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Home > Fear of Flying > Help! I am absolutely terrified of turbulence!
Help! I am absolutely terrified of turbulence!
Flying - Fear of Flying
Monday, 28 January 2013 15:15

In Flight Explanation 1

Hi Captain,

I am 33 years of age, love going on holiday but over the past say, 5 years my fear of turbulence is actually preventing me from going on holiday!

I used to be fine with flying but now I am absolutely terrified of turbulence and find myself awaiting the next bump on every flight.

My fears are so bad that my children are now scared of flying and I actually have no control over my erratic emotions on a flight.

I’m terrified as we have a 10 hour flight ahead of us in 6 months’ time and I’m actually considering cancelling the holiday.

Please help!!!


Hi Stephanie,

I do empathise with you on your fear of turbulence but honestly, there is nothing to be afraid about it if you understand it better.

I have answered this question many times before but you can read it in the Travel 3Sixty magazine here.  It is among one of the 10 FAQ there.

“Turbulence is normal and part and parcel of flying on most flights. I’ve mentioned in past articles that turbulence is not to be feared. It is an issue of discomfort rather than safety, as long as passengers are securely fastened to their seats. Normally, the plane flies on autopilot even in turbulence. Passengers are warned of impending turbulence, and the captain would try his best to avoid them. Prior to entering turbulence, seatbelt signs are switched on and the cruising speed is reduced; just like how you would approach a hump on the road in your car.”

In another article, I repeated my assurances to more passengers on similar queries in the same magazine below:-

“Turbulence continues to be the main cause of fear for passengers. Most air travellers receive a shock when they encounter turbulence for the first time, even if it’s a mild episode.

What does turbulence feel like? Well, light turbulence would manifest as some slight and rapid bumpiness. Moderate turbulence is light chops with greater intensity but with more rapid bumps. A severe one would cause the occupants to feel some force against their seat belts and any loose objects would be tossed about.

During an episode of turbulence, if you look outside the window, you might see the wings flexing a little and the engine shaking slightly on the pylon. Do not be alarmed, as they are designed to do so and the wings would not actually snap off nor would the engines drop off!

I repeat. Turbulence is nothing to worry about even in severe cases (not the extreme types). As long as you are securely fastened to your seat, the worst thing that might happen is for you to have a ‘free’ roller coaster ride.

Turbulence is part and parcel of air travel, although it can be quite discomforting - much like driving over potholes and speed bumps on a road.”

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my new Twitter at @CaptKHLim

In Flight Explanation 2


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How I coped with turbulence
Turbulence has always been my big worry. I know in my head that it is not a danger, but thought that we might hit severe turbulence would make me very anxious about flying. I did not mind the bumps as we are coming in to land as I know it will end soon and the plane is slowing, so the bumps are less severe and also expected. But the thought that some point mid flight that we might hit turbulence and that it might get worse and not being able to stop it meant that I would be tense for the whole flight and in the period leading up to the flight. I have found some coping mechanisms in addition to the ones above. Listening to music helps and even rocking a little in the seat to the beat (bumpity bump, rockety rock lose yurself in the beat as we bump through the air). I have tried watching videos, but I used to find as soon as the turbulence hit, I would lose concentration. I found animated videos better to watch as they are aimed at a kids concentration, so I could actually watch without needing to concentrate to hard. Also I remember watching a video involving boats at sea and the imagery of the boats going up and down on the waves sort of fitted with the bumps of the plane which was helpful. Finally, I read a book about fear, the crux of which said that fear was mearly the thought that we could not cope with a situation. I found that if I tell myself that I might not like the bumps, but I will walk off the plane with the hundreds of others including kids and old people and I will cope. I think that was the biggest help, bringing back some level of control - I may not like it but I will cope
David , 31 Jan, 2013

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