Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fear no.5 of top ten fears - crashing

Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Without Fear Top Ten Fears that people have ...

This is a re-run of our newsletter that we used to publish. 

Fear No.5 – Crashing

As usual, we are going to go down the honesty route, just as we do on all our

We use a mixture of honesty, knowledge and humour on our courses because
we know that 99.9% of the people on our courses are intelligent and normal
functioning humans. There is this one fear that is stopping them from living their
lives, stopping them from taking holidays and some people even losing jobs because of it.

We want to help to stop that happening to you. Stop the fear being in control of you instead of the other way around. I bet that you would like that too?

We run an activity at the beginning of every course to find out what people want from the day and this comes up every time. One very positive person’s question was, ‘When we crash (note when and not if) do we die before, during or after it has crashed?’ We don’t actually know the answer to this one I’m afraid.

The answer to this may surprise you but we will explain.

You have every right to be scared of crashing. I am scared of crashing. Fear of dying is a rational fear. Who wants to die? No-one does.

What we forget when we think about all of the horrific things that could happen to us in an aircraft, we are guilty of allowing our thinking to become faulty.

How dare you say that?!

Well, it is true because if you want to be more at risk from travel by coach, travel by car, walk behind donkeys, ride a motorbike, eat lots of doughnuts, ride a push bike or take any other form of transport than aircraft. Flying in commercial aircraft with all their law enforced safety checks is safer than any other form of transport. Fact.

The most dangerous part of a commercial pilot’s day is his/her journey on the
motorway to the airport.  The airline industry is possibly the only industry where safety always comes first before profit. Without safety there are no customers.

Commercial aircraft are safer than any other form of transport – even walking.

The training and regulations in place to keep you safe are staggering. More than you will ever hear about because it does not make the news.

‘Today, one million people took off from one airport and then landed somewhere else safely and nothing happened.’ 

This is a headline that does not sell newspapers (although the Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear team have all agreed that we would buy one)


If an aircraft wing-tip brushes against a catering van in an airport, causing no damage to the aircraft and no danger to the passengers, it would probably be in the newspaper as,

‘Aircraft collides with Catering Van at Heathrow.’
So coming back to Crashing. It is normal to fear crashing as it is normal to fear dying – lots of people do. We have to do something about the way we think about this. Only we can control the thoughts in our head otherwise they control us.

Forgive us as we suggest that we have a choice here. If we want to think about
dying we have two options open to us:


Option 1
Build ‘thinking about dying’ into everything we now do where it could happen such as eating peanuts, drinking beer, opening the door to a stranger, changing a plug socket and driving to work.

Option 2
Accept that dying and crashing are something that are normal to fear

HOWEVER, it is not normal to pinpoint all of that fear into one mode of transport. Especially, as the one that we are picking on is the one where we are least likely to die from.

Hopefully, you can see the irony in this? These comments are not intended to poke fun at the way our brains work sometimes. It is about thinking about it rationally.

We have to train ourselves to stop thinking about the worst consequences and learn to replace these with rational replacements.

Top Tips:
Each and every time you think about catastrophe shout ‘STOP’ in your head (out loud if you prefer but not to at work!)

Say instead something like, ‘It is okay to feel worried as I am in the safest place I could be….in an aircraft.’ Or just simply, ‘Everything is okay.’

We know it may sound twee but eventually it works. It takes effort because we have probably had years of telling ourselves ‘I am going to die!’

Imagine in your brain, you now have the neural pathway the size of a motorway that links all things aircraft related to feeling fearful. We get really good at bringing on the fear and do it even quicker the more we practice.

We are asking you to practice stopping the negative self talk and replace it with more positive talk. It is the equivalent of driving down a new dirt track to get somewhere versus going on the motorway. Slow but over time all dirt tracks can become busy roads.

So, we have talked about crashing. We have pointed out it is normal to fear such things. The main point is that we need to re-train ourselves to put the fear of dying on an aircraft into perspective. We will die but it will not be due to flying on commercial aircraft.

Take care

Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear



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