FLYING is an unnatural sensation even to those who do not have a fear of it.
Orson Welles said there are only two emotions on a plane – boredom and fear.
My sister has an awful fear of flying. To help her we all clubbed together to get her on a fear of flying course at Birmingham airport. She says the fear is now worse than it was before.
I personally do not fear flying and just find it intensely boring.
I have only once experienced what you may term a ‘hairy moment’ on a plane.
A few years ago I was on my way to Australia from America and it was night and the plane was over the Pacific.
Everyone or almost everyone was asleep (I turn into an insomniac when flying) and the plane was flying with the cabin lights dimmed when suddenly there was a loud bang. A voice came over the speakers and told us to fasten our seatbelts and told the crew to do likewise and not to unfasten them until further notice.
The plane, which was a huge thing with two decks, shuddered all its great length and we began to drop.
My girlfriend, not one of the insomniacs, woke immediately and clutched onto me, her hands dripping with sweat, just when all the planes lights went off, along with the TVs.
In the dark there were screams.
The plane was dropping at an impressive speed, although the word impressive is meaningless here.
Despite the fear described by Orson Welles, the only sense I recall was reality.
The reality that I was thousands of miles from land with only a bit of carpet and some tinplate underlay between me and the void.
After all, mass jet travel is only a very recent phenomenon and people have been plummeting out of the sky since Icarus Airlines operated the low-cost route from Minos. Then what may have been 10 seconds later, maybe a minute, who knows, the plane levelled out.
Some people went back to sleep. Others asked for whisky. One of the passengers claimed to have seen a stewardess praying on her knees in the kitchen.
Clear air turbulence was the word from the cockpit. Anyway we survived.
In light of the fate of two recent Malaysian Airlines flights among other incidents those with a fear of flying will not feel any better about boarding a plane.
You can see them on every flight, looking anxiously around the plane wondering how those around them can continue to read the latest John Grisham novel or analyse spreadsheets on laptops.
Spare a thought for those who do not trust the laws of physics or care for statistics.
I have heard it said often enough that you should be worried on a plane only when the flight crew start to look anxious.
The only flights on which I’ve ever felt at complete ease are the ones where I’ve been in the cockpit with the pilot; and since the 9/11 attacks that’s difficult to organise on commercial flights.
In the meantime we just have to trust those who know about these things.