What Is Turbulence And Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of It?

Almost every traveler like me has a story to tell, about hitting a disturbed patch of air and how those moments give real Goosebumps. People start panicking and tripping over in not seated as the plane rattles. Air turbulence can be why people freak out before flights or not choose to fly altogether for the helplessness and fear is real. 

Turbulence is the disturbance in air currents caused by various forces, leading to chaotic eddies of air. The perfect example of turbulence is the disorganized black grey swirls that you see when a thread of smoke rises up. 

It is of various types, depending upon the causative factors. Shear turbulence happens if two adjacent air currents are moving in different directions. The pocket formed between the two will have some roughly swirling air. Mechanical turbulence happens when tall structures such as mountains distort the wind flow around them. 

On the other hand, there is turbulence due to jet streams, wherein a moving plane triggers sudden changes in wind velocity. If an aircraft is behind the former, it will likely experience some rattling. Then there is thermal turbulence that occurs due to thunderstorms and cumulus clouds.

So Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of Turbulence?

The most significant and relieving fact to consider is that turbulence doesn’t lead to a plane crash, no suggestive data to date that we know of. 

Pilots are well trained in all safety guidelines and preventive measures. They understand that some passengers may never book a flight again upon experiencing turbulence when aboard. Thus, they follow a couple of safety measures in all of their flights. For example, pilots avoid flying near mountains and tall buildings, which alleviates any possibility of mechanical turbulence. They are also aware that they must not go behind another plane and that the routes shouldn’t coincide, keeping in mind the chances of encountering sheer turbulence. 

Modern planes are carefully designed and built to withstand most turbulence. You won’t even know that you just passed by a turbulent air current most of the time. And in cases of more extreme turbulence, it is usually navigated beforehand, and pilots will avoid getting into it. If it grabs your plane at all, your pilots will lower the speed to a safer velocity to prevent any damage to the aircraft as it gets caught in the disturbance. 

Human error is the chief culprit for bringing down a plane – engineering faults and poor controlling being the most frequently reported. In comparison, turbulence is more of a hassle than a potential danger. Pilots avoid turbulence not because it is an issue for them, but because it can be a stressful experience for the passengers on board. 

The seatbelt will protect you from most of the onboard injuries, be it because of turbulence or something else. It also keeps you from falling towards the roof, in case the plane shakes really bad. Therefore, it is advisable to buckle on your seatbelts whenever the seat belt light turns on. Since the seat belt doesn’t feel straining or uncomfortable, you can choose to keep wearing it throughout your journey. 

By frequently flying and traveling, I am now used to all kinds of rattling and swirling of planes. If you still panic about it, I recommend you tell about your anxiety to the flight attendants. In such case, if any disturbance is anticipated on their side, they will consider you first. 

Millions of people fly every day, adding up to billions in a year. Of those three or four billion people, around 50-100 passengers are ‘injured’ due to turbulence a year. If you go on to calculate the percentage or probability, you will laugh at the number of zeroes there are after the decimal. And among them, most belong to the crew!

Have you taken a course on overcoming a fear of flying If so, what course did you take, what was the experience like, what were your biggest takeaways, and did it help you?

For most of us these days, traveling by air has become a complete necessity. Whether it’s a vacation or for work, we simply cannot avoid flights. However, even the name of a flight was enough to invite anxiety once for people like me.
I felt ridiculous thinking, why a woman in her 30s should be scared of a flight. Aviophobia, or the fear of flying and flights, completely had me in its grip. But thankfully, I have overcome it successfully. If you, too, have this phobia, you must take yourself through a mental procedure to end the fear. Remember, it’s all in your mind.

Identify the triggers of anxiety

The first way to cope with anxiety is to identify what you fear or what makes you anxious. Ask yourself what exactly scares you about a flight. Let me give you a small example from my experience. Is it the noise, the turbulence, or the fear of a plane crash? For me, it was the thought of sitting thousands of miles above the earth in mid-air. My mind somehow associated it with the fear of looking down from a height, typically the roof of a high-rise or a cliff. Fellow travelers have often recounted how they feel breathless in a plane, suffocated, and fear that they would choke. It is easier to curb your fears when you identify them and the reasons behind them.

