Has getting over the fear of flying become a priority for you? Do you imagine that everything that could go wrong on a plane, will go wrong? Does your anxiety cause your heart to race uncontrollably before, during and after the flight? Do you fear flying to the point you avoid even getting on a plane?

If any of these are familiar to you, you’ve come to the right place. Most fear concerning flying is irrational—it is a set of fears based on events that will very likely never take place. This guide will addresses safety issues of the air transportation industry and help you begin approaching flying based on facts rather than unfounded fear. Here are five tactics to help you overcome the fear of flying:

Know the Facts About Airline Safety

Virtually all forms of flight anxiety come from three root fears:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Lack of trust in the airplane itself
  • Lack of trust in airline personnel (pilots, mechanics, air traffic control, etc.)

My aim is to shed some light on the unknown and share relevant information on the airline industry in general to help bring your level of anxiety down. It is important to note that the fear of flying is not a rational response to a legitimate danger.

It is a response based on irrational fear from within your brain.

As you learn the facts about airline safety, you will be able to replace irrational fears and anxiety with a calmer mindset based on facts about airline industry safety.

No one can truthfully say that air travel is completely risk-free, and that you will never have a bad experience on a plane. But it is the safest mode of transportation. Consider this quote from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website: 

Air travel is the safest mode of mass transportation. According to Dr. Arnold Barnett of MIT, based on the accident rate over the last few years, you would have to fly on average once a day every day for 22,000 years before you would perish in a U.S. commercial aviation accident. In 1998 there were more than 10 million departures and not one fatality aboard a commercial aircraft.

When I crunched the most recent data available from the National Transportation Safety Board and Bureau of Transportation Statistics, I saw that the numbers are even better: There was only a 1 in 20 million chance of being on a commercial flight between 2012 and 2016 that resulted in a fatal accident. Additionally, consider that of all traffic deaths, 96.2% were from automobiles. Trains were a distant second at 2%.

For more information on airline safety, see our plane crash statistics page.

A graphic of computers and planes flying across continents demonstrates airline safety measures

Airline Safety FAQ

Now we’ll take a look at common questions involving the fear of flying, along with the facts involved:

What is the Chance of Dying on a Flight?

There was a 1 in 3.37 billion chance of dying in a commercial airline plane crash between 2012-2016, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Isn’t a Car Safer?

Statistically speaking, a car is definitely not safer than an airplane. But to many, a car seems safer. A big part of this rationale goes back to the trust issue: In a car, you control your destiny and feel safer, while in a plane, you are not in control and experience more anxiety. This may be true—to an extent—but does it mean you are safer? Consider this: To obtain a pilot’s license, you need years of training. To obtain a driver’s license for yourself, you merely need to pass a basic written and driving test. Plus, as a driver, you cannot control what other drivers do. Other drivers often drive while intoxicated or are distracted by talking on the phone, texting or fiddling with the radio.

Pilots, on the other hand, are constantly monitored through radio during a flight, all the way through the landing. From 2002 to 2007, there were 109 deaths due to aircraft crashes according to the FAA. During the same time period, 196,724 people died in automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The FAA has estimated that flying is about 200 times safer than automobiles, which the previous statistics bear out.

How Do Airplanes Stay in the Air? Are They Really Safe?

Statistics reveal that 73% of anxious flyers are afraid of mechanical problems during flight. So an important part of getting over this fear is understanding how an aircraft works and learning to trust it.

There are four forces that work together to allow a plane to fly: gravity, drag, lift and thrust. I won’t get into the scientific explanations, but suffice it to say that the process allows planes to fly as naturally as it is for us to walk. As one pilot said it best, “planes are the happiest in the air.” Everything about a plane is designed to fulfill its purpose—to get its passengers and crew safely from one place to the other through the air.

Safety procedures includes repair and upkeep. Airlines engage in ongoing routine maintenance and overhaul planes as needed. For every hour that it flies, a modern airplane undergoes 11 hours of maintenance.

It may surprise you to know that jet engines are much simpler than those in automobile engines or even lawnmowers. This makes them much more durable and less likely to break down. And in the unlikely event that one of the engines fail? A plane is perfectly capable of running on one engine.

