Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2000/ 7 Elul, 5760
Grounded in her
AS FALL commences, I can't help noticing that I'll be
boarding no fewer than 10 airplanes in the next week.
With images of the fiery Concorde still freshly etched in
my memory -- and United Airlines' head dude hogging
every commercial break to remind me of his industry's
troubles -- you can imagine my excitement.
Like one out of eight Americans, I'd rather not fly. But
fly we must, and trust we must try.
My preflight lab work involves several psychic
exercises, beginning with a quick visit to the Fear of
Flying Clinic Web site -- FOFC.com -- where one can
reassure oneself with staggering statistics that ought to
keep any sane person out of automobiles forever.
I also practice breathing in small spaces, refill my Valium
prescription and re-evaluate my recent decision to
abandon my old pal, chardonnay. The FOFC site is
sponsored by a clinic in San Mateo, Calif., that treats
people for a range of phobias, of which fear of flying is
the most reasonable. Frankly, I'm not sure fear of flying
should qualify as a phobia, defined as an irrational fear.
Being terrified of stepping into a locked box, crammed
(not ironically) into a near-fetal position among
hyperventilating strangers to be lifted 30,000 feet into
"bumpy" air is not irrational.
Irrational is being calm under such circumstances.
Other phobias addressed by the FOFC include "Dental
Fear," also rational; "Public Performance Phobia;" and
so on. You can order books, tapes, videos, self-help
kits -- most of which sell for about $19.95 -- or you
can post messages for other phobiacs, which have the
effect of making you and others relax knowing that we
are not alone.
Fear of being alone, meanwhile, can be assuaged simply
by visiting the Web site and noting the hit-counter.
When I logged on, I saw 144,559 others had been
there before me.
The flying statistics are, indeed, reassuring, unless you're
planning to drive to the airport, in which case your
chances of dying are extremely good.
So, exactly how many Valiums do I need between now
According to the experts, your chance of being in an
airplane accident involving multiple fatalities are one in 3
million. The site offers no precise word on your chances
of being in involved in an airplane accident involving,
say, just one fatality, that being your own.
What does one in 3 million mean? It means you'd have
to fly once a day for 8,200 years to accumulate 3 million
flights. Let's put that in even finer perspective: In 1998,
presumably the last year for which statistics were
available (or, alternatively, the best year yet), 1.3 billion
people on 18 million flights made it to their destination
with only 10 fatal accidents.
That's accidents, not dead people, of course. The
FOFC cleverly avoided mentioning that there were
probably close to 300 people on each of those 10 fatal
flights. Even so, 3,000 out of 1.3 billion ain't half-bad,
especially when compared with the number of people
who died in the same time period by blithely driving
In the United States, according to the FOFC, 21,000
Americans die in highway deaths in a typical six-month
period. Which is more than have died in all commercial
jet fatalities worldwide since commercial aviation began
four decades ago.
As you can see, flying is perfectly safe. Besides, as my
father used to reassure me: "When your number's up,
your number's up." To which one can't help responding:
"But what if the pilot's number is
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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