Fear of Flying

I’ve been afraid of airplanes my whole life. Well, that’s not entirely true. But my fear of flying was formed on my first flight.

When I was nineteen, my grandmother took me on a high school “graduation present” trip to Rome. I was a little nervous getting on the plane in New York City, but the overnight flight was fine until we started our descent into Leonardo DaVinci airport. The 747, as I learned later, did a common ‘step landing,’ which entailed descending a few thousand feet, gliding, then descending a few more thousand feet, on its approach to landing.

Trouble was, every time the plane sank those thousands of feet on its glide path, I was convinced we were falling to the ground. And since I’ve never been very good with roller coasters, the rolling, dropping, wavy motion of the plane had added to my stress level and made me sick to my stomach. The minute I’d felt a sour taste in my mouth, I’d known I was in trouble.

The flight attendants ordered everyone to buckle their seatbelts for landing, but I unhooked mine and scrambled into the aisle, making a mad dash for the bathroom in anticipation of throwing up. I never made it. A flight attendant at the back of the plane blocked my desperate beeline down the aisle and literally shoved me into an empty seat in one of the last rows, ordering me to buckle up for the landing.

That’s where a good Samaritan came to my rescue. Blond hair, blue eyes. I’d seen him get on the plane in New York carrying five tennis racquets, and wondered who he was (since I’m a big tennis fan myself). Now he turned out to be my savior. He urged me to put my head between my knees and just breathe. I remember shaking with the effort not to get sick in front of this gorgeous guy, when I felt his hand gently stroking my back, trying to calm me. Of course, with his other hand, he slipped an air sickness bag between my knees, but it turned out I didn’t need it.

His advice worked. The plane landed without me making a scene.

Except, that is, for the scene my grandmother made later, when she yelled at me for being so reckless by leaving my seat during the landing. 
The name of that gorgeous guy? Well, he said he wanted to be a professional tennis player, and he was on his way to Rome to follow the tennis circuit in order to make a name for himself. I can tell you he had blond hair and blue eyes and that he went on to win many, many major tennis tournaments, but that’s all I’m going to say (or else I’ll date myself)!

This real life event has inspired my latest book. In my story, a fortune teller informs my heroine, “You’re never going to die in a plane crash.” Which immediately makes my scaredy cat heroine think "Okay, but that doesn't mean I'm never going to be IN a plane crash!" 

Of course this is a romance, so expect lots of steamy scenes as my travel writer hero tries to help my book publicist heroine overcome her fear of flying!

How about you? What are you afraid of? I’d love to hear!

Leigh Court

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