This phrase was something I read in a book on fear. It wasn't particularly aimed at fear of flying but I thought it apt. Probability versus possibility... This led to some thoughts which are below.
When someone has a fear, any fear, the perception of actual threat is skewed. Life is full of threat and risk - most of which we have no control over. There is a possibility of something sinister happening to us at all times in different situations such as walking to work, getting on a bus, having a relative visit us, walking down a dark alleyway, driving our cars, flying in an aircraft... We have to assess risk all the times in our lives don't we? Most of the time, we don't consider the risks attached but some of the things we do. Taking the examples already given:
The 'riskometer' of life!
Walking to work especially if it involves crossing the road
Driving in our cars. We perceive low risk because we feel in control. When was the last time you had 'skid pan' training, advanced driving lessons, were tested at all? What about your car.. Did you check all the oils and levels today and everyday?
Getting on a bus. There are no back up drivers, there are limited back up systems. The driver has not been tested on his/her driving ability every couple of months. They may not have had a medical recently...(no disrespect intended to bus drivers)
Walking down a dark alleyway versus having a relative visit you. According to crime statistics, you are more likely to be assaulted by someone that you know rather than a complete stranger. If you were to consider the risk of walking down an alleyway versus having a family barbeque, which would you normally deem more risky?!
Nothing is 100% safe. Life is risky. However, commercial aviation in the developed world is always doing its best to reduce potential danger from flying to virtually nil. I say virtually nil because it just gets safer and safer. It will never be 100% safe - nothing is. If we want to guarantee our survival, we may need to stay in our houses and live life via the internet and home delivery! This doesn't sound much like enjoying the privilege of being alive to me!
Pilots are tested every few months on their abilities to fly. If you take your list of all the horrible things you would hate to happen to you whilst flying, that sounds like the typical 'sim detail' that a pilot goes through. They are constantly tested on their ability to deal with the unexpected. They also have to have a medical at least once a year (depends on age). Plus, there are always two or more pilots up the front in commercial aviation...
When a fear gets out of perspective, the probability versus possibility gets skewed. We know that with fear of flying, the fearful say, 'Yes, but it could happen to me.' Of course, there is a possibility that something could happen to you. However, according to the evidence, what is the probability of something actually happening to you?
Paul & Richard
Founders of the Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear programme