This is a very common fear in modern life due to the greatly increased use of airplane travel. More and more people nowadays have family members and friends living in other countries, so the fear of flying can impact upon social life as well as holiday and job opportunities. Flying is especially unavoidable for members of the Armed Forces since they may be deployed all over the world.
In my experience the main focus of fear varies greatly from person to person. We see this is all phobias. This is why psychologists don’t really use the long Greek names for phobias which may come up in quizzes. Knowing for instance that someone has acrophobia (fear of heights) is not enough information on which to base a course of therapy. More detail is required of what exactly the person is afraid of and what are the fantasies and fears and physical symptoms which they experience.
I discuss HERE in more detail how phobias in general are created.
Some people who have fear of flying are most afraid of the powerful physical sensation of take-off, whereas others might feel reassured by the power of the engines which will keep them flying. These people might be more afraid during the cruising stage, fearing that the plane could just “fall out of the sky.” Others are most afraid of landing, because they know that accidents are more likely at this stage. Others are afraid of hijacking by terrorists, and others again just don’t like the idea of sitting in a metal cylinder which they cannot possibly get out of until the plane has landed.
Most fear of flying seems to arise from experiencing “air turbulence” during an actual flight. This is especially likely to cause a phobia if the person is aware of other passengers panicking, or worse still of the cabin crew looking worried. Another big factor is that an airplane crash will generally be the headline news in the media that day and sometimes for days afterwards as bodies are recovered and causes discussed. By contrast there are hundreds of car accidents every day but these are rarely reported at all unless they’re a massive pile up of many vehicles, or involve a celebrity.
You can read more HERE about therapy for overcoming flying phobias and other phobias.