By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

— When the engines rev and the 747 goes flying down the runway, a lot of us have a hard time keeping it together. After a Southwest Airlines plane lost 5 feet of fuselage in mid-flight, it gave people with the fear of flying another reason to freak out. So, how safe is it to fly?

“I am TERRIFIED of flying!” wrote Emily Wheeler on on Facebook. “I used to just have a few cocktails before/during the flight, but that made it worse. I now have to take prescription meds to calm me down,” she added.

“Biggest fear on earth,” added Kate Raddatz. ” I lose sleep a few weeks before we travel. My dad gets out his lists of ‘why flying is safer than driving’ as we’re taking off & I read it every time.”

“These people are so well-trained,” said Ruth Markowitz, MA, a license clinical psychologist an partner of the My Sky Program, a Twin Cities weekend class that teaches people how to deal with their fear of flying.

According to Markowitz, nearly 40 percent of us are afraid to fly, and 10 percent just avoid airplanes all together.

“People with fears of flying have lots of control issues and they have a really good imagination,” said Markowitz.

In 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board reported 33,808 deaths on U.S. highways, as compared to 538 aviation deaths. Fifty people died in a 2009 commercial airplane crash, which is the only U.S. commercial airplane crash over the last 4 years.

A U.S. National Safety Council study found flying to be 22 times safer than traveling by car, considering that more than 3 million people fly every day. A Boeing aircraft takes off or lands every 2 seconds someplace in the world every day, making the low fatality rate even more impressive.

“People with fears of flying often have an accumulation of stressors,” said Markowitz, and aren’t really afraid of a literal plane crash.

“Statistics don’t offer comfort at all,” she explained, because most people who are afraid of flying know the odds. “They’re afraid of losing control of themselves on a plane.”

In her classes, pilots teach people how the plane actually works, while psychologists try to address the other issues leading to the fear.

“I am really afraid to fly, but I do it so I can travel. I think it is the not being in control issue for me. I am going to Italy in September and already dreading the flight,” wrote Sheryl Frankel.

Comments (2)
  1. Janet says:

    A long time ago I LOVED to fly, then had a very scary flight while sitting next to a gal that was petrified. She ‘gave’ me her fear and I was terrified of flying for years – had to take my ‘happy pills’ to fly. It really was a fear of losing control of ME on the flight! I got over my fear using Tapping! (Look it up online! It’s also called EFT. There are lots of videos on youtube (check out Brad Yates’ videos). TONS of FREE information out there on it). I still get a little nervous, but nothing like I was. I even want to get my sports pilots licence! My brother got his and took me up in his little ‘experimental’ plane! Had a blast! and will go up with him again anytime he can take me! And am actually looking forward to it!

  2. sam says:

    I think the question should have been “how safe are the airplanes?”. With the years of losses and aging aircraft, I think this is question should have been answered.

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