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Scared of Flying?

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Scared of Flying?

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Old 9th Feb 2018, 11:15
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Scared of Flying?

I just finished reading Tony Doyle's rather excellent book about his time spent flying Meteors, Vampires, Gnats and Lightnings in the RAF.
 Link Link


He mentions somewhat casually mid-way through that was always scared of flying, and that he would be anxious from the moment he awoke on a flying day.

At the time he was display flying (Gnats and, later, Lightning solo) it almost drove him to mental breakdown. A couple of years convalescence on a ground tour saw him return to a better state of mind, but he remained very anxious with high altitude and night flight.

Doyle explains that his own ejection from a dying Lighting had made matters worse, as had seeing the two previous Lighting solo display pilots buy the farm, but it is clear that he persevered and flew many hours over 20 years despite the fact he was frightened.

How common is this among military flyers?
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 15:34
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I have been crewed up with several other rearcrew over 36 years who were scared of flying, and they were often even more scared when "getting back on the bike" after an emergency.

However, much more recently, I myself retired after 9 months of being scared witless on every single flying day. I could not even consider the offer of 5 years more flying service; I simply could not wait to get the last flight done and to stay on the ground for good.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 16:31
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Well, I freely admit to being nervous before some trips but it wasn’t death I was afraid of - it was screwing up.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 19:05
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The WSO in one of the Tornados involved in the Moray Firth collision (ZD743) was described in the SI as suffering from phobic anxiety disorder.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 19:36
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Carrier flying was a different ball game. Someone asked me if I ever had an emergency. I replied that every trip was an emergency !

For passengers on civil aircraft, ask them what is the most dangerous part of the flight? When you have said wrong every time, you explain

that its the drive to the airport.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 19:40
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I don't know about scared of flying, but I know an awful lot of pilots who are scared of heights. I'm just about capable of getting to the bedroom windows to clean them from the outside, (about seventh rung on a ladder?) and I know some who couldn't even get that far. As long as I wasn't connected to the earth I was fine.

Having said that, in the months leading up to my breakdown I was getting more and more nervous about descending IMC. Despite two-crew, Rad Alt, EGPWS etc, I had this irrational feeling that the ground was going to come up and get me.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 20:11
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The only time I was scared in an aircraft was in the early 1950's, at RAF Fayid, Suez Canal Zone. We had just got PAR and was on a practice approach when I, sitting back quite nonchalantly (while the driver and nav were doing their good deeds) from my Siggies position beneath the astrodome spotted a bleedin' great York aircraft about 100 feet at a guess right above us, also on the approach. Screamed for the pilot to take evasive action. Job done.
Not aware of any recriminations.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 20:55
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I'm not a great lover of heights and working up on the VC10 engines used to give me the willies even though I loved it, one of the most frightening times was letting myself slide off the side of the engines and drop onto the safety raiser next to the fire extinguisher housing... It got even more frightening when it was raining or when deiced as gloss paint, deciing fluid and water made the whole thing like an ice rink, top that off with having safety harnesses in stores but nowhere to actually to clip them.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 21:04
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Tony Doyle was my Flight Commander at Halton when I was nearing the end of my RAF Apprenticeship. This was the late 1960’s which would co-coincide with “A couple of years convalescence on a ground tour saw him return to a better state of mind”.

I, along with half a dozen other “Brats”, had been selected for potential commissioning and Tony took us to Norway for a winter survival expedition to assess our suitability.

I will never forget the moment when we were grouped at the top of the mountain all kitted out with our “Norwegian planks” cross country skis. He pointed to me and said I should wait a couple of minutes then follow his tracks through the forest. This I managed quite easily until I came to a point when the two ski tracks split and went either side of a tree!

He always struck me as being a happy go lucky kind of person and, until I read this post, had no idea to his background. Makes sense now.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 21:10
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However, much more recently, I myself retired after 9 months of being scared witless on every single flying day. I could not even consider the offer of 5 years more flying service; I simply could not wait to get the last flight done and to stay on the ground for good.
Bravo. Simple integrity conveys moral courage in a profoundly raw manner.

