Archive for Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Air disasters trigger fears, sometimes exaggerated

November 17, 1999

Dear Teresa:

I have always been nervous to travel by air, but the recent tragedy of Egypt Air Flight 990 has really deepened my fear. I shouldn't be afraid to fly. How can I and others prepare emotionally to fly after knowing about this horrible airplane crash?

Just Plane Phobic

in Tonganoxie

Dear Plane Phobic:

Every time I get on an airplane to fly off to some "dream vacation" I realize my vacation might never happen if the plane went down. There's always that risk and I always thank my Higher Power for allowing me to experience my vacation with a safe return home.

Interestingly enough, I get into my car every day to head for work or some other destination and rarely do I give a thought that my "day trip" could suddenly be ended if I met up with another speeding vehicle at the wrong time and at the wrong place!

My logic puzzles me when the statistics show the following. The National Transportation Safety Board reports there were 63 million airplane takeoffs and landings in 1997 with a total of 630 million air passengers. From 1982 through 1998 there were 2,211 passenger fatalities on all planes with ten or more seats.

This translates into an average of 11.5 deaths per month related to airplane accidents during that 16 year time period. 1993 and 1998 were fatality free. According to the Flight Safety Foundation there have been approximately 9,000 airplane related deaths since the inception of the jet airplane. The first Boeing 747 flew on February 9, 1969.

Compare those statistics to these offered by the National Highway Traffic

Safety Administration reporting an average of 1,000 deaths per month in automobile related accidents in the U.S. This amounts to 12,000 automobile- related deaths per year.Continued from page 8A

What an eye opener! Obviously, the risk of dying in a car accident is much higher than that of dying in an airplane accident.

So why do I become anxious while flying and not as anxious when I get behind the wheel of my car? Part of the answer I believe lies with the issue of control.

When we board a jet airplane we are forced to put our total trust in people who are supposed to be highly trained and highly capable of flying an airplane. They are better known as the pilot and the copilot.

More than likely we don't know them personally. Additionally, we are not sitting behind the cockpit controls, so we're more likely to be anxious because we're not in control.

When getting into a vehicle, we are more likely to feel less anxious because we are either driving the vehicle or we know the person who is driving and feel comfortable with their driving skills.

Most of us probably believe that, if something did happen on the road,we would be able to use our driving skills and judgment to avoid that forbidden accident.

Knowing statistics and being aware of normal control reactions should help you get over your phobia of flying. You might even want to learn some self-relaxation techniques you could do before boarding and while on the plane.

The self-help section in any large bookstore would offer a variety of books to select from on stress and relaxation.

Of course, there will always be risks whenever and wherever we are traveling. Being safety conscious and living every day of your life to the fullest will leave you with no regrets.

Teresa Reichart-Vernon lives

in Tonganoxie and is a

licensed specialist clinical social worker. She will answer readers' questions in The Mirror.

Questions may be send in care of the newspaper.

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