Overcome your fear of flying by getting totally Flugtagged

Flugtag Pig It’s been 100 years since the Wright Brothers proved that manned flight was possible. This eventually led to the very first commercial flight and the discovery of something just as important in man’s pursuit of the sky:

The air-sickness bag.

You may not think this was an important discovery, but trust me: Anyone who has sat next to me during a flight on anything other than a coin-operated spaceship will tell you the only thing more important than the discovery of the air-sickness bag itself is discovering how to get rid of it once it’s been used.

For me, problems generally begin once we’ve reached our cruising altitude. This is when — for reasons I don’t quite understand — all pilots are trained to address their passengers by informing them exactly how high they are and how fast they’re going. I DON’T WANT to know these things. If I did, I wouldn’t be curled up in a fetal position with my thumbs in my ears and an air-sickness bag pinched between my knees.

I went to school.

I learned about Sir Isaac Newton.

I know there is a fundamental law of physics that says: Everything that goes up must have at least one intoxicated pilot.

That’s the only thing running through my mind while the flight attendant is trying to explain that there are more air-sickness bags available, and to please stop vomiting into the seat pocket.

While there are plenty of books out there aimed at helping people overcome their phobias, I’ve always believed in facing things head-on. So when I got an invitation to attend the next Red Bull “Flugtag” in Long Beach, Calif., I immediately said to myself, “Why am I being invited to a swingers convention?”

I quickly discovered that “flugtag” has nothing to do with any type of disciplinary action between masked strangers, but is actually a German word meaning “flying day.”

The more I read about the event, the more I realized that HERE was something that could help me conquer my fear of flying by joining a group of people who purposely fly their planes off of the Long Beach Pier and into the ocean.

I should mention that these planes are completely human-powered and rarely fly more than 20 feet, mostly because, aerodynamically speaking, it’s hard to get liftoff when your aircraft is shaped like a giant cheese wedge, basketball shoe, or flying monkey.

Clearly, this event is more about entertainment than it is about flying. Though the longest distance ever recorded at a Red Bull Flugtag was only 195 feet, it’s still farther than most planes at Hooters Airlines ever traveled.

After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided to try to attend this year’s flugtag in September. I say “try” because, in order to make it there and back again before my deadline, I’d need to….

You guessed it!

…Take a plane.

As you can see, this creates a bit of a conundrum. Then again, it may be just what I need to force me out of my comfort zone — and everyone else out of theirs — if I can’t find an air-sickness bag.

(You can write to Ned at nedhickson@icloud.com, or visit his blog at http://www.nedhickson.wordpress.com)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

55 thoughts on “Overcome your fear of flying by getting totally Flugtagged”

  1. The worst part of flying, for me, is the feeling of not being in control. Give me a car and thousands of miles to drive, any day!! Best of luck and I really hope, in the best way possible, that I never see you beside me on a flight. 🙂

  2. Should I ever see you on a plane, I will make demands that I not be seated next to you! I just fall asleep on planes, they make me so sleepy that the attendants usually have to wake me up at the end of the flight. Flugtag sounds like fun – you are so lucky you’re going!

    1. Haha! I promise I won’t have my feelings hurt if you move, as long as you don’t mind me barfing into the seat pocket behind you 🙂 And yes, it looks like a lot of insane fun, with everyone hopped up on Red Bull.

  3. Ned I have a deathly fear of flying. I flew when i was in the Navy all the time. One day i dont know what it was or if it was anything, but i just knew i could never fly again. If you want to conquer your fears you do what you think is best. The way I conquer my fear is to not ever again give it the chance to win.

    It is like getting in a fight with a girl. The only way to win is not to play.

    1. So what you’re saying is — if I understand you right — avoid getting into a fight with the pilot if it’s a woman, especially if she was in the Navy. I got it. I think I’ll stick with Greyhound.

