Fear of Flying

Approximately 60 per cent of the population has a fear or unease of flying, this is otherwise known as Aviophobia. For most people it comes down to feeling as though they have no control over the situation, and claustrophobia. Miki Katz, a pilot for El Al Israel Airlines is an international expert in fear of flying and stress advises anyone with a fear of flying to sit next to the window. “I know it might seem silly, but try it and feel the difference in sitting at a window and looking out as much as possible” he says. “Sitting in the aisle can increase the feeling of crowdedness because you see all the rows and all the passengers; you can see the windows and your subconscious can raise the feeling of enclosure and density. Looking out a window reveals infinite open spaces and a feeling of abundant air”. Many airlines and external operators offer fear of flying courses. There are also many apps for smartphones that can provide help. Some airlines have a fear of flying video with accompanying noises as a part of their in-flight entertainment, watching and listening to these is highly recommended. Airline ratings recommends Flight Coach for those wanting to cure their fear of flying. Below we have answered the most common fears. If there is anything else that worries you about flying please contact the Airline Ratings team.

Can the door open mid flight?

Quite simply, no. Some people worry that if the door was not “locked properly” before take-off it could open mid-flight. First of all, the doors cannot be opened in flight as they act as a plug when the cabin is pressurized. The difference in pressure between the air outside and in the cabin means it is impossible for the door to be pushed out, or for it to “fly open”. The pressure holds the door tightly against its doorjamb seal. Secondly, you might have heard the flight attendants go through the “cross check all doors” procedure prior to take-off. During this pre-flight routine they double-check the door is locked, and doors that were open for boarding are double-checked by two crew members. The door will never open mid-flight.

Turbulence – it just scares me

Planes are tested rigorously for structural integrity and are subjected to a veritable torture chamber to simulate three lifetimes worth of stresses. While some severe turbulence can be upsetting, rest assured the aircraft can take enormous punishment. The aircraft’s wings are designed to flex and any movement of the wings is not a sign of weakness. Turbulence is simply a disruption in regular airflow, just as a rock in a stream will disturb the flow of water.

Can the engines stop working?

Engine failure today is an incredibly rare event and the failure of two engines is almost unheard of. In fact, Airbus says you would have to fly back in time to the Ice Age before two engines would fail for different reasons. What’s more, most engine failures occur within 10 minutes of take-off, so a return to the airport is a simple matter. Aircraft with two engines are designed and certified to fly on one. Today’s jet engines are designed for the worst possible conditions and are thoroughly and rigorously tested before being certified.

The engines seem to lose power just after take off

This is the result of Air Traffic Control asking the pilots to pull back on the engine power to reduce noise, or to stay at a lower flight level until they are out of an area of traffic. You may also hear the engine power change multiple times during the flight. This is simply the pilots changing flight levels, and may happen numerous times during a flight.

After take-off there is a clunking sound. What is that?

This is simply the landing gear retracting into the body of the plane. You want to hear this sound! Prior to landing you will hear another clunk, followed by a jolt and a “windy” sound. This is the landing gear coming down and again it is another sound you most certainly want to hear.

There are lots of mechanical sounds, especially just after take-off and during much of the descent – a whirring sound mainly. Are these the sign of a malfunctioning aircraft?

These are great sounds to hear. The sound comes from the deployment or retracting of the wing flaps, or leading edge slats. These devices create more lift, and also slow the aircraft. Next time you fly, sit in a window seat that overlooks the back of the wing and you can see the changes in the wing and the noises that correspond with it.

What is the “bing” sound I hear during the flight? It always sounds after take-off, too. I feel like it might be signalling an emergency

This sound is the “ring”, if you like, of the flight attendant phones to get their attention. If you press your call button you will likely hear this sound. During take-off and landing the cockpit has a period of no interruption then, at about 10,000 feet after take-off, the pilots will notify the cabin crew that they are no longer in this zone by ringing the flight attendant phones (a “bing” sound). A nominated cabin crew member will answer and signal to the other cabin crew they can commence service. When you hear multiple “bings” during flight it is not signalling an emergency, it’s purely a lot of people wanting something from the cabin crew.