Message in a bottle from a washed-up nervous flyer

If scientists discover a fear-of-flying gene one day, does that mean that people like me will not be able to get travel insurance?

My friend Orville says it is relatively safe to board a chunk of fuselage heavier than my house, defy gravity by taking off, go hurtling across the sky until it is time to come down, then land as if nothing particularly unusual has happened.

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Photo by Pixabay on

But I am not convinced. I still dislike flying.

It is a genetic fear. My great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather also hated flying. So did my late mother.

Unfortunately, I come from Tasmania and one of the drawbacks of living on an island is that inevitably you are going to have to hop on an aeroplane to go anywhere else.

Well, yes, you can catch a ferry.

Or swim.

Or stuff yourself in a bottle, set yourself adrift in Bass Strait and get washed up on the banks of Lake Burley-Griffin.

“Now you are being silly,” Orville said.

“Silly! Let me tell you about silliness, Orville,” I said. “The last time I flew out of Canberra for Melbourne the flight attendant gave a safety demonstration with a life jacket as the plane taxied up the runway.”

“So?” Orville asked.

“Ever look at the map, Orville?” I asked. “There is not a lot of water between Canberra and Melbourne. What is the likelihood of a plane coming down in the middle of a farm dam?”

“Relax,” Orville said. “There’s less chance of that than you being hit by a Number 2 bus. Why don’t you just sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight?”

“Well, it’s hard to relax,” I said. “It would be different if those masks that dropped from the panel above us in case of emergency were hooked up to a giant bong. Then I might be able to relax more, flying high.”

“That would be illegal,” Orville said, raising his eyebrows.

“Oh, and flying isn’t breaking a few rules of physics?” I said, raising mine.

“Relax,” said Orville. “Order a brandy, and try not to look out of the window.”

“I can’t help it,” I said. “I like to reassure myself that the wings are still there. And the wheels. And there’s somewhere to land.”

I once knew a nervous flyer, who psyched himself up for a flight only to chicken out at the airport. I have no idea what his travel insurers thought about that but I doubt they were amused.

I have never wimped out like that. If I have to fly, I do but I do not court it.

My only trips to airports for two years have been to ferry other passengers.

As I said, my mother was a nervous flyer too.

She only really drank when she flew and I remember the time she visited me solo. It was the first time she had flown without a close relative to pour her brandy. So it was a bit of a test flight, like Chuck Yeager’s.

“Don’t worry,” Orville reassured me at the time. “She will be fine.”

I hoped so. I remember thinking If it did not work out, I might have to float her back to Tasmania in the same brandy bottle she used to get here.

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