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Fear of Flying Phobia - Part 1

Flying Phobia - Part 2

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What's that noise?


Reasons to be reassured for those with a fear of flying.

by Captain Andrew Clark

Fear of flying, or flying phobia, is one of the more common fears, and recent events have only made things worse. If you have a fear of flying, noises within the aircraft can trigger anxiety. This article will help you understand what those noises are.

As with any machine, an aeroplane makes its own unique sounds. To the frequent flyer these noises can become just part of the background, but to an infrequent traveller - especially one concerned about flying - these can sometimes be plain frightening. We’re going to explain some of the common noises (and things that you may see) when flying on an airliner and show that they need be no cause for alarm.

After the dispatcher, or airline agent, closes the door, the first thing that you might notice is the pushback. The pushback should be brief, but you may hear or feel the tractor’s engine as the aircraft is pushed back onto the taxiway.

Normally as the pushback starts, the engines will be started. It is usual for the air-conditioning to the cabin to be stopped as the airflow is required to turn the engine’s turbines. When the engine start is complete the air-conditioning will begin again and the aeroplane will begin its taxi to the runway. In my experience (especially at Heathrow) this is usually the bumpiest part of the whole flight! It is at this time that the pilots will start their pre-takeoff checks and you may feel and hear the brakes being applied a couple of times and see some of the control surfaces on the wings (ailerons, spoilers and flaps) move up and/or down.

As the aeroplane lines up on the runway for takeoff you will hear and feel the engines as they are advanced to takeoff power and the aircraft may jump forward gently as the brakes are released. During the takeoff run you can sometimes hear a ‘bumping' noise like a car running over cats-eyes on the road. That’s exactly what it is as the nose-wheel goes over lights illuminating the runway centreline.

Shortly after lift off the landing gear will be retracted. Landing gear doors will open and close and the wheels will be stowed away. These are usually powered hydraulically and ‘clunks' may be heard as the hydraulic pressure is applied to and removed from the system. Early in the climb out the aircraft’s nose could be lowered and the engine power reduced slightly to reduce wear on the engines and comply with any local ‘noise abatement' rules. This will often be followed by retraction of the flaps, which are used to increase lift during takeoff, and you will hear the whirring of the motors as the flaps are tucked into the wings.

During the climb the engine note may fall and then rise several times as the aeroplane levels off and then climbs again. This can be necessary to fit in with other traffic that may be arriving or departing your airport or one nearby. This is quite common if you fly from any of the London airports.

Next, more on the noises that don't help your flying phobia...

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