Is Turbulence Dangerous?

Turbulence is not dangerous. A bumpy ride on a plane tends to make those with flight anxiety even more nervous. But once you understand what causes it, you’ll understand why turbulence is common and not a cause for concern. You may have learned from weather reports that air pressure can fluctuate from one area to the next.

When a plane flies through an area of low pressure to high pressure (or vice versa), it causes a “bump” in the ride. These bumps aren’t dangerous, but pilots intentionally navigate away from strong turbulence to ensure the smoothest possible ride and the least anxiety for passengers. Another fact to keep in mind: Modern planes are designed to handle much more intensive turbulence than they would ever encounter. Note: I’ve noticed that many airlines, including Delta, Southwest and Spirit now use the term “rough air,” while United still uses “turbulence.”

Is it Safe to Fly During Thunderstorms?

It is perfectly safe to fly through thunderstorms — planes are equipped to withstand lightning strikes. But a lot of people have a particular fear of flying during thunderstorms and other inclement weather. The weather is always monitored before and during the flight time, and sophisticated weather radar in planes can detect storms from 160 miles away. If weather is too dangerous for flight, the flight will be delayed, or if you have already taken off, the pilot will fly around it or arrange a landing at an alternate airport.  In addition to thunder and lightning, rain also doesn’t affect a plane’s ability to fly.

Will the Plane Crash Into Another Plane?

A plane crashing into one another is highly unlikely. Airliners are always in contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC). ATC can track all planes’ movement by radar and ensure they maintain a safe distance from each other. Additionally, planes have Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) on board which lets them know to adjust their path as needed, so this is another concern that is largely unfounded.

Can the Plane Doors Come Open During the Flight?

No, plane doors will not come open during the flight. Once the aircraft is pressurized, there is nothing to be concerned about; it is impossible for the plane doors to be opened. At around 30,000 feet, there is 20,000 pounds of pressure holding them shut.

How Qualified Are Pilots? What Training Do They Receive?

Pilots are extremely qualified to safely operate aircraft. Airlines hire people who already know how to fly. These pilots come either from a military or civilian background and have already earned an air transport pilot (ATP) license and logged a minimum of 1,500 hours required as a prerequisite to applying at a major airline.

The training pilots get from airlines after hire focuses on learning to fly commercial airplanes and following Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines. Potential hires are thoroughly screened. They receive a battery of psychological tests to assess abilities and to ensure a stable personality. They must then prove their abilities in a simulator. A physical and health history is also obtained; the presence or family history of a serious condition will likely end an applicant’s candidacy for the job. At the end of the process, a panel of pilots will perform an in-depth interview of the candidate.

When pilots are hired, they are trained for a period of time—an average of two to three months—on aircraft systems as well as FAA and company policies and procedures. The pilot must pass computer generated tests and an oral exam given by an FAA representative or FAA-appointed representative.

Next, simulator training prepares the pilot for a wide variety of events—both routine and abnormal—that a pilot will encounter in the air. This training covers instrument gauges, computer systems and emergency procedures. The newly hired pilot must demonstrate proficiency in every aspect of the job to an FAA or FAA-approved instructor (also called “check airman”) before continuing training.

In the first 15-25 hours on the plane they are assigned a company check airman. New hire pilots begin as a “first officer” and are supervised by the captain, who is also in charge of the rest of the crew as well as the plane and its cargo.

First officers begin on a one year probationary time period. The captain submits an evaluation of a new pilot’s performance each month. If the ratings are satisfactory, the probationary status is removed. It may decrease your anxiety to know that both captains and first officers undergo regular and extensive continuing education. They are also rechecked for proficiencies—annually for first officers, every two years for captains.

Take an Online Course

An online fear of flying course is a convenient way to get specialized help. A number of multimedia courses are available with practical tips and meaningful insight on how to learn to trust the plane and its crew, to cope with anxieties surrounding your perceived lack of control and to calm your episodes of panic.

