Overcoming Fear of Flying – Part 3

For a week now I’ve been stressing out. The nightmares about missing my flight, really bad weather forecasts and being trapped in the aircraft lavatory are right on schedule. About 5 days before getting on a plane, they usually start. Despite my preparations, this time is no exception. 


Some of you may have read my story on the special flight regarding WWII Veterans. Well, while working on that, I was also working on my personal battle with fear of flying. And I think it’s pretty safe to say I won. How did that come to be, you ask? There’s a few factors that contributed to my fleeting anxiety. I didn’t get a single panic attack on board. Not on the way there, and not on the way back. Here is why:

1. Safety first

For me, the hardest thing to do was put my trust in others. I’m an enormous control-freak. I like to keep my fate in my own hands. But after talking to the pilots and being in the cockpit for take-off and touchdown, I am now a 100% certain I’m in good hands when I board a plane. Pilots will always choose the safest options and routes to get you where you need to go. They get constant updates about factors that might affect the flight and will always adapt accordingly.


2. Your crew is there for you

I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again anyway. Talking to your crew is going to make most of your fear disappear like snow on a summer’s day. Or at least, it did for me. They are so calm and collected and willing to help talk you through the flight, check up on you during it and answer any questions you might have. If they are not stressing out, why should you?

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3. Turbulence is not dangerous

For me, and with me many others, turbulence is the no. 1 reason to snap into a panic attack. What is going on? Why is the plane shaking? How will we get through this? Let me tell you, nobody likes turbulence. Not you, not me, and not the friendly flight attendant trying to fill a shaking cup of water. It’s uncomfortable, but not dangerous. Never has a plane gone down because of turbulence. I found this a very comforting fact. 1-0 to logic on this one.

4. Is that a lose screw?

Worried about all the little sounds and rattles the plane makes in the air? Don’t! I used to be terrified of this, too. That was until someone explained to me why this happens. Here it is: Tight constructions can break under pressure, and aircraft are under a lot of pressure being high up in the air. Because everything is flexible and able to move, the construction won’t break. Making a rattling plane much safer than a quiet one. Makes sense, no?

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5. Distraction is key

I tell myself: “You’re here now. On a plane. There’s no getting out and no going off once that door is closed. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. But let. It. Go.”  You’re ‘stuck’ in that cabin for a couple of hours, so you might as well utilize every minute of it. Of course the inflight entertainment can be a nice pass time, but why not try to enjoy the view, look at the flight information to see exactly where you’re at in the world and take some window pictures. That way you’ll have something nice to remember when you think about flying. Plus you’ll be distracting yourself, so you’ll be at your destination in no time!


In conclusion. I fell in love with flying, no jokes here. Sure, I’m still not a fan of turbulence and probably won’t fancy being in an aircraft passing through a storm. But then again, who is? Everyone likes a smooth ride. I just keep repeating to myself “Turbulence is not dangerous, just uncomfortable”. And it works.

So who knows, in between being pleasantly surprised with seeing myself in the stewardess ensemble, and this amazing experience, you might see me on board in blue someday.

Disclaimer: This blog is written from a personal perspective. I am not a health-expert. These are my personal experiences and tips that have worked for me and may be useful to you as well. If you suffer severely from Aviophobia contact an expert for the proper diagnoses and treatment.

Read parts one and two

Posted by:   Esmee Droog  | 
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Was wondering just this weekend how you were doing.

If I read this correctly you’ve made a flight without breaking into a panic attack? Well done!!

Esmee Droog

Hi Jeroen! That’s so nice, thank you!! I panicked beforehand (even at the airport!) but managed to snap out of it and enjoy both flights, It can only get better from here! Thanks so much for following my journey and your lovely messages!

Lolita M. Balboa

My first flight was in 1991 and I’m afraid flying …. – but i told to myself – if i will think of those negatives in flying, i will not be able to reach different places which I’d like to visit. Before boarding, many times I will go to the wash room and when inside the cabin already – i was really upset and during the flight, I cannot go to the lavatory. You know what I did – If see stewardess start serving the meals -that’s the time for me to go to lavatory and I kept myself busy reading or watching movies. Until such time that I overcome fear of flying.
Nice blog – thanks.

