Maryanne Cook talks about her fear of flying and how one book helped her to conquer her fear.

"My first experience of Aviophobia began on the 24 November 2006 on board a British Airways flight from Stockholm to Heathrow. Growing up surrounded by family and friends that work in the aviation industry and with a mother originating from the Far East, flying had been a large part of my upbringing from the tender age of three months old. Yet on a trip that I made every year, something had changed.

As the cabin crew made their final pre-flight checks ensuring all passengers were familiarised with the safety procedures, I sat and listened to the instructions until I heard:

“… if the cabin pressure fails, oxygen masks will deploy from above…”

From that moment, a sudden rush of fear kicked in and I found it harder and harder to breathe as the walls began to close in. I began to look around the cabin to see if perhaps there was something in the air that might affect the other passengers but I was on my own and scared of something, but what it was, wasn’t clear.  Although the plane hadn’t yet taken off, I felt that disembarking was imminent as I was sure that my life was in danger. Luckily I had a friend to calm my nerves and distract me for the two and a half hour journey ahead. When we finally landed at Heathrow, a sudden sense of relief and confusion washed over me, and little did I know that this unusual experience was the beginning of a panic disorder.

After years of cognitive behavioral therapy followed by a course in hypnotherapy and endless beta blockers prescribed by the doctor, I felt at the end of my tether. However, on a normal day at work I was approached by a colleague who also suffered with a fear of flying, and was told that in order to fight the fear, I had to find out exactly what it is that I was scared of. It was then that I was introduced to a self-help guide that would eradicate any sense of claustrophobia I suffered, and eased my mind once again, making me feel safe in the knowledge that statistically, air travel is the safest form of transport there is.

Over 40% of the population suffer with a level of flight anxiety, often caused by not knowing what goes on behind the scenes.

The Easy Way to Enjoy Flying, by Allen Carr is a step-by-step discovery through conquering your fear by simply removing it from your mind. Much like his critically acclaimed The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, Carr starts at the very route of your fear and removes any sense of anxiety you might feel, to include claustrophobia, fear of heights and the logistics behind air travel.

Comparing the effects of turbulence to an aircraft with the effects of a car driving on cobbled stones (none, so long as you wear your seatbelt so as not to bang your head), the book is a breath of fresh air giving honest and reassuring answers to the questions you’ve always wanted to ask, such as the following summaries featured in the book:

Top Questions

What happens if the wings fall off?

The wings can’t fall off as they are formed as a long and flexible structure with the cabin built around it. No airplane has ever lost its wings, and they probably never will.

What if the pilots get food poisoning?

Each pilot must eat different meals from different vendors at different times before a flight to ensure that occurrences like this will never happen. In terms of the pilot’s health, they must undertake a series of lengthy medical exams throughout the year, whilst maintaining a clean bill of health. However, in the worst case scenario, one member of cabin crew is trained to land the plane safely with the help of auto pilot and ground control.

What if the engine fails?

Each aircraft has at least two engines, whilst larger carriers have four. Each engine is built with an integrated fire extinguisher so that if an engine does fail, the plane can safely land with just one.

Airline statistics

  • At least 101 airlines (including Monarch, Easyjet and Ryanair) have never experienced any fatal accidents.
  • 95.7% of people that experience an actual plane crash will survive. Source:
  • The hotter the day, the thinner the air. Therefore, more power is needed for take-off.
  • There are 2.5 billion air travelers globally every year.
  • A jumbo jet can hold 150 tonnes of fuel
  • An airline is normally lined up to the runway from approximately 10 miles away.
  • Lights are dimmed during take-off and landing so that passengers eyes are accustomed to the darkness if any emergency occurs.

Top tips for a stress-free flight

  • Be on time. Don’t give yourself an excuse to heighten your anxiety, so make sure you arrive at the airport with enough time to relax and prepare yourself for the flight ahead.
  • Listen to the safety demonstration, and memorise the number of seats to your nearest exit for peace of mind.
  • Familiarise yourself with the noises coming from the aircraft (particularly when the plane is banking). By distinguishing each noise, you are re-assuring yourself that nothing is out of the ordinary.
  • Distract yourself. When the cabin crew say that it is safe to do so, distract yourself with a book, a film or some relaxing music to make the time fly.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Observe the sense of calm of the other passengers and, of course, the cabin crew. Knowing they’re smiling and carrying on with their tasks informs you that everything is normal.
  • Talk to the crew. If anxiety is getting the better of you, talk to a member of staff. A fear of flying is common and cabin crew will often be happy to talk you through any unease.
  • Remember: you’re in safe hands. The captain and crew undergo extensive training regularly to ensure your safety is their top priority.

Reference: Carr, Allen, The Easy Way to Enjoy Flying, Penguin Books, 2000.

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