On being afraid of turbulence

A couple of days ago, DH and I went on a ‘date night’, something we try to do every few weeks. Usually, we have dinner, sometimes we really push the boat out and see a movie too.

This time, we went to the cinema to see the film ‘Flight’, starring Denzel Washington. We often struggle to find a film we both like the sound of (“I’d rather watch paint dry,” I’ve been known to say), but ‘Flight’ ticked all the boxes that need to be checked for a cinema date night.

There was an aviation theme, obviously. A lot of human interest. And a crash scene at the beginning – for me.

Yes, you read that right.

I can’t explain it (I really can’t), but for some reason I’m fascinated by air crashes. They terrify me, but I always want to know more. What exactly caused it, did anyone survive, what was the chain of events leading up to it?

The film ‘Flight’, I thought (wrongly), might even be a full-length feature version of one of my favourite programmes, Air Crash Investigation, which DH and I have been known to watch in bed.

But the funny thing is: I’m the last person who should be watching these shows, because, there was a time in my life, when I was petrified of flying. I must have been in my mid-20s and it got bad enough that I even considered doing a fear of flying course run by British Airways.
Little did I know what fate had in store. I married my first love, a pilot, who gave me a couple of flying lessons in Florida. I nearly landed – and would have done if it wasn’t for the fact the ground was coming towards us way too fast (and I wasn’t his worse student, apparently!)

Air travel now is obviously all about the children and tending to their needs for eight.long.hours means there’s no time to think about the fact you’re in a metal tube hurtling through the sky. But, every now and then, I’m reminded that I’m a nervous flyer at heart.

She's still smiling - phew!!
She’s still smiling – phew!!
Specifically, when there’s turbulence.

On our flight to Hong Kong recently (which DH was co-piloting), we started bumping around about half-way through. To me, it was as though things had gotten really choppy up there – and I started feeling anxious.

My champagne was sloshing around. The seat-belt sign pinged on, and stayed on. I was sure I could see the wing bouncing up and down in the dark. I scanned the flight attendants’ faces to make sure they didn’t look worried. My heart rate quickened, my palms became sweaty.

Should I write a note to DH saying ‘I love you’ and wave it in front of the on-board camera, I wondered? No, that would be silly – if there was a problem, he’d be very busy (how my DH laughed later).

And, in my mind – even though I kind of knew the turbulence wasn’t that bad – I could imagine the Air Crash Investigation commentary: “Among the 530 passengers on the ill-fated flight was the first officer’s wife” – the camera panning to a blonde, skinnier version of me sipping wine upstairs, followed by a wedding photo. “Just before the aircraft went into a nosedive, she penned the last words she would ever write.”

I’ve really got to stop watching documentaries about air disasters, haven’t I? Reacting like this to a few air pockets isn’t normal, is it?

6 thoughts on “On being afraid of turbulence

  1. HA! This is EXACTLY how I think – and I love to freak myself out with air disaster shows, too. I actually got a little obsessive trying to read all I could about the Air France flight that disappeared over the Atlantic en route from Brazil to Paris in 2009. I spent my first 25 or 30 years flying without a second thought, and then, after I had my kids, I suddenly became irrationally nervous about it. MrL (who was in the Air Force and went to flight school and the whole 9 yards, although he does not fly now) always laughs at me when I worry about turbulence and tells me it’s just like driving on a bumpy road – I just don’t believe him. I can’t help it. And I scan the faces of the flight attendants, too. I figure they do this enough to know when things are scary enough to worry! And I’m one of those people that actually DO look to see where the closest exit is, and I DO actually look at the information cards in the seatback pocket.
    You’d never guess from watching me on a plane that I log thousands of miles in the air every year…but I’m so glad I’m not the only one!

  2. Alexandra Patten says:

    I love this post. I do remember that flight to Munich when you were so terrified you had to hide under a magazine the whole way! Amazing that you got over it.

    • I remember that flight really well! I’ll never forget you telling me that if anything was to happen, I’d be the only person who wasn’t surprised as I was expecting it! You were so right…Good job I got over it.

  3. What does your husband think of your fear of flying? Has he ever talked you through how planes cope with turbulence? Did it have any effect? I find the subject so interesting I’m learning all I can about it.

    • It’s a really fascinating subject, you’re right! I’ve realised that what I think is bad turbulence doesn’t even register with him. To him, it’s just a couple of mild bumps I guess. I’m definitely a lot more blasé about flying now, as I see that he gets on planes like they’re buses! I think he’s mildly amused by my fear of turbulence – it’s definitely got a lot better since I’ve been flying with the children as they take up all my attention now instead 🙂

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