I retired when my I could not stomach the daily preflight anxiety any longer. I could have stayed another 8 years in ground tours and collected my £50K pa salary and a much bigger pension, but my moral compass could not square that circle so I left at age 47.

I thought the invasion of Iraq was illegal as well, but I guess that's a different story.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 21:30
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Many years ago, I used to fly with an Italian flight deck crew - and discovered why the Pope always kissed the tarmac when he left an aircraft!
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 21:32
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There are posts here, I believe, from ex Shack aircrew. As ex Shack ground crew I can only say " If any of the many Shack pilots I flew with as ground support felt like this, thank you for not showing it"
Especially on one memorable flight from Majunga to K´sar with an unscheduled stopover in Nairobi.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 21:36
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Civi wise I know a ppl who scared themselves so sh*tless they couldn't land and it took a calm instructor voice in air tragic to talk them down, I don't think they flew again.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 21:54
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I gave it away after being unable to get past the thought "is this the day it all ends" ?
Small mistakes I would beat myself up for and then fear the worst.
In hindsight it became a bit of a viscous circle that slowly got worse over time.
My flying became more and more timid and less natural. I was pleased to land and have not screwed up - or at the later stages be seen to not have screwed up!

I remember reading Jerry Pook's Harrier book and applauded his honestly.
There are a few people on this forum to who have written some brave words on the subject - one a Falklands Harrier pilot and the other is I understand an instructor at Valley - fair play to you both!
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 22:08
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Slight off topic but I also think that a lot of people that fly are very 'driven' (although not so much me).
Its a character trait that is usually needed (at least to some degree) to get to do the cool jobs but also can be destructive for some people too.
Also when they retire or the job is taken away - think sports stars after they retire - I think most find it difficult to have something meaningful in their lives.
Mental health seems to be a problem for a fair chunk of pilots I think.

Last edited by typerated; 9th Feb 2018 at 23:52.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 22:10
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I'm staggered at this thread! It never occurred to me that anyone would feel this way. Absolute respect though. Nutloose makes a good point.....the connection with the ground. Drifting a little here, and certainly not making a comparison.....but, as I got older, I found it more and more difficult to operate aerial platforms (up to 99 feet) in the fire service. I'll never forget the feeling when I thought I'd toppled an hydraulic platform....merely a trick of the inner ear thankfully. Anyway.....apologies for commenting here. Nothing but respect from me gents.
MD
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 22:13
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Originally Posted by typerated View Post
Slight off topic but I also think that a lot of people that fly are very 'driven' (although not so much me).
Its a character trait that it's usually needed (at least to some degree) to get to do the cool jobs but also can be destructive for some people too.
Also when they retire or the job is taken away - think sports stars after they retire - I think most find it difficult to have something meaningful in their lives.
Mental health seems to be a problem for a fair chunk of pilots I think.
couldn't agree more typerated!
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 22:13
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This is luckily something that I don’t suffer from. But Pingu, a good mate, did and put pen to paper recently having left. An abridged version of his (excellent and courageous) blog post is here, on p30:

https://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediaf...2DCFC98910.pdf
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 22:15
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Gosh, What an interesting and thought provoking thread. As mentioned above, in the RAF I also used to beat myself up over small mistakes but that is nothing to what I see in the civil world. But as they are not dropping out of the sky is it me?

MM

Last edited by Miles Magister; 10th Feb 2018 at 10:47.
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Old 9th Feb 2018, 23:02
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At Stradishall for the Advanced Nav training course, our Dep Course Cdr had just arrived from Canberras. After the longish overseas trip to Gib we did at the end of the Varsity phase, he mentioned quietly to me that night that he had been physically ill that morning at the prospect of some 7 hours flying without an ejector seat - something he'd never done before.

And by chance, the British Journal for Military History has just published a WW1 edition that can be downloaded free. It contains an article on early medical perspectives on the "Nervous Flyer":

The Nervous Flyer: Nerves, Flying and the First World War | Shaw Cobden | British Journal for Military History
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