Losses and Aviation Safety

Airman recalls how the crash where a student and his instructor were killed sparked the fear of flying in his classmates during his year of USAF pilot training

‘Four of my classmates quit, which was more than 10 percent of my class,’ Ron Wagner, Former USAF pilot in the Presidential Wing at Andrews AFB.

Aerophobia is a fear of flying. People with aerophobia may be scared about different aspects of flying, such as take-off, landing or getting locked in the plane. You might know that your fear is irrational — statistics show that air travel has the lowest death rates among other forms of transportation — but you can’t reason your way out of the anxiety.

It’s very common, affecting more than 25 million adults in the US. Psychotherapy can usually help people overcome their fear and fly without extreme anxiety or panic attacks.

Do pilots ever become afraid of flying?

‘Absolutely!,’ Ron Wagner, Former USAF pilot in the Presidential Wing at Andrews AFB, says on Quora.

‘One month into my year of USAF pilot training a student in our class, and his instructor, were killed in a crash. It was gruesome. There was practically nothing left of them. And we all had to fly over the black burn area on the otherwise plain brown prairie every day we went out. There was no missing it—it looked like a large black bug splat on your windshield, but it was made by two people we knew.

‘Four of my classmates quit, which was more than 10 percent of my class.’

‘The USAF turns down about a thousand applicants for every one who earns wings, so there’s no reason to try to push someone who’s become afraid of flying. They know that once someone acquires a fear like that, there’s no reason to push them.’

Wagner concludes;

‘They simply let them go.’

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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