aerophobia (noun) \ˌer-ō-ˈfō-bē-ə\: a fear or strong dislike of flying

If you know me at all, then you know of my aversion to flying. Friends and family members have tried to reason with me by subjecting me to long, statistical, drawn out speeches about transportation safety and how I am more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a plane crash. But talk all you want because…LA LA LA LA LA LA MY BRAIN CANNOT HEAR YOU. Unless you and I are exceptionally close and I can hear in your voice why you should care, you should know that your sermon makes you sound pushy and condescending, like I should feel bad about my decision to not fly.

So, please…just stop.


Last night I had a conversation about this little quirk of mine and finally decided to speak up about how I feel like I am constantly defending myself. Aside from the fact that my fiancé, whom I love immensely, lives over a thousand miles away and would greatly benefit from me lugging my terrified ass onto an airplane, I can’t really think of how my phobia really affects anybody.

If anybody should be pissed about this irrationality of mine, it should be him. But I made it perfectly clear before our relationship even started that I. DO. NOT. FLY. Maybe this helps me to feel justified in allowing him to be the one who does all the traveling, but it’s something that was made known from Day One. In fact, he knew about this long before we even got together, maybe even going years and years back. And even HE is okay with this. That’s not to say I don’t feel guilty about it or that I don’t recognize how my phobia affects those closest to me, but really…why would anyone else feel they have a right to argue with me about it?

overhead - my backyard

a view of the sky from my backyard

I love airplanes. I grew up on and around military bases and I currently live near Jacksonville International Airport, so the sound of a jet engine or a commercial plane flying overhead is one of the most comforting sounds to me. I have flown on airplanes numerous times before, but that was when I was younger and my parents booked family vacations and I had no choice but to travel by air. I have never liked to fly. Now I have a choice. I choose to not fly.

As a traveler who employs very limited modes of transportation, I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on the world. My earliest years were spent in Italy and taking trips to Germany and the former Yugoslavia. Luckily, I remember these moments. There is no strong desire pulling me back to visit any place abroad.

I think America is just as good a place as any to drive across, travel through, and wander aimlessly in search of history and a cultural connection. Why isn’t that enough? In what rule book does it say I must have a pining desire to stroll the romantic streets of Paris or to drink a pint of Guinness in an authentic Irish pub or visit the war-torn lands of my Polish ancestors, otherwise there is something terribly wrong with me?

And why does this mean so much to everyone who learns of my fear of flying?  It obviously matters more to them than it does to me, maybe because I have had my entire life to acknowledge and accept this.  And, for my entire adult life, I have had to defend myself against being treated as if this is a shortcoming, a flaw, or some kind a defect. It is what it is.


About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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11 Responses to aero·pho·bia

  1. Katy Jordan says:

    Maybe you’re an Earth sign, and you’re SUPPOSED to stay grounded (hah!). As a Taurus, Matt is, and he hates flying too. He says it’s not really the flying part, it’s the take-off and landing. He goes armed with his iPod and a book and I’m sure would add alcohol to that list if he was ever on a long enough flight that it was served. I’m a Gemini, though, and I would rather be in the air than anywhere. Not necessarily to fly to Europe (which I’ve done on the cheap and it was a fairly not-fun 6 hours), but just to be in the air. Years ago when my dad was getting his pilot’s license, I went up with him when he purposely stalled the plane to recover it. Here we are in a little Cessna, roaring loud engine, happily flying over our little city. Then he warned me he was going to stall and BOOM – dead silence. It was one of the most magical moments of my life; for a moment I could forget the little tin box I was sitting in and just enjoy that silence, coasting along as if I had wings.

    There’s nothing in the world wrong with not wanting to fly. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. I could be happier in a plane than any other mode of transportation, but I don’t like boats. Big boats and speed boats aren’t such a big deal, but I have to really tamp down my panic – HARD – in order to get into a rowboat or canoe. Paddle boat? Hate every second of it. And someone’s life would have to be on the line for me to ever get in a kayak.

    • Dena says:

      I’m glad you can see my POV, even from your own angle. Small boats don’t bother me but large boats do. It has something to do with the force of suction if it ever went down. But trains are probably okay …the Heartland Flyer Express is on my to-do list – OKC to Dallas! Not for the fun of Dallas, but all for the fun of getting Elle on a train!

  2. Lee I says:

    Where can I begin about the fear of flying. I’ve had several friends killed over the years in private planes, more in total than I’ve ever known that were killed in automobiles. Yet when my husband was courting me many years ago, I accompanied him with a pilot friend and his girlfriend on several short but terrifying trips. After he’d been husband for awhile, he decided to get his private pilot’s license. I won’t elaborate on the one and only flight I took with him except to say that I nearly died of terror. I became convinced that I was fated to die in a plane crash, so it would not be fair to take everyone else with me by flying.

    Years pass, husband dies, by wild coincidence I reconnect by email with an old friend I knew when we were both young and hot, but both attached, and then we had our own email fling for a few years until he too died. He was a Flight Simulator buff and once again, under the infuence, so to speak, I started reading a pilot blog he adored. The blogger is a “white-haired old guy” who loves his job, loves flying and has developed a writing style over the years that soars with his love.

    Fast forward. Over the years I’ve read this blog, including back to the beginning, the more he has not removed but at least quieted my fears enough to let me get on the plane in order to visit my favorite, France. When we hit a particularly hard bump in the air or go through miles of turbulence that always seems to prevail over the Hudson Bay leg of the trip, you might hear me mumble, “Hold my hand, Dave.”

    You may never want or need to fly again in your life, but if you’re at all interested in banishing a fear, you might try some beautiful reading at Flight Level 390: . Some of his blogs are about white-knuckle flights, but it’s fascinating to see them through the eye of the pilot.

    • Dena says:

      How funny you mention that blog – I have been pointed in his direction over the years quite often! I’m so sorry to hear about your friends, and I’m only slightly removed from those kinds of tragedies (Elle’s paternal grandmother was a flight attendant, called in sick one day from Tampa – her assigned flight crashed into Tampa Bay and killed the FA who took her place. My fiancé’s mother lost her stepfather in a plane crash when she was young. She’s also a non-flyer.

      To me, air travel just isn’t normal. But people from the 1840’s would probably say the same thing to us about our cars. I really do enjoy driving though and love seeing the pretty stuff outside the windows.

  3. Dena – I haven’t flown since 9/11. I also don’t do boats, cruise ships. When my ENTIRE family went on a cruise to celebrate my parent’s 55th wedding anniversary, I stayed home.

  4. It’s your life. Live it as you please. Convincing other people to do the same things we do simply validates our own decisions. The argument becomes less about you and more about them. I think Fleetwood Mac said it best “Go your own way…” 🙂

  5. nibblemethis says:

    When I had to fly to and from Florida last week, I actually looked up the crash histories of the MD88 and CRJ200 in which I was flying. I don’t recommend that before flying.

    • Dena says:

      What’s strange is I quasi-planned a train trip from OKC to San Diego for this/next summer after watching a show on Discovery about the Amtrak disaster in Mobile, Alabama – fiery explosion over water in which the bridge fell out from under the train. Still, I’d rather travel by train! I think…maybe because I can see the ground?

      I don’t blame you on the crash histories lookup. I do that when it comes to friends/family flying overseas.

  6. For a way to overcome fear of flying, check out my site: . Good luck overcoming! — Nathan

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