One of the cons of online courses is the lack of a personal touch—some prefer dealing with someone in person. The SOAR fear of flying program partially addresses this by offering online counseling directly with the founder, Tom Bunn, an airline Captain and Licensed Professional Counselor.

The pros are the relatively inexpensive cost compared to other therapies and the ability to immediately access materials by experts dedicated to people who are scared of flying. Click here for an overview of our top recommended courses.

See a Counselor

If you prefer in-person therapy, you can search for qualified clinicians in your area who specialize in treating patients with anxiety symptoms or disorders. The following is a breakdown of common mental health professionals and their qualifications:

  • A counselor or therapist hold a Master’s degree plus a particular license such as Licensed Professional Counselors or Licensed Clinical Social Workers. These type of therapists specialize in talk therapy.
  • A psychologist holds a Doctorate degree (Ph.D or Psy.D) in psychology. Psychologists also specialize in talk therapy but also perform functions such as psychological testing and research. A handful of states allow psychologists to prescribe medication.
  • Psychiatrists are physicians (or medical doctors—M.D’s) with a specialty in mental health. Many psychiatrists provide talk therapy. Many psychiatrists, however, focus more on medication management and leave the traditional hour talk therapy sessions to counselors, therapists and psychologists.

Download an App

Remember the early iPhone commercials touting, “There’s an app for that!”? In the case of flight anxiety, there’s an app for that. Several, in fact. Here are a few we like:

  • Soar App: Created by Tom Bunn as a an addition to the SOAR course (mentioned above) or as a standalone aid. Features a G-force meter, weather and turbulence information and on-demand videos for dealing with anxiety and panic.
  • Flying Calmly App: Supplies turbulence information along your flight so that you know what to expect.
  • Am I Going Down?: Input your flight information, and this app will calculate how likely the plane will crash. Seems dire, but given the minuscule chance of any flight going down, it is designed to inspire confidence in the safety of the flight

Apps are best for those with milder forms of anxiety, but can be a handy on-the-go resource. For additional apps and details, see our fear of flying apps page.

Join a Community

FlyerTalk is one of the top forums covering air travel tips and information—you can get information about any aspect of the flight, including hotels and destination info. But it is made up of mostly travel enthusiasts, not fearful flyers, so it doesn’t offer a lot of material focusing on travel anxiety. However, there are a few threads around the topic. Just go to the home page and use the search function to find what you’re looking for.

A forum that does cater to flight anxiety is the SOAR forum. It’s free to join and you can share stories, advice and tips with other people also working to get over the fear of flying.

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Showing 35 comments
  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Hi, I have flown almost every year for 7 years but I still get REALLY anxious. It’s mostly in the airport, and I calm down on the plane itself, but then I get really bad panic attacks at any strange noises.

  • Mark
    Reply

    I would just like to say that I am a bit baffled with the high percentage of fearful flyers (or therefore non-flyers).. why the U.S. airline industry hasn’t made much of any effort to provide help for this. I’ve read there are several programs in the U.K. for fearful flyers, run by the airlines that let groups of people go through a program that includes a final , real flight. I would jump at the chance of something like this, and I’m sure thousands of others would as well. I only know of maybe one or two the programs in the entire U.S. #sad

  • Donna
    Reply

    I don’t think it is quite accurate to say that fear of flying is “totally irrational.” I think it is completely rational. We are land bound animals, and not physically equipped to be 30,000 feet in the air. We can’t naturally fly like a bird, and we can’t even breathe at that height. An airplane is a manmade object that seemingly defies the laws of gravity, and must have air pumped into it to keep us alive at cruising altitude. Being in the air is an artificial environment for humans, and it is only natural that it causes us anxiety – or even fear. While all the other things you said are true, and are helpful to convince us that flying is mostly safe, it isn’t fair to imply that those of us with flying phobias have no basis for our fears.

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Thank you Donna for your comment.
      Our aim is to help people reduce their anxiety level regarding air travel.
      While Most fear concerning flying is “irrational” if you base it on factual data such as if person’s main fear is the door coming open during flight, but I certainly understand where you are coming from. And agree that it’s not natural for humans to fly but the same can be said of speeding 80 MPH down the highway, scuba diving, sky diving, or beneath the ocean in a submarine. All of these things would certainly create anxiety for some people.