  4. This may or may NOT help your fear. We flew in to Oklahoma City the day the federal building was bombed. It was horrible weather and we were attending a funeral of a grandfather that died of cancer (not related to the bombing) and that was the only reason we were allowed to fly in. It was horrible because we were on the runway in Dallas for 3 hours waiting for the storm (hail, wind, rain, tornado warnings) to go away before we could take off… The flight was horrible as we did what the pilot informed us “dodging in and out of the storms” and saw lightening constantly. Then A flight to San Francisco when the oldest kid was 8 months old… Total of 4 flights and this guy drove us all crazy by refusing to stay in his seat and kept saying “I’m going to die!” Over and over…. Grrrr! (Pre 9/11) now I think he would have been kicked off! Or tackled!
    Then came flight to NYC while the now 13 month old and me prego with 2nd kid. They lost our luggage and we got it back the day we were leaving. Grrrrr. Had to get diapers and all the little kid things as THAT was the bag they lost!!!
    Then the flight with two kids became our last. 2nd kid was 11 months old we flew to Florida for the orange bowl to see the OK Sooners play. Hauling 2 kids, two flight aproved carseats and a carry on with all the important items incase they LOST our bag again, and both kids had to be carried. NEVER AGAIN! Then 9/11 happened. We DROVE over 1000 miles in February post 9/11 to NYC to visit friends. All of our flights were so hideous We said never again. We never had a pleasant experience. Driving you can stop and get out, you are in control of the speed and are on the ground. Yes there are other things but you do have more control. And kids are happier and not screaming their ears hurt! It’s ok to hate flying!!!!

    1. First, I’m sorry, but I really thought I was going to die. Secondly, I knew after the first paragraph that this was not going to help… 😉 At least they didn’t lose your children.

      1. I’m sorry… But now I can laugh at all of it. But I still refuse to fly. Shoot! I guess traveling to Australia, Scotland, Norway, Ireland, are all out unless I go by boat… Yeah! I don’t like underwater either! Ill stick to land. I’m a land animal! 🙂

        1. After all that, I would be, too! I won’t let my fear keep me from flying, but I am going to need a couple of strong screwdrivers (heavy on the driver) as soon as I get on the plane. Then another when I sit down… and with my peanuts… and when we have lift-off… and….

  5. Poor Ned! I feel so bad for you! So is it that you have a fear of flying or that you turn into Vomit Man… or both?

    I developed a fear of flying after a near miss (two actually… should I have told you that?) then overcame that fear a few years later using a technique called EFT. The root cause of my fear turned out to be completely unrelated to flying.

    I dealt with it and my husband was able to take a flight with me without getting a wet shoulder – from me sobbing like a baby! He was also relieved to not have the job of picking my finger nails out of his forearm on landing.

    ps. you should totally do the Flugtag thing and post the pics here!

    1. I think my vomiting is just a defense mechanism, keeping me distracted from the fact that I’m 30,000 feet in the air flying at 800 mph. It gives me something to do after I’ve read the Sky Mall magazine.

  6. Wow. Knowing you have such a fear of flying I have gained a much greater appreciation for your participation in the 2013 Extreme Ironing Challenge. My hat is off to you, but please don’t vomit into it.

    1. That’s a great perspective! I’ll repeat that to myself while I’m leaning forward hurling into the seat pocket, “God says… blaaaafffff… I’m not…… Blaaaaffff… dead!”

  7. Yes, thanks for inviting me, I would love to go!! That is, if I can meet you there, and not have to take a plane with you! hahaha Can’t you get some sort of pill for that puking thing?

  8. This is going to be my first attempt at getting a comment deleted. You have been warned.

    The only time I had to reach for the barf bag was when I was seated in between two flambouyant individuals who were returning home after attending the Pride parade in Chicago. That was not Flugtag, it was F*gtag. I wasn’t holding a barf bag, I was holding my seat.

    Keep those cards and letter coming.

