Fear of Heights

So, you tell me you are afraid of heights? I wonder what veteran pilots have to say on their own feelings of going up in a Challenger to a recommended maximum ceiling height of 10,000 feet MSL? Read on and see for yourself.

I've got a touch of that fear of height thing too. Ten feet AGL on a ladder is enough, and I go nuts looking off a bluff a few hundred feet high. Have nightmares (literally) at the thought of having to go to the top of the Empire State building, which I've never done and don't intend to.

In a plane, it doesn't kick in until I get about a mile above the ground in GA, or about 3,000 open cockpit. Then I get the squeemies. Yep, I know it's stupid, but that's how it is.

Gives me some appreciation for the reactions of some people who were literally terrified on their first airplane ride. I've had a couple who actually could not look out the window.

Curious creatures, we are.

I also get very nervous when confronted with certain types of height situations. For instance, working on the roof of the house makes me fidget when I get near the edge. Or walking near the edge of a cliff. I sometimes literally feel my legs shake in those situations.

If there's some sort of guard rail that I trust then it's no problem. A flimsy or shaky guard rail will cause me concern but a good solid one doesn't. I've been up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and looked around with no uncomfortable feelings at all.

I think being enclosed in a cockpit, even with only fabric sides, makes it all OK for me. Never tried hang gliding so can't say how that would make be feel. I suppose if the harness was real secure and I trusted the wing design it would be OK.

I have the same problem. Even though I have been flying 50 years, I still have to fight the fear of height. Check this http://mywebpages.comcast.net/trikedriver/kittyhawk_55.jpg picture that I took last week of Charleston, West Virginia from 5,500 feet while returning to Indianapolis from Kitty Hawk.

Take Care,

A few years back I used to go over to a park in California that was used by hang gliders. The cliffs had no guard rails and dropped almost straight down about 500 feet or more to the ocean below. The guys would strap on their wing, walk right up to the edge, and then just lean forward and "fall" into the updraft. Never actually dropped even a foot. Neat to watch but I always wondered if I would be comfortable doing that. Maybe.

That being enclosed in the cockpit is kinda what my wife says also. Apparently this fear of heights among people that fly is not all that uncommon.

I don't mind a thousand or so feet........ but when I get above 7000 or so above ground... it's a little disconcerting.... but I keep telling myself .... I'm safer up here... I'm safer up here...

I used to be fearless about any high place.

Then I fell off two horses in two weeks and it HURT a lot when I landed!

Since then, I'm nervous just like (****) when I'm in a high place from which I think there's a chance I might fall. I'm not exactly afraid of heights or even of falling but I AM afraid of the CRASH at the end of the fall.

In planes, the higher I am, the safer I feel.

It might be a good idea to expand on (****) discussion and, when flying a nervous passenger, buckle them in firmly and explain ahead of time how high altitude is safe.

I feel so much better about my inconsistent fear of heights! I think the common denominator is whether or not you feel like you could fall. I went rappelling with a bunch of people, and was terrified of the edge until I got a harness on and was on the rope, then I could hang upside-down at 200'. I did tandem hang gliding where we ran off the edge. I didn't get a chance to worry about the cliff until after we were airborne and that was totally awesome. Skydiving was different because we were so high (12000') that it didn't look like hitting the ground was imminent.

But walking through the hall of an Embassy Suites any higher than the 5th floor I have to hug the wall. Especially if I'm close to the top floor of the atrium, where the ceiling is low and the floor is missing.

Flying open cockpit with (****) and (****) at around 600' agl was totally comfortable (and a blast, thank you very much!)

Very weird.

There's an area east of me near the Badlands with a river flowing threw it that has some drop-offs like that. The first time I flew over the edge down low like you say... kinda took my tummy away!

I've had similar experiences flying near the Grand Canyon on search missions for the Az Wing, Civil Air Patrol. I would be flying low (about a hundred feet above the ground) and slow, and then the ground would drop 2000 ft or more. Every time I flew over the edge and looked down, my pucker factor increased dramatically. Over the canyon like that and lose the engine; no where to go but heaven.

P.S. I'm scared of heights AND widths.

The edge of a cliff bothers me also, never know when it will crumble and away you go! Tall buildings (over 3 stories) only bother me with the thought of the elevator falling. I know there are safety devices there but I guess I've seen too many of those cheap movies. Then there is the thought of getting caught in a fire up there (9-11 didn't help that either).

Flying on the other hand is OK, at least till things start bouncing around a lot and then I have to grit my teeth and tell myself "your gonna be here till you land so do it right".

Then I though people who jumped out of perfectly good flying airplanes for fun were crazy. Till I went up for a ride in the jump plane. Had to wear a chute cause there was no door. Good thing they had me tied to a strap so I couldn't fall out. When I went to the door to watch them jump it was real hard to keep from going after them. Sometimes I really wonder where my head is at.

