Is a fear of flying realistic?

BRITTANY MANN
Last updated 08:56 24/07/2014
Grant Amos

DEMYSTIFYING AIR TRAVEL: Grant Amos is a psychologist and the director of Flying Without Fear, a course that helps New Zealanders overcome their fear of flying.

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In the wake of the two Malaysia Airlines flights gone awry this year, nervous flyers' knuckles are whiter than ever.

But how realistic are their fears?

Grant Amos is a psychologist and the director of Flying Without Fear, a course that helps New Zealanders overcome their fear of flying by demystifying the air-travel experience.

He said a person's fears about a plane disappearing or crashing were realistic, as recent history showed. "You don't need statistics to prove that", Amos said.

But, he said, fear was not what underlay people's problems with flying. Anxiety disorders were.

"And these are made up of two magic words: 'what if?' Once you ask that, you can create your own monster movie in your head, which can lead to irrational behaviour."

The unsolved disappearance of flight MH370 in March sparked a rise in inquiries at FWF, but so far, its ill-fated successor MH17 - shot down by a missile over Ukraine - has not had the same effect.

Amos put the difference down to circumstance.

"When you've got disasters with facts, you may not like the facts but you can come to terms with them," he said.

"When the facts are unknown, you don't have to face the reality of how much rubbish it [the speculation] is. "With the first Malaysian flight, it was unknown as to what had taken place. When the flight disappeared, their imaginations ran amok. There were reports that aliens stole the plane or that Boeing crashed it on purpose to embarrass the Malaysian Government.

"[MH17] was struck by a missile fired by a bunch of terrorists. We may not like it but those are the cold, hard facts we need to come to terms with."

Media coverage of such events made them more dramatic than their statistical probability warranted, Amos said.

Compared to the probability of dying in a plane crash, someone was six times more likely to be kicked to death by a donkey or murdered by a spouse or a relative.

Being in one's home was 11 times more dangerous than being on a plane, Amos said.

"With my background, I was able to dispel most of the bullshit that was promoted and clarify some things that haven't been fully explained in the media.

"For example, there was no loss of radar. Military radar had the plane [MH370] under surveillance from Vietnam and Malaysia the whole time. They're not going to broadcast that because it tells everyone else how effective their radar systems are and they don't want people to know. It didn't mysteriously disappear into a black hole."

He declined to say what he thought had happened to the plane.

What are your chances of dying in a plane crash versus dying another way?


Source: MOH; MOT; ESR; MetService; Clarke, Ropeik.

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