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How to Cope with a Fear of Flying

Are you scared to death every time you step on a plane? There are things you can do to reduce your anxiety that don’t involve Valium or a pitcher of Margaritas.


  • Step 1: Familiarize yourself with airplane safety Familiarize yourself with airplane safety measures. Commercial airliners have more than one back-up system for every piece of equipment that could fail, and they receive 12 hours of maintenance on the ground for every hour spent in the air.
  • Step 2: Sit over the wing Request a seat over the wing. The ride is smoothest and most quiet there.
  • Step 3: Bring diversions Bring aboard as many diversions as you can think of—an engaging book, puzzles, good music, a stack of magazines, a variety of snacks, a DVD player. You want your mind so occupied that you won’t notice every in-flight hiccup.
  • TIP: If you run out of things to do, talk to the person next to you.
  • Step 4: Alert the flight attendant Tell the flight attendant that you’re a nervous flyer as soon as you board. He or she will take the time to reassure you about any odd sounds or sensations.
  • TIP: Fight the urge to use sedatives on a flight. They double your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal blood clot, and the threat lasts for four weeks.
  • Step 5: Dismiss turbulence Stop panicking that the plane is going down every time you hit a little bump. Airliners are designed to withstand more turbulence that Mother Nature is capable of creating. In fact, turbulence has never taken down a commercial airliner.
  • Step 6: Meditate Take some deep breaths whenever your morbid imagination begins to trump your common sense: Inhale slowly through your nose as your stomach expands, then exhale gently.
  • TIP: For an instant tension releaser, do the Ten-Second Grip—squeeze your armrests as hard as you can while tensing your stomach and leg muscles. Hold for ten seconds and release. Repeat until you’re calm.
  • Step 7: Reassure yourself Reassure yourself that the pilots are well equipped to deal with any situation—their training is comparable in time and intensity to that of a medical doctor. Air traffic controllers undergo rigorous instruction, too.
  • Step 8: Repeat this mantra If all else fails, repeat this mantra: 'My chance of being in a plane crash this year is about 11 million to one.' It’s far, far safer than driving!
  • FACT: Passengers sitting at the back of a plane are 40% more likely to survive a crash than those sitting in the front. Take that, First Class.

You Will Need

  • Knowledge of airplane maintenance
  • A seat over the wing
  • Pleasant diversions
  • Breathing exercises
  • A quick tension-relieving trick

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