I to had a great aversion to heights, which is probably what brought me to flying in the first place. ( you know, macho thing) My final cure was two parachute jumps. The fear of falling really fell away (couldn't help it) after that. Now cliffs and bridges are just a lot of fun. Well it worked for me. I know stepping out of a perfectly good airplane. In reality the first time I was pushed! (8~(>

I can fly in just about anything ('cept maybe an F-14!) and love every minute of it, but put me on solid ground with a huge drop-off in front of me , and I go ape $#*# with distress! Why that is , I still don't know..., maybe I was dropped as a child? Just having a plane "wrapped around me" feels much better, I guess, than trusting my own footing.

As for myself, my very first flight was really a test of my "FEAR FACTOR". As a rather young man, I was "PETRIFIED" of heights and even now find it difficult to approach the edge on the roof of my single story home. The idea of flying has always caused a spark of desire in me, but I really never knew if I could ever bring myself to the point of actually doing it. To get into a small plane and fly, let alone in an ultralight like a Challenger, but I just had to know. So, I finally requested an Introductory Flight from my local dealer, who I also took ground school from. I just had to know ...... "When we leave the ground, will I grab something to help me feel more secure and yell ........ "Put It Down ..... Oh GOD Please ..... Put It Down""?

Well, the day was now at hand and I was facing leaving the ground in this small plane. My instructor, Bill, said, "Here it is, get in!" I was standing beside a Challenger II and Bill instructed me to take the front seat where I would be able to see and get use to the instruments as well as the controls. Bill and I were linked together via a radio intercom system where we could talk to each other and I could hear other pilots on approach or take off from the airport.

Bill, not knowing how I would react as a first timer, taxied around a little getting me use to the controls, then did a shallow take off and landing, called a Crow Hop down the runway. HUMM! This wasn't all that bad, so I confirmed with Bill I was ready for the flight. Taxied around to the end of the runway, Bill indicated to other pilots in the area our intent to take off from runway 30. It seemed like only about a 30 foot run and we were in the air and climbing rather fast. OOOHH! This is neat! We left the airport pattern at about 200 feet and proceeded to climb to 700 feet. "How you doing up there, Art?" "This is COOL!", I replied. After flying for a while, Bill took us down into a mild winding, shallow ravine and followed its path, then back up to about 1,000 feet. Again, "How you doing up there, Art?" I answered with a question, "Are we going up to 3,000 feet?" And on we went to the 3,000 foot level. All in all, I found my "FEAR FACTOR" was "ZERO" throughout the entire one hour flight.

All I can say to anyone who has ever thought about flying an ultralight, but has no idea if their fear factor would ever allow you to do it, I say, "GO FOR IT!" This was the greatest thing I have ever done in my life and will be a Challenger pilot well into my retirement years.

Art Freeman, Challenger BTT Site Host

I guess I am just like everybody else to a certain extent. I had never been really afraid of heights, just a little uneasy about it. I had always helped build houses and barns, etc. and would walk around on just the 2x4's and such.

Then one day I got the wild idea to try flying. I set up an appointment for an intro flight in a GA plane. I hadn't really thought about being afraid of heights until this point. My first reaction when I saw the C-152 was "We're going up in that?!?!?". We did the preflight, got in and started the taxi to the runway. After the engine run-up, we rolled onto the runway and started the takeoff run. It was also a really windy spring day. So, when I felt the plane leave the ground, my reaction was "Maybe mama and daddy *did* raise more fools than just that one dog."

So everything was sorta okay, I guess, but it was really bumpy and almost scary. I looked down when we're about 600 feet or so AGL and think "This is way too high." My next mistake was asking how high we were going and was told about 6500 ft. Uh huh... you guessed the reaction. So we fly for an hour or so and everything is fine except for that killer headache. No doubt... gotta get my license.

The next real "you are afraid of heights after all" moment was when I took the intro ride in a Challenger. Up until this time all I had flown in was a C-152 or C-172, never an open cockpit. Again, I always pick good days to try new things and the wind was 10 to 15 Kts. You guessed the response again, "I will never own or fly in one of these things, I will stick with spam cans." I took another flight some months later, got hooked on the Challenger, and ordered one.

The last real test was when the town I live in needed someone to climb the water tower to fix the float and radio tower on it. "Sure, I will be glad to do it, its only a 100 foot tower, no problem." Yep, I'm 50 feet up on the backhoe that they use to get me to the ladder. That ladder looked a lot farther away than 40 feet and the top looked like it was 300 feet away! "Oh well," I thought, "Keep on chugging and you will be okay."

It's a little uneasy feeling but one heck of an adrenalin rush! When you are hanging on the ladder going up the tower with nothing around you but air, it will surely change your attitude about it. So, like most of the other people who have written in, I believe that a fear of heights is just really a lack of feeling secure.


So, all in all, I guess it is OK to be afraid of heights or a fear of falling? It doesn't stop these veteran pilots and it shouldn't stop you from the freedom of flight either.