Can you recommend some positive stories about flying?


I’m scared of flying. It is a phobia that has been getting gradually worse over the years and I really want to reverse this trend. I’ve realised that almost all my interaction with planes is negative – from seeing plane crashes/terrorism plots in the news; to reading about crash survivors in literature. If you watch TV dramas and films it is even worse, with about 50% of planes crashing over the course of an episode. I know this isn’t  a realistic reflection of air travel and so I want the images stored in my brain to be more positive. 

Can you recommend any books about flying where there are NO plane crashes? 

I want to read happy, positive books about life in the air. Perhaps the memoirs of a pilot or cabin crew? (as long as there are no scary situations) or maybe a book about someone who uses air travel as part of their job? Wildlife researcher? Delivery person? Cartographer?

Please help me to think of air travel in a more positive light!

25 replies on “Can you recommend some positive stories about flying?”

I can’t think of any books off-hand, Jackie, but I know people (chief among them my mother-in-law) for whom fear of flying courses have worked wonders, so maybe that’s something worth looking into.

Cornflower, Thank you for the suggestion! I have thought about going on the course, but I’m trying to cure myself first. I’ve been reading books on cognative behaviour therapy (which is what they teach on these courses) and I’m hoping I’ll be able to come up with some improvement on my own, hence the question about positive books on flight. Fingers crossed!

I’m not an easy air traveler either. At the slightest turbulence I need to have my brain 100% distracted with something else. Usually I do music as loud as I can stand it (with in-my-head sing-along). I remember one trip where I tried to list all of the 172 books in my TBR ( and it was actually quite successful.

Plane books… Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon (haven’t read it, so there might include accidents). Isn’t there a Poirot set in a plane? How about Flight of Passage ( or Boing vs. Airbus, if you’re in the mood for non-fiction? (

Alex, Music isn’t enough to distract me – my fear is more unconcious and so I find it difficult to remove the feelings of panic. I used CBT techniques on my flight last year, which helped a bit, but unless I do it continually through the flight (not really possible when it is several hours long and you have children with you!) then a bit of unexpected turbulance ruins everything. Hopefully I’ll be able to do better this year once I have lots more positive flying knowledge in my head!

Thanks for all the recommendations – I’ve looked at them all and bought a copy of Flight of Passage – it looks like a really interesting book!

I really feel your pain…I went from being a 4+ times a year flyer when I lived overseas to a once-in-a-blue moon flyer, terrified (thanks largely to tv and films – you’re so right!) that all planes are destined to crash.

That Agatha Christie set on a plane might be ‘Death in the Clouds’ which sounds like a TERRIBLE one to read if you’re scared of flying but although the murder happens on the plane, the flight itself is otherwise totally non-eventful.

Another thing I found helpful was finding someone who loved flying and making them talk to me about why they loved it. It’s so easy to find people to talk to who hate flying but it just reinforces your underlying belief that there’s something to be afraid of. That and this website – Avoid the comments (always avoid the comments) but the support is really great and it’s lovely to find a forum where your totally bonkers fears are seriously considered and allayed.

Good luck!

Faye, Thanks for the support and all the information – I’ll take a look at the website (not the comments!) and try and talk to some people who love flying 🙂

One of my favorite books, West With the Night, is about flying. I can’t remember, but I bet there is a crash at some point, though the ‘author’ survived to write the book.

I use quotes because Beryl Markham did not really write this book about her childhood in Kenya and her early years as a bush pilot. Later scholars found that her husband was probably the true author.

I suggest watching Fly Away Home. It’s a wonderful movie about a girl who saves and raises a bunch of geese and then teaches them to migrate by getting them to follow her in the small plane she flies. No crashing as I recall and a wonderful movie by Carroll Ballard.

James, West with the Night sounds like the sort of book I’d love – I’m now torn as to whether or not to read it! Perhaps I’ll buy a copy and save it for after my flight this year!

