Recently, Caz from yTravelBlog wrote a great post about what goes through her head while flying. It really hit home for me because I often feel like I am having completely irrational thoughts while I’m flying, despite the fact that I’ve been on more long-haul flights than I can easily count. Of those, I’ve only had a few trips where I have been honestly terrified of being on the plane — and that was right after the crash of TWA Flight 800. When it happened, we were in England and my mother thought it was unreasonable to stay there indefinitely because my brother and I didn’t want to fly home; that trip and a few following it were pretty harrowing for my mother, who is a nervous flyer herself, because my brother and I were basketcases. Since then, though, I’ve been a pretty calm flyer, but as I’m gazing out the window at the wild blue yonder, I still find myself thinking things like:
Why didn’t I book my flight for yesterday? I think this on every single trip I ever take, whether it’s a one hour flight to Sydney or the 7.5 hour + 13 hour flight to England that I am sitting on as I write this post. We start our descent (the only part of flying I really don’t like), and I think If only you’d flown yesterday the plane definitely would have landed safely. I’ve moved into a position that seems comfortable until the right side of my body goes numb, and I think If you’d flown yesterday you’d be comfortably at (insert destination here). Of course, it isn’t actually possible to have always flown yesterday. If only it was, because then it would just be a memory rather than something to sit through for hours on end!
Do the engineers really know what they are doing? (Insert part of plane here) really shouldn’t be clunking like that. I know that the airlines I fly on from Australia have excellent engineers, even if they sometimes strike and cause Qantas trouble. I know damn well that they wouldn’t let the plane take off if something was clunking that shouldn’t be prior to takeoff, but it still puts the wind up me every time there’s a strange sound that I didn’t expect.
If I just move into (describe cramped position of body here) I’ll just be comfortable and get some sleep. Forget it. I’m never going to sleep for more than an hour at a time (unless I’m on an Air New Zealand business class lie-flat bed)! There’s no point trying to find a comfortable position. There isn’t one, and it’s likely that the new one will just hurt more. I am not Gumby.
It was probably reasonable to be somewhat afraid of this airplane.
Ahh! Turbulence! I hate turbulence. I don’t really know anyone that likes turbulence, but it really winds me up. I know that turbulence doesn’t bring down planes, but I don’t care. I’m 35,000 feet up in the sky and I don’t want to bounce around like I’m on a roller coaster, I don’t want to hear the engines straining, I don’t want to think about what would happen if the clouds turn out to be an unexpectedly bad storm. I usually can’t even concentrate on reading, much less trying to sleep while going through turbulence — I just sit there and grip the armrests until it fades away. I think the only time I liked turbulence was when we were flying over the Sierra Nevadas when my brother was 6 and the plane suddenly dropped a fair distance. That in itself was terrifying, but it was hilarious that my brother was convinced that his electronic device had caused it and refused to touch his GameBoy for the rest of the trip.
Here we go…Geez, there’s a plane right there! Blame this one on living in Texas and growing up listening to Bill Engvall (one of the comedians on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour). One of his standup routines I’ll always remember is one about planes, and I think about it every time the engines rev up to take off.
“And then in Los Angeles, a jet had to abort its takeoff because another plane pulled in front of it. How big is a jet? Like a small motel, it’s not like a squirrel darted out in front of this jet. What was this guy thinking, like ‘here we go, GEEZ, THERE’S A PLANE RIGHT THERE!’ Whew, he was hiding behind that shrub, didn’t even see him there!”
Do surface-to-air missiles reach 35,000 feet? This was a question I asked James a few years ago on my first trip from Australia to England. I was surprised that we were flying over Afghanistan rather than diverting around it, but apparently that’s just the standard flight path. I was mostly joking when asking this, but why was I even thinking it in the first place?
But if I’m in the back of the plane and it crashes on the Island, I’ll get eaten by the Others. Yes, this thought has crossed my mind while flying (usually when waiting in line for a toilet at the back of the plane) because I obsessively watched Lost for all six seasons. Only the people in the middle of the plane survived both the crash and the Others, and if I had a choice, I’d really prefer to just die quickly and be put out of my misery than be slowly killed off by a group of insane people on a tropical island.
I know most of these are silly rather than being paralysing fears but it would be easier if I didn’t think them at all, since it would mean that I wouldn’t have that little nagging thought in the back of my head saying “what if” for the whole flight. However, since I never plan on getting my pilot’s license, there will always be a loss of control when I get in an aircraft, and I think that in itself guarantees that there will always be nagging, insensible questions in my mind that just never get answered.
I'm Kristin, a Texan born to an American father and English mother. I've been living in Australia since 2008. My first plane flight was when I was three weeks old and I've been hooked ever since. I never feel quite right unless I have a plane ticket (to anywhere, whether it's Sydney or Sweden) booked in my name. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.
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I'm Kristin, a Texan born to an American father and English mother. I've been living in Australia since 2008. My first plane flight was when I was three weeks old and I've been hooked ever since. I never feel quite right unless I have a plane ticket (to anywhere, whether it's Sydney or Sweden) booked in my name!