The last time I set foot onboard a commercial airplane was more than 14 years ago. Literally seconds before takeoff (we were starting to move forward on the runway) the airplane lost all power and completely shut down and, had it not been for a short delay, I have every reason to believe that would have happened while we were flying over Lake Michigan.
I did eventually make it home safely. But, after the experience, I have had a pretty strong fear of flying and of airplanes in general and, as a result, I have chosen to avoid flying. For the most part, this hasn’t been that big of a deal. However, my family really wants to visit the United Kingdom in the near future and my flying fear would make that difficult.
This is why, when our local airport held a business after hours event that included a $20 ride on a charter airplane (something my boss paid for), I decided to face my fear head on. And, while I haven’t completely gotten over my fear of flying, I did learn three things that will help me if and when I board another commercial airplane.
First, charter planes are surprisingly noisy. Well, at least the one we flew on was. But, this actually proved to be a good thing because the engines drowned out the little rattles and pings I might have heard (or imagined hearing) otherwise.
As a result, I’ve already decided to make sure to listen to music the next time I do take a commercial flight, as a way to prevent myself from hearing noises (real or imagined) that would make me feel uncomfortable.
Second, I found it’s best not to look out the window. I’m not exactly sure why, considering I’m not crazy about heights either, but I always made sure to sit by the window during my past commercial flights. I didn’t have a choice on the smaller charter plane but, after glancing down to see my house, I closed the window shade and I found I was much more comfortable as a result. This was mostly because, without that visual proof we were in the air, it wasn’t much different than riding in a car or train.
Last, I discovered it’s much easier when you’re traveling with someone you know. I stopped flying before I met my wife and, because of that, we had never been on a plane together. She was, however, with me on the charter plane and that did make a difference, partly because I had her hand to hold when I got anxious and because having a conversation with her made the flight seem shorter. That does give me a little extra confidence for the next time because I know she (and probably the kids) will be traveling with me too.
As I said before, I’m not completely over my fear of flying and it might still take a little time and maybe even some tranquilizers before I’m ready to board a commercial airplane again. However, the things I learned from this short charter flight will definitely help.