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John Matuszak

John Matuszak

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Save ThisEmail ThisPrint ThisMost PopularRelated Terms: Raiders,�Lindbergh Field,�El CajonMichael StetzFlying fears arise anew after series of crashes2:00 a.m.

July 19, 2009Call Michael at 619-293-1720 E-mail MichaelBio Page I'm in Tahoe, vacationing.

Actually, I hope I'm in Tahoe, vacationing.

I had to fly to get there (here).

And I don't like to fly.

So I'm hoping that when you read this, there's been no air tragedy involving a Southwest flight any time recently.

If so, it was nice knowing you.

(Well, about 50 percent of you, judging by the online comments on my columns.) Most people look forward to their vacations.

Me? I spend the days leading up to mine worrying about flying.

Then I spend the last few days worrying about flying back.

Sometimes I think I should just vacation in El Cajon.

My wife prefers to fly because the 10-hour-plus drive to Tahoe can be grueling.

Crashing can be, too.

My flying phobia was actually under control over the past several years because the aviation industry had a particularly strong safety streak going.

(Instead of an hour at airport bars before flights, 45 minutes did the trick.) Up until February, when a Continental flight crashed in Buffalo, N.Y., killing all 50 on board, the U.S.

airline industry had gone more than two years without a fatality.

It was the longest stretch without a plane going down since we started flying the friendly skies in domestic carriers.

Since then, well, my knees have been shaking.

After the Buffalo crash, we saw a near crash, when a US Airways jet had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River.

Everybody on board lived, thanks to the heroics of the pilot, Chesley B.

"Sully" Sullenberger.

(He doesn't pilot Southwest.

Rats.) Then an Air France jet went down over the Atlantic, killing the more than 220 people on board.

Then, just recently, an Yemenia airliner crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all but one of the 152 passengers and crew.

Somehow, a 12-year-old girl survived.

So you can see my problem.

At Lindbergh Field, I now look for birds and it's not because I'm any fan of bird-watching.

It's because birds got sucked into the engines of that US Airways flight, bringing it down.

Birds? Bartender! Over here! Quick! The good thing: I'm perfectly normal â€" well, so to speak.

"Yes, it's normal to be more fearful/sensitized after a crash," said Martin Seif, a New York clinical psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders, including the fear of flying.

Even though my flights are short ones, that doesn't ease the anxiety.

Most car accidents happen within a few miles of your home, after all.

Why the fear? Well, heights bother me.

So do confined spaces.

And little bags of peanuts really get to me.

It's not a good mix.

Getting educated about flying safety works â€" sort of.

The statistics can be comforting.

According to the Web site Fear of Flying Help, the "chances of being involved in an aircraft accident are about 1 in 11 million.

The chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5,000." Now I have to worry about driving, as well.

One thing not helping is the enhanced computer graphics TV uses to show how a plane may have crashed.

You feel like you're right there, which, of course, doesn't help.

Take the Air France flight.

For weeks, TV ran haunting images of a jet struggling through severe turbulence.

That had me downing Dramamine just to make it to work.

Seif said it's a mistake to watch so many news reports.

"Watch the TV once to get information," he said.

"After that you are just obsessing, which adds to the anxiety." So, from now on, it's the Food Channel for me.

Planes don't crash on the Food Channel.

Other tips from Seif: Beware of drinking.

Anything more than two drinks isn't worth it.

That's the maximum for anti-anxiety power.

Expect anxious feelings and don't be bummed about it, he advises.

Don't fight them, either, because that will only make them linger longer.

Lots of people have this fear.

It can't be a sign of weakness because former football announcer and coach John Madden won't fly.

And this is a man who coached the Oakland Raiders to a championship when they had some very intimidating players.

Madden could handle John Matuszak, but not a 737.

For me, it's tough because I'm traveling with my 4-year-old son and I don't want to alarm him.

So Daddy puts on a brave face and tells Jack how much fun flying is and how the people down below all look as tiny as ants.

Jack giggles.

And Daddy looks for the drink cart.

Michael Stetz: (619) 293-1720; [email protected] Related Terms: Raiders,�Lindbergh Field,�El CajonCommenting Terms of UseView the discussion thread.
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