Educate yourself on phobia

My fight with my fears by educating myself on aviophobia taught me that it is not just a single phobia that works in a plane. It is a series of phobias working in your mind with a lot of underlying reasons. I watched many videos on the Internet and talked with a lot of friends who are either into aviation or take the flight frequently. At first, it was nauseating to be true. But then, once I started understanding how the mind works, it got easier to deal with the situation.
Let me tell you that it’s not at all an easy process. It is a long fight with your mind as fear tries to see no reason and logic. You have to remind yourself that you are in safe hands continually. If you see that the reason for your fear is claustrophobia or the thought of getting locked in the plane, remind yourself every minute that you will have a lot of companions and nobody can get locked in public transport. Search the Internet about videos to end the fear of flights, and I can vouch for it that they will be of immense help. Some of them are really helpful, motivational, and guide your mind about ending the fear.

Knowledge ends fear

Once I understood that my career or my love for traveling places won’t spare my phobia, I decided to put my foot down. These educational videos were my secret saviors. I went and found out videos about how airplane functions and how safe it is for passengers. Knowing the technicalities educates the mind and helps to believe that everything is safe. Once you start acquiring knowledge, it lessens the fear gradually. I also began to watch videos addressing aviophobia and fear of heights. Trust me, now I do not suffer from panic attacks, even if I have a window seat. I can even dare to click a few beautiful pictures when flying over dreamy clouds or mountains. Once you win over your fears, it feels liberating.

Meditate when you fly

Another tip would be to think positively and meditate when you sit on a flight. Take deep breaths or do your breathing exercise to calm the mind, end the anxiety, and control everything. Coupled with the knowledge you acquired and the fight with your fears, this will gradually end your tensions ultimately.
When I look back, I find a completely different person. I am glad that I decided to end my fears and travel without the burden of anxiety. Nothing can now hinder my travel dreams or my career. The process wasn’t as smooth as butter, but the final result makes me a calmer and happier person.

What essential tips do you have for overcoming a fear of flying?

Arriving at new destinations is amusing and enthralling. But for some, a fear of flying can keep them from these great adventures and cozy travel experiences. They become nervous and anxious when they fly. The turbulence, crowd, and taking off and landing can be unpleasant and frightening. Here are some measures that I have been trying to overcome my triggers and panic attacks: 

Understand That Phobias Are Completely Irrational 

In medical terms, phobias are described as an intense irrational fear that can be associated with anything. Educate yourself about the statistics and read about pilots and travelers. Take in facts from professionals and see that you start thinking more logically. I also stayed away from news stories, movies, and dramas depicting aircraft accidents and hijacking. Don’t allow you fear and anxiety to control your life.

Also, become familiar with the build and design of planes and how they withstand emergencies. Learn how to deal with turbulence and emergency landings. 

Take Medications If Necessary

Anti-anxiety medicines will help you calm down for hours, and some even allow you to fall asleep, thanks to their sedative property. This prevents you from getting influenced by noise and movements. This doesn’t mean you have to self-prescribe. A doctor’s consultation is a must.

Choose The Right Seat 

After a couple of flights, one becomes aware of what position suits them the best – Aisle, middle, or window seat. Figure out where you feel comfortable and relaxed and what is it that you want from your seat. 

Be To The Cockpit

While entering into the airbus, ask a flight attendant to show you to the cockpit. Meet the pilots and have small talk while looking around the chamber. The good news is most pilots are very warm and welcoming, and they love to see people come up and say hello (obviously before the take-off!). As for you, meeting them will create trust, and having a look at the operational controls will calm you down.

Sit Towards The Front Of The Plane

Bus rides are an example of how bumpy and jerky the back of a vehicle gets on rough pathways. The same goes for airplanes. Sit towards the front to experience the least amount of turbulence and jerks.

Speak Out

Let your fellow fliers know about your fears and insecurities. Enlighten them about what frightens you and what helps you most to deal with the anxiety aboard. This way, not only will you become more familiar with your triggers, but you also will be relieved that there are people around to help you out.

Upgrade Your Ticket

Upgrade to business class if you can afford, as feeling comfortable physically helps achieve emotional comfort effortlessly. Relax as you lay on your seat and ease out your flight.  

Consult a therapist

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a psychological treatment mode used by therapists and counselors. It is based on the idea that if you alter your thoughts, you can easily change your subsequent response and behavior. Addressing general anxiety will help to reduce the intensity of your panic attacks when you face your triggers. 

Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Do you know about Exposure Therapy? Honey, there is a whole world of exciting adventures waiting for you out there. Don’t miss them by remaining within the limits of your comfort. Train your brain and face your fears and anxieties; it will only improve your condition. As you fly more and more often, your phobia will eventually get weaker. Every flight that you take will make the next one easier. 

Don’t let those fancy Instagram posts and Pinterest boards taunt you with their vivid travel imagery, as I used to feel when I scrolled through them. Aerophobia can be hard to tackle. Follow these tested measures to keep flying peacefully and calmly.


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