The mind is like a parachute. If it doesn't open, you're meat.

On flying and terror

22 Apr 2005

I absolutely hate flights.

I’m scared out of my wits every single time.

Sweaty palms, fluttering stomach, the works.

Each flight is pure torture for me, a continuous rollecoaster of fear (nothing to do with actual turbulence) controlled only by mental exercises.

All in all, during a flight I turn into a wild-eyed, introverted beast that jumps at the least possible change of pitch, yaw, or engine sound.

Now, consider the above lines in light of the fact that I live in Barcelona, Spain, work in Germany, come from Greece (where family and friends choose to stay) and the family of my life’s partner lives on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife. There is just no way of avoiding flights! So for someone scared of flights I fly much too often. (I write this on my 11th flight for 2005 and it’s still April). So what to do?

Well, nothing actually. Sit tight and ride it out. Contain the panic.

The amazing thing is, that when there is real heavy turbulence I just grasp the seat and follow the motions of the plane. Just like in a rollercoaster.

Where does this fear come from?

I have no idea. It wasn’t there when I was a kid and let me assure you, flying in Greece involves much more turbulence than anywhere else in Europe (with the possible exception of the Pyrenees). So it can’t be some long forgotten traumatic experience. I try to rationalize it by saying that so many years of work building software for safety critical systems have acquainted me with so many possibilities for catastrophical errors that I just can’t stop thinking about what can go wrong. Then again it might be the sheer helplesness at 10.700 meters altitude, the inability to assume control, to do something.

Truth is, I don’t know and probably won’t find out. All I can do is face my fear and hope that the number of landings will equal the number of take-offs.

Murphy’s Law of Flying:

You will encounter turbulence just when they serve you hot coffee.

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