      No one can say there is zero risk to flying, but the same also applies to all other modes of transportation.
      Eliminating anxiety completely when flying may not be possible every person but I think reducing it to manageable level should be attainable.

      Thanks and let us know if we can help in any way.

      Darrell

  • Vee Robillard
    Reply

    My problem is, while I understand air travel is safer than car travel, and statistics bear all that out LOGICALLY. My brain still thinks “yes, but there are NO fender benders at 38,000 feet.” We have to put ALL our trust in the people that get you from point A to F.

    We have to trust that our pilot will not have a ’cause’ for which to drive our plane into a mountain or ocean.
    We have to trust that the Air Traffic Controllers are on the ball with their systems and not distracted by Internet Porn (etc. LOL).
    We have to trust that John Q. WannaBe Flyer who just got his Cessna licence, knows to avoid airspace where commercial jets fly.
    We have to trust that our plane’s engines weren’t recently serviced by a union mechanic with a grudge on for management.
    We have to trust that our plane, even though it’s been the air for 30 years, is NOT ready to experience metal fatigue in one of the wing joints which will get me and a lot of other people on the 6 o’clock news, yet only make us a rare statistic.

    See where this is going? 🙂 The endless list of uncontrollable imagination.

    Flying over the Atlantic is a 26 year old 2 engine 767. Wish me luck.

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Hi Vee,

      So how did you flight over the Atlantic go?

  • Raquel
    Reply

    Hello!!
    I feel extremately anxious and I get really scared anytime I have to fly! I am a frequent international flyier because I live abord.

    Right now, i have a bjg issue flying with low cost airlines. Are low cost airline less safer than the other airlines??

    Also, my anxiety levels rise when I have to flight overnight!!

    Any advice??
    Thank you so much,
    Raquel

  • Ranj Egan
    Reply

    Hi thanks to Darrell for all his positive comments…am off to Corfu next week and was hopelessly scared, scoured the internet for helpful advice…one course said. whenever do you take a ride without a bump on the road that makes you wobble a bit. or a train ride, are you concerned. No I am not! a plane is a very sturdy piece of machinery designed to do that job. Trust someone else to do the job for a change!

  • Polly
    Reply

    my biggest fear is hight. How can I overcome that

  • Polly
    Reply

    my biggest fear is hight. How can I overcome that

  • Sangeeta Gupta
    Reply

    I want to know how the pilots fly at night and my main fear is the turbulence.

  • Karen preston
    Reply

    Hi my husband and I have been flying to Spain and greece for the last 17 years he he used to be ok with flying, the last 3 years have been really difficult for him, it starts at the airport he watches for any dodgy looking people that our boarding our flight, when on board he shakes has terrible sweats and if he could would get off the plane, would appreciate any help

  • Alicia
    Reply

    Hi I’m flying at the end of the week from the uk to Florida so it’s quite a long flight I have a fear of terrorist and a repeat of 9/11 how can I feel more safe about terror? Also you said that if an engine breaks that the plane can fly on one what happens if they both brake?

  • Kieran
    Reply

    Hello I have a fear of flying and it upset a lot of my life ..I even missed holidays with my kids …I missed the chance to travel for my work ..even the taught of it makes me panic ..is there any hope that I will fly again !!Kieran

  • RENAY
    Reply

    I HAVE A FEAR OF HEIGHTS PERIOD BUT FLYING IS ON MY BUCKET LIST OF THINGS TO DO IVE NEVER RIDEN IN A PLANE AND IM EVEN SCARED OF DRIVING OVER BRIDGES AND EXPRESSWAYS THATS HIGH ,SO HOW DO I JUST IN AND GET ON A PLANE AND IF I HAD A FEW DRINKS BEFORE I GOT ON WOULD THAT HELP ????

  • mimi
    Reply

    I have a mobid fear of flying. My fear stem from the fact that i have no control when the plannis up therw. I’ve flown a couple of time buy getting better with each trip.