I think I remember watching Fly Away Home years ago, although I can rememebr next to nothing about it. It’s probably something my boys would enjoy so I’ll add it to my DVD rental queue. Thanks for the recommendations!

I am / kind of was a really nervous flyer, so I completely feel your pain. It was most painful while in a long distance relationship with my now-husband because one of us was on a transatlantic flight every couple of months and I’d be in a panic because I thought something terrible was going to happen to whichever of us was in the air. I still have to fly relatively frequently because, as you know, I still live in the UK. 🙂 I couldn’t really cure it myself, the best way was flying frequently but it’s too expensive to fly every couple of months just to soothe my fears.

I don’t have any bookish recommendations, but what I did eventually do was go on the fear of flying course offered by Virgin Atlantic. I found it so useful – they had a brilliant, funny pilot there as well as flight attendants and the behavioral therapy people that you mention above. They went through each and every stage of flight, all the things that they have to do to prepare to fly, and were really honest about every aspect of it. They also provided some useful tips about how to calm anxiety while actually on the plane. They take you on a flight with a pilot in the cabin of the plane with you and a separate pair of pilots flying the plane and narrate the whole thing, which for me was the best.

I’m not completely cured and it didn’t get better straight away but I’ve definitely improved a huge amount and am mostly relaxed except for take-off, which I still really don’t like. I think just understanding what’s happening and all the little things pilots and flight attendants do made the most difference for me. I’ve forgotten the behavioral tricks (it was a couple of years ago) and lost the little booklet they gave me but I still know what’s happening in each stage of flight and I often use the water bottle trick – bringing a bottle of water on the plane and standing it up when there’s turbulence so you can see how bad it really is, not how much your inner ear is freaking out without appropriate front vision – which helps too. I don’t mean to be an ad for Virgin but I was *really* afraid and the fact that I’m now pretty calm and able to relax for the whole flight after the first five minutes is a massive improvement.

Hope you can find something which helps you! 🙂

Meghan, Strangely it was frequent flying that made my fear worse – mainly because I had several bad experiences (although I can only blame myself for taking internal flights in countries without the same safety standard as the UK)

It’s good to hear such a positive story about the Fear of Flying course – I may well go on it if I’m still a gibbering wreck on my next flight! I hope you continue to be a relaxed flier.

I haven’t read it myself yet, but Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith might be helpful.

I’m pretty nervous about flying too. Ironically, I *love* helicopters and even took a helicopter flying lesson, although I know they are less safe. But planes terrify me, mostly at takeoff. I think it’s because they dim the lights and there are all these big sounds and I feel like we all have to be quiet and concentrate or the plane won’t achieve liftoff. I don’t let it stop me from traveling, but it’s extremely unpleasant!

threegoodrats, Helicopter lessons? No! Helicopters scare me far more than planes. I’ve only been in one once and that was enough for me! It’s a shame you can’t travel more in helicopters if you enjoy them more than planes though 🙂

I second the film showing geese how to migrate and to a safer place: ‘Fly Away Home’ especially because the camera ‘flies’ too and seeing the landscape below is a real and gently exciting pleasure. When flying I love looking at the world below if I can get a window seat, that living map is mind blowing when it is possible to see. My imagination is stimulated by the sights and place names, then there is much to think about and speculate on. I have to explore it further with an atlas & Google Earth when I arrive home so seeing and learning about new terrain I’m unlikely ever to visit. The moving map on screen is as, if not more, entertaining than the films available. So I often feel as though I haven’t wasted this travelling time but had further adventures. However I truly do not want to experience flying in a helicopter!
I wish you well on this particular venture. X

Hmmm … that’s a challenge. It’s a long time since I’ve read it but Anne Tyler’s The accidental tourist is a novel about a travel writer and I’m sure there was a scene or two in planes. The plane doesn’t crash (or anything) but the main character could have been a bit curmudgeonly if I remember correctly.

I won’t recommend QF32 by Richard de Crespigny – though it’s a success story about great piloting that brought everyone down safely.

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