out a load of cash for one of the games in Microsoft’s popular Flight Simulator series, then a limited version of Extreme Landings is available on both the Apple App Store and on Android. The full game costs only £3.99, and it will take you through the procedures for take-off, landing and everything in between.
After using a flight simulator, you’ll be able to differ between the opening of wing flaps and the opening of the landing gear, as well as learn about different uses of the throttle and how the pilots operate during an emergency.
Anything you’re unsure of you can use that little known information portal called the internet, and any unusual sounds you hear on board a flight, you’ll now be able to identify and be familiar with.
4) Think of the flight attendants
You may be scared for your two hour flight to Spain, but don’t forget that there are a whole crew on board your flight, and they’ll be doing it several times this week because it’s their job to do so.
Flight attendants are as in control of the flight as the passengers are, and if the risks were anywhere near as bad as your adrenaline system may lead you to believe then they probably wouldn’t have taken that particular career path.
As a cardinal rule, I’ll glance over at them every so often. If they look calm and collected then I know there’s nothing at all to worry about.
5) Accept that if anything happens, it happens
This may not sound like the most comforting message, but chances are if anything does go wrong over the course of the flight, chances are there is very little you can do about it.
Don’t forget, though, that pilots are extremely skilled and have put hours and hours of work and practice in before getting to where they are. Some have even undergone unorthodox training regimes, such as landing aeroplanes on the side of mountains in order to reach remote communities (see video below).
They’re also fully trained for virtually all eventualities, so if something does go wrong there’s a fair chance that there are procedures in place for them to follow to ensure passenger safety.