Fear of Flying: Aerophobia Debunked


Aaron Poetz, Journalist

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, that could mean some traveling for friends and family. That being said, traveling could mean getting on a plane. Many people don’t give it a second thought, they go to the airport, check in, go through security, wait at the gate, board the plane, watch a movie and before they know it, they’re halfway across the country. There are also many others that fear the idea of a man being able to fly. Some who can’t stop fidgeting until they get off the plane. In this article, I will explain the many reasons why no one should be nervous about flying.


Before you even get to the airport, security is checking and clearing or denying passengers who booked a ticket on your flight. Intelligence agencies create lists and algorithms to help detect possible security threats and even terrorists. If something doesn’t check out, the passenger can be removed from the flight and possibly arrested. Everyone knows the pleasure of standing in line at the TSA. But the TSA is a vital part of aviation safety. Every passenger’s luggage must pass through an x-ray, to show that they aren’t carrying anything dangerous. Passengers then must pass through metal detectors, x-ray or pat down, or even a full body x-ray before they are allowed onto the aircraft.


Out on the ramp, the aircraft itself must pass a rigorous inspection before every flight. Mechanics and the pilot check every part of the plane to ensure nothing is wrong. The pilots even get so far as to start the engines and all the systems inside. If anything is wrong, the plane will be grounded until the problem is fixed, or a replacement aircraft can be found, “Any mechanic can ground a plane. I’ve had to do it a few times”(Richard Poetz, American Airlines Aircraft Mechanic). The most common thing aircrafts are grounded for, are standard tire and brake replacements. If the aircraft is cleared for flight, the passengers may begin boarding.


At the gate, the crew checks every passenger’s ticket against a roster to see who is getting on and if anybody is in the wrong place. This check-in system also runs parallel to the luggage. If a passenger’s luggage is put on the plane and he/she is not, the luggage will be taken off or the aircraft will not be cleared for taxi. This is to prevent a possible terrorist from harming the aircraft and deterring attempts in general.


Once all the passengers are on and the aircraft is cleared to taxi, it begins its journey to the skies. Behind the scenes, there is an elite and complex team making sure the aircraft is safe at all times. The marshals watch the aircraft when it’s taxiing in and out of the gate and provide signals to tell the pilots what to do. The ground control tells the pilots what to do and tracks the movement of every aircraft to keep the aircraft from colliding. Once at the runway, ATC (Air Traffic Control) provides separation, tracking, and clearance services to all aircraft in the airspace. Their job is to keep every aircraft a safe distance apart and warn the pilots of any and all potential hazards. When the aircraft reaches the runway, ATC clears them for takeoff. Most students find take off and landing to be the most nervous parts, even for those who aren’t afraid to fly. While in the air, a service called MedAire is constantly on standby to help flight crews with any medical emergencies the flight might encounter. Should there be a serious medical condition, the flight would divert to the nearest airport. No matter where you are in the world, there is someone watching and backing you up.


The crew and passengers aren’t the only ones being backed up, the aircraft itself has numerous auxiliary and backup systems. The flaps on any aircraft, are a part of the wing that moves into different angles to produce lift and drag so that the aircraft can fly slower and land. The flaps alone on a Boeing 747, have 4 backup systems if the main hydraulics fail. Therefore, the likelihood of there being a mechanical failure mid-flight, or even someone hacking into the aircraft’s computer, is very slim. And even if this occurs, the pilots can shut down the main systems and use auxiliary and backup systems. Aircraft are designed to fly, not fail.


Now that your journey is complete, it’s time to land. ATC will direct the aircraft into the traffic pattern and eventually give clearance to land. Once back on the ground, ground control will guide the aircraft to the proper gate where the entire process will repeat.


Many people are afraid of flying, but there isn’t any real reason to be. Statistics show there is only 1 fatal incident per 5 million flights. There are numerous security checks for both passengers and the aircraft. There is an enormous team of people who are never seen or heard that keep the aircraft safe, and the aircraft itself is its own life raft. Richard Poetz, an aircraft mechanic with over 20 years of experience and 2,738 hours of schooling. was asked if he thought flying was safe. His response was, “Yes, statistically it’s the safest.” (Richard Poetz)