Dwindling Pilot Population – The Fear

In the last post in this series I discussed some creative financing plans to help people reduce the high upfront cost of getting a pilot license. Now we will look at another deterrent, the fear many people have of flying.

There are many people that are interested in flying and have the money to do it, but they do not follow through because they are afraid. Some actually do start taking lessons, but then somewhere along the way they develop a fear that prevents them from continuing training.

Some of these people simply have a fear of heights, and will always be unwilling to face that fear by piloting an aircraft. It is up to those people to decide to no longer let their fear control them.

Some people believe it is by pure luck that any airplane manages to land safely. These people develop this belief by watching plane crashes on television and reading about them in the paper. They don’t notice that some of the crashes they read about in the paper happen three states away. They don’t think about the number of car crashes that happened that day between where the plane crashed and where they live. Since those car crashes aren’t covered, and the airplane crash is, that is what they focus on.

Even aviation magazines and blogs (this one included) help to push the airplanes are a death trap image by running articles about accidents. Pick up just about any aviation magazine, and you are sure to find at least one article discussing crashes. “Flying” magazine has a section “On the Record” that quickly highlights 4 accidents. The only reason I can figure this section exists is to make flying appear dangerous.

The section is simply a synopsis from the NTSB reports for the accidents. They don’t go into any detail about why it happened or how to prevent it. Just that it happened. Flying is a wonderful magazine in many ways, and I’m sure it is a good read for many non-pilots. Why they would include this section that serves no purpose other than to scare non pilots is beyond my comprehension.

There are also some common misconceptions about flying that many non pilots have. Most believe that if the engine quits, the airplane plummets from the sky, and everyone dies. Most also do not understand that when a pilot is talking about stalls, they mean the wings and not the engine.

Often when a pilot mentions they were practicing stalls, the non pilot thinking goes like this:
He is practicing killing the engine, and then as the airplane is falling out of the sky, he has to quickly get it restarted before crashing into the earth? Pilots must be insane, adrenaline junkies!

Sometimes people actually manage to start flying before they develop a fear of flying. Often these student pilots develop this fear while learning steep turns and stalls. After about an hour of these maneuvers they start to feel motion sick. A couple times of that and they stop dreaming about flying and instead start to look at it as something they dread doing.

Did you have any fears that you had to overcome before becoming a pilot? I still have an issue with heights sometimes. When I fly over 3,000′ AGL I start becoming uncomfortable. I rarely fly that high without a passenger. Having someone to talk to takes my mind off of how high I am and makes it better.


I recomend if you have a fear to just go out some time with an instructor, and have him demonstrate turning stalls, accelerated stalls, spins, etc. This many times will help you overcome your fear. After he demonstrates it do it yourself to reinforce it and to show yourself that it is not so bad after all. AOPA flight training reports that there are approximatly 150 fixed wing flight training related accident with about 3 of them being fatal every year, there are about 30,800 automobile related acidents annually. I would not know why that specific magizine would publish NTSB reports and not explain them I would recomend AOPA magazines they are great. I have some more aviation related blogs especially for student pilots on http://beginnerpilots.blogspot.com/ feel free to check it out and comment.

I saw an article recently where they are putting 737 simulators in malls in Britain, and thought what a great idea for our country! If we could put some small simulators in malls around the country where kids hang out, perhaps we could rekindle some interest in aviation.


Well I’m working on becoming a commercial pilot right now. I completely agree with what you’re saying, and I know many people who are scared of flying. When in fact, the transport they use to commute on a daily basis is more dangerous than an aircraft. And regarding the magazines including the crash investigations…they must be doing something right since they’re successfully selling thousands of copies, right?

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