Myths About Flying in Small Airplanes

While some people fear all flying, others are particularly apprehensive about flying in small planes. Here are a few myths about flying small airplanes that we debunked to help you better understand how safe general aviation really is!

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “small airplane”. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a small plane is one with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less. They can hold anywhere from one to twenty passengers and can be used for private aviation or short or sightseeing commercial flights. Small planes are also vital for medical travel.

Myth: Flying in a small plane is inherently more dangerous than flying on a larger aircraft.

Probably one of the biggest misunderstandings people have about flying in a small plane is that they are more dangerous than larger planes. Unfortunately, some may believe that small, private planes are not subject to the same safety policies and standards as commercial jets.

Reality: The aviation industry is held to a high safety standard regardless of the size of the plane. Every flight goes through a safety check before leaving the ground, adhering to the strictest safety standards in the industry. All airplanes, regardless of size, must undergo an annual inspection by a trained professional.

Volunteer pilots, who fly for LifeLine Pilots and other volunteer pilot organizations, must meet strict requirements before flying passengers to medical care. They have a minimum of 250 hours as pilot in command of an airplane, and many have thousands of hours in the cockpit. 

Myth: Pilots flying small aircraft are not as well-trained as those flying large jets.

Reality: All pilots have to meet the exact rigorous FAA requirements before they’re able to fly commercial airliners or small airplanes. Each pilot undergoes training and background checks and meets all training and flight-hour regulations for flying the aircraft they are licensed for.

Myth: It is scary to look out of the front of the airplane.

Reality: The co-pilot seat is the best seat on the plane!

“I couldn’t believe the views from the front of the plane on my first flight in a small airplane,” says Lindsey Kerr, Executive Director of LifeLine Pilots. “Before I worked for LifeLine Pilots, I hadn’t flown in a small airplane. After my first flight on a trip with a passenger to Mayo Clinic, I couldn’t believe how smooth the flight was.”

“Our volunteer pilots love to share about their planes and general aviation. Passengers leave the flight having a better understanding of how airplanes work and complete confidence in their pilot. It is a great distraction from the medical care they are flying to or from.”

Myth: The destinations small planes can travel to are limited.

Reality: Small plans have more travel options than large, commercial planes since the number of airports they can fly into are much greater. They can fly in and out of any airport that commercial jets can, but they also have access to small, fixed base operators, more commonly known as FBOs, which are private jet terminals located at airports. Sometimes, small planes can get you closer to your ultimate destination!

Tips To Overcome Fear of Flying

Fear and anxiety are real to those people who experience them. Whether those fears and phobias have a base in reality and statistics is unimportant. The triggers that launch anxiety about flying are different for everyone — a fear of heights, a plane door opening suddenly during mid-flight, a loss of control. Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize your anxiety. 

  • On a small airplane, ask your pilot questions

The best way to ease your fear of flying is to better understand how it works and how knowledgeable your pilot is about flying. They will love to share their passion with you!

  • Distract Yourself

Focus on watching a movie, listening to a podcast, or flipping through a colorful magazine to keep the visual part of your mind busy. Reading a book or working on a craft, like needlepoint or knitting, or a crossword puzzle, are also ways to distract you from the fact that you’re flying. 

  • Acknowledge your feelings

While distraction can be helpful, it’s not always possible. One option is to write your feelings on paper to prevent them from building.

  • Focus on the Positive 

If you’re traveling to a location for medical care or to see a loved one receiving care, try to keep that in mind. Keeping your goals in mind for why you’re traveling can keep your mind focused on the good, not the fear.

  • Practice Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are a simple way to relieve stress. Follow these easy steps:

  • Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
  • Place both feet flat on the floor, roughly hip-width apart.
  • Let your breath flow as deeply into your belly as is comfortable without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. For example, some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five.
  • Then, let your breath flow out gently, counting from one to five again if you find this helpful.
  • Repeat for at least five minutes.
  • Seek Professional Help

If implementing the above tips doesn’t alleviate your anxiety, or if your fear of flying is paralyzing, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Therapists can help individuals overcome a fear of flying through cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure and response prevention. Medical doctors can also prescribe anti-anxiety medication, which can undoubtedly help nervous fliers.

Help Us Ensure Everyone Can Access Medical Care 

The flights serve people who need medical travel and humanitarian assistance. For example, LifeLine Pilots flies people to be with dying or terminally ill loved ones. The organization also provides transportation services for families to stay at a Ronald McDonald House to visit sick children receiving treatments and works with refugee organizations to offer relocation services for survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking. 

LifeLine Pilots receives no government funding. Instead, volunteer pilots support LifeLine Pilots by giving millions in donated flight time and planes ($1.6 million last year alone!). 

LifeLine Pilots can make these flights available to people in need through the generosity of individuals, businesses, and foundations. There are so many ways you can help. Your cash or crypto contribution, donations from shopping at AmazonSmile, or even your time as a volunteer can ensure that a person gets the healthcare they need.