Fear of Flying

Thank you for all of your comments on my @instagram post ‘Fear of Flying’ on August 18th, you wrote a total of 376 comments and sent many direct messages too. I’m overwhelmed and grateful for all your engagement, thank you! I will try to answer as many as possible, if however you feel that I did not answer your question please visit my Instagram @pilotmaria where I answered more comments under this post:

I could write a book about this subject, I am passionate about helping others who don’t feel comfortable in an airplane, if my words can help, even only one of you, I will consider my efforts a success. I have so much I want to write in this blog post, but I had to narrow it down and decided to answer your most frequently asked questions, when time permits, I will write a ‘Fear of Flying 2.0’ blog post, where I will go into more depth regarding specific questions and topics, I do apologize that I couldn’t fit it all into this post.

I understand why some people are scared of flying, it’s like when I go to the doctors, I have no idea what they are doing, just the sight of blood can have me faint, but they have my deepest respect for the job that they do. Just as our passengers, some don’t understand or find it impossible that a 70 ton aircraft can fly in the sky, but they trust us to fly them safely from A to B just as I trust the doctors who do their job, treating me and thousands of other patients a year. We don’t understand everything and simply just have to trust that those who are trained and educated to a professional level, studying for years and sitting many exams, know exactly what he or she is doing. As a pilot, we have recurring training and checks throughout our career!

Turbulence is probably what most of you commented so we can start with that. I sometimes compare turbulence with driving on a gravel road. Sometimes we have flat new, smooth asphalt and sometimes we drive on a gravel road, where the car bumps around, it’s never dangerous, the road is always there and we know that the car won’t fault because of this surface. During my last flight, on a British Airways Boeing 747, I watched a documentary ‘Flying With Confidence’. One of their pilots, Captain Steve Allright, helps others with a fear of flying (great initiative and I’d love to visit one of his courses one day) he compares turbulence to the sea. Sometimes the sea is still and sometimes there are waves, just like air. The air we fly in is not always completely smooth, winds are moving back and forth in different directions, and that is what we call turbulence. Nothing worse than driving on a gravel road or by sailing in a boat on choppy waters at sea, it can be unpleasant, but it’s never dangerous.

@lutfiyegunes left a comment asking me about the fear that the aircraft will fall out of the sky or the wings will fall off. During my flight training, one of my instructors said something that has always stuck with me; `See it that the aircraft’s body is attached to the wings and not the wings to the body` – I hope this saying can offer you some comfort!

@lille_smule_le, @xavo wanted to know about different noises that occur during flight. It might feel uncomfortable to hear noises, when  you do not know where they come from. During the climb on take off, we fly with the engines on high power and as we reach our flight level the engines will spool down as we no longer need all that thrust for level flight. Other sounds are for example at landing when we extend flaps and landing gear. Sometimes during flight ATC (Air Traffic Controllers) might ask us to climb to a higher altitude or we might request another level for whatever reason – better winds, fuel and time efficiency, that is why you sometimes, even if we have been flying for hours you can hear the engines spool up and feel the aircraft climbing. Generally we save time and fuel the higher flight level we are at. As we burn fuel we get lighter and are able to climb to a higher altitude. I am trying to write this without getting into too many technical details, I’m hoping to keep it simple for you all 😉

@Steveschilds34 and @isabellbramstad asked about crosswind landings. All pilots are well trained for crosswind in addition every aircraft have a max crosswind component that we are allowed to land with, if the crosswind is more than that, we simply do not land. We wait for the wind to calm down or divert to another airfield. Wind and weather are no surprise, before every flight we check the weather at our destination and ensure we are aware of nearby airports and decide how much extra fuel we want to take with us and which airfield would be suitable as an alternate field.

@lxcostello I love your comment! ’’ I totally agree when we level off it feels like we start to sink, it’s an illusion the brain plays on us. After climbing for 30 minutes or so, it has become our new `normal` and our brain believes that it is a straight and level flight. As we level off, reduce thrust gives us an illusion that we start to sink. It takes only a few seconds until our brain get used to the ‘new normal’. What you do when you said you look out the window and confirm with what you see is a great idea when flying as a passenger, in the flight deck we have our instruments to confirm attitude with multiple back up systems.


It was impossible to answer all of your comments, but I hope you could still find this post helpful. Please visit my post on instagram (direct link) where I tried to respond to as many comments as possible and feel free to add comments, I’m still answering as much as I can.

Have a great week and lots of love!

XX Maria

Written by Maria Pettersson

Edited by Kirsty Williams @kirstyrwilliams Thank you so much! You are the best!


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