  9. You suffer from aviophobia? I say you do it Lewis and Clark Style when you head on to California, you know, before the whole airplane craze to us by the air sick bag. I think it’s awesome that you are facing your fears head on! Although, I would still bring a little baggie just in case once you’re at the Flugtag…
    On a side note- I wouldn’t fly to Peru anytime soon until you get your airsickness under control. When you fly to Lima, Peru you pass through the Andes, and those are some really high altitudes that you will also experience some serious turbulence. But if you get stuck next to some like me, I will let you know that “it’s okay, you can totally have my air sick bag” 🙂

  10. I have a fear worse than the fear of flying, well maybe two. The second fear is flying into a mountain in broad daylight when I have no business flying anything but a kite. The first fear is finding that the only seat left for me on a commercial airliner was made for the 8-year old kid sitting in the oversized seat by the bulkhead. Being that I’m seven feet tall and weigh over 400 pounds, airplane seats have gone the way of the candy bar: gotten smaller and costing more, though the wrapping looks the same.
    If you don’t like flying, maybe you can stay and do a Google hangout instead. At least if you still throw up you may not have to wait for one of the toilets to be available. Cheers!

    1. I’m only 6′-1″, but the idea of flying into a mountain haunts me. I know size shouldn’t matter when it comes crashing into a mountain, but knowing how physics works, I suppose I should feel better knowing I won’t hit with the same force as you will. On the other hand, there’s always the chance my plane might fly into YOU… 😉

  11. Reblogged this on Tall Man Promotions and commented:
    I have a fear worse than the fear of flying, well maybe two. The second fear is flying into a mountain in broad daylight when I have no business flying anything but a kite. The first fear is finding that the only seat left for me on a commercial airliner was made for the 8-year old kid sitting in the oversized seat by the bulkhead. Being that I’m seven feet tall and weigh over 400 pounds, airplane seats have gone the way of the candy bar: gotten smaller and costing more, though the wrapping looks the same.
    If you don’t like flying, maybe you can stay and do a Google hangout instead. At least if you still throw up you may not have to wait for one of the toilets to be available. Cheers!

  12. thanks for not sitting next to me, for i am also a ‘motion-puker.’ you hit the nail on the head when you said one of the big issues is what to do with the ‘filled bag.’ a bit of a logistical nightmare. once, i was already on the edge of queasy and as we took off, the woman i was sitting next to, who was wearing a med mask, proceeded to tell me all about her recent transplant operations and was heavy breathing and i about lost it. finally had to ‘fake fall asleep’ and put headphones on just to escape it and not puke. i feel your pain.

    1. The bad thing is, if we sat next to each other, we’d know the other person was a puker, which by just thinking abut it would probably make us both get sick.

  13. I always loved flying and when I say loved I mean I would jump at the chance to go anywhere if it meant going by plane. I loved the feeling when the tires lift off the earth and when a pilot makes a smooth landing I was in awe. That was all before 2011 when I made an attempt to go from Oregon to Connecticut. Something definitely did not want me to go on that trip. Started with me missing the flight because I read the itinerary wrong..yes me, the one who has flown all her life, read the itinerary wrong and missed the flight which of course was the red eye so there wasn’t another till early in the morning. I spent an hour on the phone and several hundreds of dollars getting on another flight first thing in the morning. I dozed for a couple of hours then decided to check email for the new itinerary. The idiot only booked me to Washington D.C.! I called, said that was great but I need to get to CT. Oh, well, there’s a blizzard just hit the East coast and all of the CT airports are closed right now. :-/ book it to NY and I’ll drive to CT. So, off I go. Made it as far as Denver, now mid afternoon and found out the East Coast was shut down and all flights for the next day were booked up. FK! Just take me home. So, got on the plane back to Oregon and I was so upset by all of it that I felt the cold sweats coming on, was breathing hard and salivating. Oh hell no! Grabbed the “bag”….and narrowly avoided having to use it but man was I feeling sick. Got home at midnight and was completely exhausted, I cried for 3 days of the time I had off from work. So, now I tend to have a fear of flying but not because of the actual flying but my neurosis is the fear of not actually getting where I am headed. 🙂 Analyze that, if you dare. lol

      1. That was $1,200 down the drain. I couldn’t get credit because I missed the flight and they didn’t give credit for natural disasters cancelling flights. meh! Oh and last year we tried again to go to CT but Hurricane Sandy decided we shouldn’t go that time. Another round of tickets sucked up by weather. Want to hear the best part…I was trying both times to visit my friends in Sandy Hook, yep, where the shooting happened.

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