Fear of International Flying

Hi Guys,

I am not a pilot nor am I an aspiring one but I am someone who flies fairly frequently and recently I have developed a fear of flying. I figured what better place to ask then the direct source.

As I stated, this fear is only recent. I was fine flying up until around two years ago.

I’m actually okay flying domestically for the most part (Except for Florida) but the issue I have is flying internationally.

I have an international flight coming up this week to the British Virgin Islands with Delta. Instead of being excited, I am feeling anxious more than anything.

The reason for this is because I have an almost (irrational fear) of flying over large bodies of water. As long as I can see that there’s land below me, I feel okay but when flying over water, I keep thinking what if there’s an emergency? There’s no place to land. Whenever I fly internationally (or to Florida) and we fly over water, I start to get very nervous and convince myself the worst is going to happen.

Can any of you tell me if there are different safety logistics when it comes to flying over water vs land? What do you guys do in case of an emergency?

I really don’t want to cancel my flight but I am freaking myself out so much about my upcoming trip that I just may do that. This is why I am here trying to get answers. At least if I have a bit more knowledge about flying, it may help me somewhat.

Thank You.

Hi Marla,

My ex girlfriend had this same fear. Plus claustrophobia plus some other things. She had some childhood triggers. I don’t think you need the advice of pilots, I think you need help from someone expert in matters of anxiety and perhaps agoraphobia. We can all helpfully suggest you google Sullys landing on the Hudson, but this won’t help your fear one bit. Something unrelated to flying over water has triggered this phobia and none of us here are qualified to help you identify what that is or to overcome it.

Good luck.


I do think I have anxiety issues and I used to be extremely claustrophobic (I would have a melt down if I had to take an elevator). It’s just very frustrating because I love to travel and I used to be fine flying internationally or otherwise.

Come to think of it now, I think I became triggered after that Malaysian airplane disaster happened a few years ago. Ever since that time, I’ve been afraid to fly over water.

I keep reminding myself though that these are rare cases and that I will most likely be okay.

Thank you for your response.


First and foremost flying is by far the safest mode of transportation there is. Your chances of having a car accident are literally 100,000 times greater than being in a plane crash. But let’s talk about your specific concern, flying over the ocean.

First of all I’m not sure you’ve looked at a map of the Caribbean recently but it’s hardly open ocean. There are islands with runways EVERYWHERE. All modern commercial aircraft are fully capable of flying just fine for extended periods of time on just one engine but when we talk about the islands of the Caribbean things get even safer. You may not know this, but planes don’t just fall out of the sky and 40,000’ is pretty high off the ground. What that means is even if the plane suffered a nearly impossible dual engine failure (there’s only been a handful EVER) it would take about 40min to reach the Earth. If that plane slowed to a nice glide speed of say 250kts that means in those 40 min the plane could travel almost 200mi, more than enough to reach any of those islands. With one engine they could even turn around and fly you home.

Short answer you need to relax. If you want to worry, worry about getting sunburn or bitten by a shark! Your odds are much better :wink:


1 Like

Hi Marla,

I am going to respectfully disagree with Andy on one point. I am not a pilot either, and I have also been afraid of flying (though just generally, not under any specific circumstance). However, I found Sully’s experience not only absolutely riveting, but the movie led me to his book, which led me to numerous online interviews with Sully and Jeff Skiles about their experience, which led me to these forums, which led me to countless YouTube videos about how planes work, about the training pilots have, and what each is capable of. I have a VASTLY different perspective on flying now, and the excitement of the pilots and students here have even created the tiniest little spark of regret I don’t have another lifetime to pursue this as a career. My research and Adam’s first-hand logical perspective detailed here work for me because, to me, knowledge is power. Maybe it will work for you, too. I hope so. But if not, consider Andy’s advice as well.



p.s. For those of you who wonder if Adam is exaggerating the traffic numbers, here’s a link to the data from my office: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/

I would be happy to be wrong and I hope I am. If Marla’s fear is rational (she described it as irrational) and information will alleviate it then I will be wrong and that’s great.

My ex had a fear of flying, specifically over water, serious claustrophobia (terrified of elevators and would always take the stairs, even 20 or more floors), fear of being underground (wouldn’t take the Tube when in London), cable cars, etc.

She understood that flying over water was far safer than driving a car, but that didn’t help. She understood that elevators rarely break and if they do, someone gets you out and you’re fine but that didn’t help.

Marla - years ago there was a commercial flight over the Atlantic where something happened to rupture a fuel line and the plane ran out of fuel before reaching its destination in Europe. The pilot successfully glided the jet (with no engines) to an island in the middle of the Atlantic, landed at the airport and everyone was fine.



I don’t mean to discount your advice at all. I’m a big fan of professional help when necessary, and in your ex-girlfriend’s case, it sounded absolutely necessary. Marla will have to gauge how incapacitating her fear is—if it’s something that knowledge will alleviate (which is a heck of a lot cheaper), or if it goes a lot deeper than that.



You know I’ve been flying for a very long time. This is so rare pilots give each other a look when they hear about it. The chances of you being involved in such is slim to none. Honestly. I’ve never had to ditch an aircraft in the water, and I’m grateful. However in my early years my flight crew witnessed Alaskan Air 261. And that was super rare. My captain was baffled. Given that situation I was impressed how long the pilots managed to keep control of the flight. This all comes back to flying a good airline, that takes care and trains their pilots, and takes maintenance seriously. But here’s the reality. Even the worst airlines go months, years, decades without any fatal accidents. So you’ll be fine. Try to keep your mind off of it, and try to snag window seat so you close the window during flight.


Keep in mind that aircraft do have numerous life rafts, survival equipment and emergency locater transmitters, amongst much other equipment. If an airliner were to go down, which hasn’t happened in decades, a search and rescue operation would immediately begin.

I wouldn’t worry about this too much. There are plans in place and backups to the backups.


Maybe a dumb question, but I’ve always wondered while I’m flying during turbulence if there ever is any fear of an aircraft doing a 360 and turning upside down or have I watched to many Top Gun movies of fighter aircraft flying that way?

None whatsoever. I have never heard of such thing happening.


Zero fear of doing a 360 from turbulence ever. I was however whipped close to 90deg when I got a little too close to a UPS 747s wake in an RJ back in the day.

The fighters in Top Gun (and in real life) roll 360 because they want to and they’re the ones making the plane do it. Not turbulence.


Thank you all very much for your responses and information. It’s very helpful actually. I do feel a bit better now that I know more about how planes work and knowing that there are several other islands in the vicinity just in case of anything makes me feel better.

My flight is tomorrow morning.

I am being positive right now. I’m still nervous but feeling better than before. I certainly won’t be looking out the window for the majority of the trip though (I’m in the middle seat anyway unfortunately as I would have preferred the aisle seat. Oh well). I am going to listen to music, read a book on my e-reader and maybe have a glass of wine (or two) while I’m on board.

Thanks again!

Good luck, Marla; I know you’ll be fine. And in my humble opinion, the glass of wine is an excellent idea! :wink: