Feature Archive

Conquer Your Fear of Flying -- for Good

Is your fear of flying keeping you grounded? Experts have tips to make flying the friendly skies less scary.

By Carol Sorgen
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Are you anxious about getting on a plane these days? You're not alone but, say both mental health and aviation experts, a little knowledge will go a long way towards calming those fears of flying.

With Sept. 11 images etched in our memories, travelers have terrorists on their minds, says David G. Myers, PhD, a social psychologist at Hope College in Holland, Mich., and author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. "I'm going Greyhound rather than fly to California," Myers' cousin told him. "Al Qaeda's not so likely to target a bus." Others, also fearing the worst, says Myers, elect to drive rather than fly.

But these fears are often out of sync with the facts, Myers says, pointing out that the National Safety Council reports that in the last half of the 1990s, Americans were, mile for mile, 37 times more likely to die in a vehicle crash than on a commercial flight. In 2001, Myers calculated that if -- because of Sept. 11 -- we flew 20% less, and instead drove half those unflown miles, about 800 more people would die in traffic accidents in the next year. In fact, says Myers, a German psychologist by the name of Gerd Gigerenzer did indeed find that in the last three months of 2001, there were 350 more U.S. traffic fatalities than the average for those months in the previous five years.