Esmee Droog

Hi Lolita! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Sounds like you got more comfortable being on a plane now! Good to hear :) Thank you for your message and reading my blog!

Capt Tom Bunn, MSW, LCSW

It is been frustrating to see Esmee struggle with this using methods that require a lot of continuous work when flying. One of the methods is completely useless (except as a mental diversion) as research makes it entirely clear that breathing exercises do not work. And, if there is significant turbulence, will she again be pushed into panic?

Much more advanced methods have been developed, methods that provide complete relief. Not only that, all the work to control fear of flying is done prior to the flight, so that nothing at all needs to be done during the flight itself. Instead of all this work, a person can fly as others do.


I do not agree with you at all! I have fear of flying myself, and have been under treatment of Stichting VALK.
Fear of flying requires ‘continuos work when flying’, always.

They teach you the 3-second breathing technique, which has helped me significantly during my last flight!
It may be BS to you, but for someone who’s got their breathing and heartbeat going loco, focusing on trying to get that to calm down is very helpful. It calmed me down and made me feel more at ease in my seat.

Besides this, anything that you do during a flight to make your ‘fear’ stay at a low level (a constant level of low intensity adrenaline instead of being frightened to death the whole flight) is much better than doing nothing. Besides drinking alcohol or taking meds. Making yourself comfortable and at ease, telling yourself everything you learned during treatment and trying to regain muscle control when frightened in a plane are some things someone with fear of flying is supposed to do during a flight.

In no way is ‘all the work to control fear is done prior to the flight’ correct. “much more advanced methods” such as? Meds? Someone with fear of flying is supposed to go flying ‘scared’, we fly scared.. we will not fly under meds or alcohol, we fly scared in order to regain control over our thoughts and the reaction of our body this fear has on it.

I used to fly with Xanax or a load of alcohol. But during the flight I was still scared, afraid of dying, of crashing, of something breaking off or turbulence making us go nose down into the ground.. VALK helped me realize that nose down during turbulence is not possible, engines blowing off will not happen, how far the wings of a plane can bend etc. All this, prior to flying, is very helpful.. But none of that matter to one when not flying.. as soon as you step on a plane with f.o.f. you have to remember what you learned, you have to make yourself calm the * down and regain the power over your thoughts and body. I took out my notes from our training, to remind me of the steps to take.

I just came back from Tenerife, my first ever holiday, flying, without meds or alcohol altogether.
Flying there was hell, flying home went better (ArkeFly sucks). I am darn proud of myself that, besides a lot of people that will NEVER get what fear of flying is, I flew 4 hours and made a pit stop on Gran Canaria and did not get of the plane on forehand. (I did cry and the whole plane was staring, but that’s what you get when ArkeFly * up..)

My flight back home went well. Why? because I used the techniques they learned me DURING my flight.

‘will she be pushed into panic’ oh, that would be great actually..! Much better than that constant feeling of fear, you have to reach the highest point, go over that point and you can regain yourself. She will not break * and try to open a door mid flight (because she can’t.. duh) so let her go into panic, let her cry, and then let her get at ease again.. That’s exactly what she needs to do!

There are no ‘methods that provide complete relief’, the only method for that is sedation. You are wrong on so many levels in your statement it’s not hard to tell you have no clue how it feels.. Which makes me feel more comfortable, seeing your title and all..

People like me cannot fly ‘as others do’.. we are steadily learning to, trying, experiencing and switching our mindset to ‘there is nothing to be scared of’.. but that takes time.. and a long road is ahead of me, and others.. but someday, we will all get there and be darn proud of what we conquered, look back and laugh at the moments we cried, yelled, didn’t want to get on a plane, were afraid of silly things and be so happy we flew to wherever we are sitting at that moment..


I am an experienced instrumentation & automation engineer with 15+years in my kitty…Tell you what, Turbulence defiles my logical and engineering thinking when the shaking if turulence happens when I fly. Your zero accident statistics due to turbulence is a breather. I still have a desire to learn how to fly someday despite the grey hairs popping out now. Thanks for your informative blog…its helping to put answers to some unanswered questions in my head. I love travelling obviously flying is unavoidable. Keep it up..great job

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