My husband is an airline pilot, and I am an anxious flyer

Hi. My name is Joanna.  My husband is an airline pilot, and I am an anxious flyer.

Why?  My excuse is that I know more than the average person knows about flying, but I don't know enough to know that I am still safe.

I know pilots, personally, who have had a stick shaker go off and who have had engine failure en route.  I am sure there are plenty more things that Steve just doesn't tell me.  I know shit can happen, but I don't know much beyond that.

I used to be a fine flyer.  My first flight was when I was 15-years-old when I flew to Poland, and I was fine.  I even remember leaving for Peace Corps, at age 21, and being totally fine with flying.  Heck, when I was 19 I went on an Alaskan cruise and we did a helicopter tour of a glacier...I was fine with that!  The more I was around Steve, the more stories I heard, and the more anxiety I got.

I think my anxiety started over the last couple years.  Do I work myself up?  Yeah, probably.  And Steve insists that I work myself up.  Whatever it may be, it sucks and I wish I didn't have this issue.

For our flight to Las Vegas, I prepared myself with some good beer at the airport bar. 

Quick story: at one point I excused myself from the bar and walked to the bathroom.  I saw a familiar faced pilot.  I thought it was Dave, but wasn't quite sure.  We met twice before, but always in a casual setting.  He was looking back at me so I thought he may recognized me, but I didn't say anything to him.  When I got back to the bar I told Steve that I thought I saw Dave, and he said it probably was.  I also mentioned that he was looking at me, so I took that as him recognizing me.  Steve corrected me by saying that Dave likes to look at he was probably just eyeing me.  Apparently, this guy likes to always point out the pretty ladies.  I know this guy's basic story, but when Steve told me this I got a whole new dimension on this guy.  Kinda fun...I love to hear little tidbits about Steve's CAs.

I was feeling pretty good from the beer, and the flight to LAS was just fine.  I wasn't nervous at all.  I probably had another beer on the plane, and then took a nap.  I woke up and we had about 1 hour left.  Up to that point I was doing great.  Steve was sitting next to me, and he was probably relieved that I was doing so well.  Go beer!

During our approach into LAS we were hitting some decent thermals.  So, sitting in the back of the plane meant that we were getting bucked around pretty good.  Always always book seats around the wing. It makes for a more stable ride.  Yes, I was getting anxious about the bumps, but I was also getting motion sickness.  I got off the plane and threw up...of course it was because of the motion, and Steve insists that it was all in my head.  Remember how adventurous I am?  So, imagine getting bucked around for about 10 minutes.  Air sickness happens, and it happens to me.  This is the second time I got air sick like this.  First time was into Salt Lake City.  I think 1/2 the plane got sick on that flight.  I did, once, get vertigo after getting bucked around in the back of a 75 (whatever the really long ones are) as we were circling around EWR for, oh, 20-30 minutes.  This was on our way back from a cruise, so I had my sea legs still.  Sea legs + airline turbulence = sucks!  The vertigo lasted for about a week.  I never threw up from that flight, but I sure was swimming around in my own head for about a week.

We got into our fabulous hotel, and I felt horrible.  Steve kept saying it was in my head.  Our friends got into the hotel, and I couldn't make it out for dinner even.  I couldn't even stomach my $18 room service chicken soup, so I napped.  Thankfully, that was the ticket to feeling better!  I made it out for some drinks and shenanigans...which ended at the hidden pizza place at the Cosmopolitan.  Maybe not the most flatting picture of Steve and M, but the pizza was just delicious!  And they had Stone IPA on tap...Steve's favorite!


As for our flight back, I was anxious from the start.  Yes, I had a couple beers beforehand, but that didn't help much.  I drank two more beers on the flight, and was feeling better.  The ride was smooth, and we had DirectTV, so I was nice and distracted. 

Our approach in was fine.  At one point the pilot said the weather was "clear" and I had Steve translate that for me.  No bumps.  However, when we turned I would squeeze his hand.  When we would slow down I would squeeze his hand.  When the landing gear came down, I squeezed his hand.  He was pissed at me...I could tell.  I truly just could not control my anxiety.

On our drive home he was telling me that I disrespect him, is that the word he used, or was it insult?, when I get anxious during flights.  I don't understand why he thinks this, but he insists.  He doesn't understand why I get anxious when he is calm.  I suppose I get where he is coming from, but Steve doesn't have anxiety about anything so he can't relate.

This anxiety is truly uncontrollable.  Truly, I have no control over it whatsoever.  I have looked into many ways to deal with this.  In the past I have taken meds, but they didn't work.  Beer does help, but not all the time.  I will go back to the MD and get another type of anxiety medication, in hopes that a new kind works.  I even pray about it.  My last resort will be hypnosis. 

Thankfully, I am still able to fly.  I couldn't imagine being so crippled with this that I couldn't even travel.  I hope to God I never get to that point.  I should also add that I don't let the kids know that I am anxious.  That would just be horrible of me.  Mommy drinking a beer is nothing new to them, so to have them see me drinking beer on a plane isn't anything out of the ordinary. 

So, here I am: the wife of an airline pilot that is afraid to fly.  The wife of a man that rarely has issues with his flights, yet my mind races that something will happen to my one flight.  His latest issues was months ago when he had a mid-air return.  Nothing too spectacular, so I know that issues usually turn out just fine.  I know flying is safe.  I trust the airlines. I trust my husband. I trust the pilots.  Well, I take that back...I trust pilots that: have beaten flight bags (and the more stickers on it the better...I like to know about your personality a bit), have gray hair, walk with pride in the airport instead of looking like they "just ate a turd" as Steve once said, and have a nice looking uniform: polished shoes, pressed/starched shirt that is fitted nicely and tucked in.  Everything is working in my favor, yet I can't shake this stupid anxiety.



  1. I hear you! I've never been an anxious flyer but I feel like I know way too much now. And then there is stuff my pilot doesn't have control over like one of the FAs being pulled from the trip because she failed a breathalyzer. That makes me feel just swell!! :(

  2. Oh crap! I'm laughing pretty good at your comment about pilots walking through the airport looking like they 'just ate a turd'. I know that look, and I don't trust them either. They're flying only for the money or glory.... or both. My husband was an instructor at the regional he flew for, so I heard my fair share of stories too. Sometimes you hear too much. I'm not an anxious flyer, but I really wish I knew what to tell you to ease some of that anxiety. Sorry!

  3. I have to say that even though you are a pilot's wife it's nice to hear this ... i am AWFUL when it comes flying.. pure awful. I take xanax ; wine and sometimes even that doesn't help.. that's how bad it is.. it's almost to the point that i can't travel but i do... it's just not good on my body for days before and the day off - forget it.. once i'm there i'm ok but as soon as we are due to come home.. all again.. the moment i touch down at home though.. it's like an instant medication.... i hate it.. wish i could do more ..


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