  • Elizabeth
    Reply

    I am happy to have come across your website. I have been traveling on airplanes since I was 6 months old. I have always enjoyed traveling. After I had children, I developed a fear of flying and to this day, I start to get nervous as soon as I click purchase ticket! I am scheduled to fly from NYC to Florida tomorrow morning and my question is how do airplanes manage in the bitter cold? We are currently under a major arctic blast in NYC and it is supposed to be brutally cold in the morning. Does the extreme cold affect a plane? During take-off, in the air, etc? This is a trip I’ve been trying to take since last month and have rescheduled 3 times. I am thisclose to canceling again and am considering Amtrak. Thank you.

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Hi Elizabeth. To answer your question, yes, cold weather does affect airplanes. However, you’ll be happy to know that flying in cold weather is quite safe. Airlines have procedures to follow when operating flights during cold weather. This includes deicing the plane, using certain materials that help keep snow, frost and slush from accumulating on the plane during winter conditions and performing special winter maintenance procedures.

      If weather conditions are to the point that flying is unsafe, the flight will be delayed or cancelled. I have personally flown many times during extreme Minnesota winter conditions, and have never experienced any problems other than waiting a few extra minutes for the plane to be deiced. It’s up to you which transportation method you take, but I hope this helps your decision.

      – Darrell Davis

  • Loving mother2013
    Reply

    Dear Darrell Davis,

    I have a graduation next year September the 20th and i have never flied before in an airplane but i have seen movies with scary things happen and that’s what made me fear of flying like snakes on a plane final destination those movies and ever since then i won’t fly in a airplane but my sister she flown before and she said that it was fun. ANd my cousin her first time flying she said it was ok it was scary and that was her first time flying and she told me once u do it that it is all good afterwards please help how i will over come of first time rider or flyer on an airplane my graduation is in Florida please help. Thank you

  • Diana
    Reply

    Hi, i have different kind of fears about flying. It`s like i`m afraid that something will happen with me while flying, like getting too high blood pressure, or panic attacks, or something like that. It`s always about health issues, even tho i don’t really have them. What you could suggest me, how to overcome this fear? because i`ll have to fly abroad in a month, but i`m already stressed out.

  • zeenadine
    Reply

    Hi .

    I was never worried or had fear to fly until sometime back last 7 years back started a fear to fly and specially during turbuelence.

    Have a fear that plan will just fall into the sea and i will be drowned .

    always worried through out journey .

    never had this since childhood but only got it for last 6 years .

    I watch a lot of air crash investigation on nat geo doesnt help me either

  • G
    Reply

    Hi there wondering if you can offer me some advice. I have developed a massive fear of flying over the last 10 or so years. I have flown several times before (admittedly not for 3 or so years due to f of f ) however I am now unable to fly. I am a 30+ male and I have attended a fear of flying course a few years back and enjoyed the flight however I am now unable to even consider flying without losing appetite / vomiting and becoming completely obsessed by the thought of flying even before we have booked anything. It’s got to the point where I am now on anti ds as I can’t handle the places that it makes me go. Can you suggest any possible therapies (I am going to discuss with my doctor) but just wondered if you could offer any advice. I want to overcome this for work and personal reasons but not sure how best to approach it.

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Hey G, the good news is that you addressed your fear before and was able to overcome it. It’s not uncommon for a fear to resurface, but if you conquered it once you can do it again!

      Like I’ve mentioned to several others, I think the SOAR program is the best option for people that need a bit more intensive help. Tom Bunn is the President of SOAR. He is an airline Captain and a licensed therapist, so he naturally specializes in helping people overcome their fear of flying. The SOAR program is a proven solution–it was established in 1982–on its own, but Captain Tom is available for personal counseling as well.

      I have spoken to Captain Tom and I know he is passionate about helping people just like you. Click here to visit the SOAR website. From here, you can take advantage of several no-cost resources (such as free group phone counseling on Wednesdays) or look at the paid programs or counseling. Compared to traditional therapy, it is very cost effective.

      Good luck! I hope you will soon be able to enjoy a flight again.

