Air Travel and Aerophobia

Trembling knees, sweaty palms, weakness and a sticky, heavy nightmare. Air travel often causes horror, forcing some to dampen fear in advance with alcohol, while others completely refuse to move through the air. However, this problem is not related to aviation, said Around the World pilot and psychologist Alexei Gervash, who has been relieving people of aerophobia for more than 10 years.

On average, about 30% of people are afraid of flying on an airplane, and this amount does not change much over time.

This condition is a real mental disorder, mentioned in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), and loud reports of aviation incidents only stimulate its manifestations. However, it should be understood that this is one of the features of the media: news of disasters excite and attract the public (especially the aerophobes themselves) and quickly diverge from news feeds.

In fact, civil aviation is becoming more and more safe, and by this indicator it has long bypassed other modes of transport.

Failure-free records here are updated almost every year, the number of incidents in aviation is constantly decreasing, but this is not important for aerophobes. Each news headline about such incidents seems to them proof of what they are already convinced of.

Medical history

The denial of facts is characteristic of many phobias, especially in the early stages. A person ceases to hear any reasonable arguments, but concentrates on cases and stories that confirm his fears. The brain is trying to legitimize the phobia, explain it, make it reasonable, find a suitable form of avoiding imaginary danger.

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Such behavior can be expressed in a variety of forms and it is not always about avoiding aircraft in general. Someone does not fly longer than four hours, someone chooses only “their”, “safest” airlines. Someone without a break looks out the window, constantly runs into the toilet or sits in the salon, drinking thoroughly.

Look for logic in such actions is not worth it. For example, fear of heights in one degree or another is inherent in any person, it is natural and caused by an obvious danger to life. Aerophobia, on the other hand, is a disorder of a completely different nature; it is not associated with altitude or aircraft. This is a complex phenomenon that can serve as an indicator of the unhealthy state of the psyche as a whole. If something is wrong with her, then internal fears with a high probability will “lock up” precisely in aviation. Perhaps this is the most common of the phobias.

Nature of fear

About 70% of people with a more or less healthy psyche consider the world a reliable and completely trustworthy place. Of course, something bad and even terrible can happen and is happening, but such cases are perceived as an exception to the general rule. But the remaining 30% are arranged differently. The world for them is a continuous threat, a nightmare where everything at any moment can go wrong. For such people, the exceptions are just periods of relative calm and relaxation, moments when you can exhale.

Attitude to the world is formed from the first years of life, starting with the care and protection that parents show to a small child. Therefore, representatives of different cultural traditions demonstrate a different predisposition to aerophobia. In countries such as Israel and the Netherlands, where a culture of tolerance and lively communication with children is developed, these people are relatively few. But more often than not aerophobia develops among residents of the UK, where the emotional contact between parents and children is traditionally weak, or in Germany with its cult of order, control and perfectionism. One of the highest percent of aerophobes is in Kazakhstan, where patriarchal traditions are still pronounced, physical punishment is often used for education

Broken illusions

Living in an imaginary cruel world full of all kinds of dangers is psychologically unbearable. Therefore, the brain begins to be saved by various illusions. Continuous (and meaningless) efforts to keep everything under control arise and intensify. A false belief is formed in the complete safety of certain situations, such as traveling by rail or in your own car.

A train rushing at a speed of 100 km / h can go off the rails, but it seems that in extreme cases it will be possible to leave the scene, because we are on the ground. This illusion does not work on the plane. The actions associated with avoiding a frightening experience arise and become fixed. But they only exacerbate the situation.

Aviation plus Psychology

It turns out that the treatment of aerophobia should affect the basic aspects of the personal psyche. Therefore, working with our patients, we use fear for the reverse movement: we come to fill the lack of confidence in life, starting with the restoration of confidence in aviation. As a person learns to suffer less from the inability to control what is happening on the plane, he also has confidence in the rest of the world. For such a start, aviation fits perfectly: the algorithms adopted here, standardization systems and safety requirements are unique and effective. You can evaluate them simply by opening the website of Flight Radar or a similar project: 20 thousand aircraft, which are simultaneously in the air without any incidents, are impressive.

Every year, airlines operate tens of millions of flights, and not every year large-scale accidents happen. However, based on our practice (and the “Fly Without Fear” project has already helped about 11 thousand people), we can say that rational arguments alone never work. The problem is not in security and not in real risk, but in a lack of trust, in anxiety and suspiciousness, painful perfectionism. Therefore, the treatment of aerophobia requires an integrated approach both from the aviation side and from the psychology side. As a rule, methods of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy are used for this, some of which we have also adopted, adding to our own approaches.

Last Tips

To treat this phobia, we use our Sky Guru app . This is a technologically sophisticated product that uses a gyroscope, accelerometer, compass and other sensors of a mobile phone to track the course of an air flight and comment on it in “real time” – as if I myself were there and explained what was happening. In some cases, we even use a simulator that simulates a passenger seat in an airplane. The mobile platform allows you to survive the flight for those who have already forgotten how it looks and how it is experienced in reality, as well as simulate the most frightening moments, for example, getting into the turbulence zone.

However, all these are technical tools. There are no “magic” solutions here and cannot be, and the main advice is not to look for them. It’s worth starting with a simple recognition that the problem is not rooted in aviation, but in the individual characteristics of the psyche, in a lack of trust and suspiciousness. Such a warehouse is characteristic of the vast majority of aerophobes, and if you suffer from such fears, all this is probably about you. Overcoming the initial denial, recognizing that the true cause of the problem is not in the airplanes, but in the head, is to take the first step towards a calm flight.

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Air Travel and Aerophobia. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved from

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