  • Nadir
    Reply

    Hello,
    My name’s Nadir and I’m 20 years old. I made my mind to enroll in a flight school in Spain next March, but before doing so, I need to seek your advice first, sir.
    My problem is that I have an abnormal fear when I travel by plane, I can’t feel safe anymore, I always imagine that the Aircraft will fall ! Can I really get over my fear of flying and become a successful pilot as I wished, or the domaine of aviation is not for me ? Your help would be greatly appreciated.
    Best,
    Nadir

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Hi Nadir, I don’t know you well enough to advise you on your career choice, but I personally believe in following my dreams! And whether or not you decide to pursue aviation,I imagine that you will want to conquer your fear of flying. I would suggest you check out the SOAR program. The President is Tom Bunn, an airline Captain and licensed therapist specializing in dealing with the fear of flying. Since he is a pilot AND a licensed counselor, he is well-equipped to work with people regarding flight anxiety.

      SOAR offers a number of free resources along with counseling with Captain Tom as an additional option. Click here to visit SOAR.

      I wish you the best in overcoming your fear and becoming a pilot. Let me know how things work out for you.

  • Avery
    Reply

    Wow, this is extremely helpful. I’ve tried breathing techniques and taking my mind off of it, but it never seems to work. I have this habit of never trusting whatever I am on if I cannot directly control it. (Including riding a horse) But knowing the facts and how darn hard it is to become a professional Airline pilot and how driving is actually more dangerous that flying in a commercial Airliner really helps. Thanks for writing this, have a good flight!

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Thanks Avery! It always makes our day to hear that we helped someone. And by the way, one of our staff just informed me he doesn’t trust horses either, so I guess you’re not alone there 🙂

  • Saleem
    Reply

    hi.I am also having a lot of fear to fly . I didn’t fly yet,but i must have to fly as to go abroad to give some of my exams ..so I am very much confused! please do advise me on this ,i cannot control my nerveous system while think of flying and this fear is from a long time:(

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Hi Saleem, since you haven’t flown yet, it will probably help to check out our first time flyer guide. After that, I recommend the free resources from the SOAR fear of flying program. You can access them by clicking here.

  • shrikant
    Reply

    Hi I am flying from last 6 years as cabin crew. In January 2013 I had experienced severe turbulence due to weather (hailstorms) while landing and since then I get panic and cannot breathe normally during turbulence. This is seriously affecting my work and now I am confused whether to fly or not. Please advise

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Hi Shrikant. I’m sorry to hear about your difficult experience. My suggestion is to check out the SOAR fear of flying program, developed by Captain Tom Bunn, a former pilot and current licensed counselor. He specializes in the fear of flying. For free group phone counseling, click this link, then click the “resources” tab at the top of the page, then scroll down to group phone counseling. This free session happens every Wednesday at 10 pm Eastern time. Good luck and let us know how you are doing.

  • Stevie
    Reply

    Excellent blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  • Deidre
    Reply

    Hello,
    I would like to know about fear of flying after you’ve been involved in an incident. Though the incident was over 20 years ago, my fear is present and isn’t so irrational because, something did happen. (USair flight 105). Any tips are appreciated.

    • Darrell Davis
      Reply

      Sorry to hear that, Deidre. And you make a good point–while most people’s fear of flying is based on events that haven’t happened, some people, like you, have experienced a scary incident while flying.

      I could say the statistics are even more on your side now, but I doubt that would make you feel any better. I would suggest a counseling session with Captain Tom Bunn. He is the President of SOAR, a leading fear of flying program. Captain Tom is an airline pilot as well as a licensed therapist, making him uniquely qualified to help those with flying anxiety. You can join free group phone counseling sessions every Wednesday night or arrange a personal session.

      To learn more, visit fearofflying.com. Best wishes and let me know how you are getting along.

      – Darrell & The FlyFright Team

      • Adrian Winstead
        Reply

        Is there a place somewhere where you can take an actual flight after treatment to see if you can handle it? I flew for more than 30 years with no problem until an auto wreck. After the wreck, I could no longer be in an enclosed space such as an mri or any enclosed space. I went to my flight as normal except when they closed the door. I had to get off because I could not breath. I was hoping to get treatment that includes an actual test flight because I miss flying.

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