For the Fearful Flier

Ever since smartphones came about, new applications have consistently come out to help us in our daily lives. Many of these apps have been presented in our class, and I have actually downloaded a couple as a result. I’m hoping that this blog post will have that same effect.

One in every three people has a fear of flying. Statistically, this means that approximately 15 people in our class may have this fear. Since I’m writing this post, I’m sure you have already figured out that one of those 15 is me.

tenor.gif

It’s too bad because I love to travel. My fear actually started at the age of 17 – right before I went to college. But what did I do? I applied to go abroad for a month. In Italy. A seven-hour plane ride. I clung to my seat the whole time.

People always tell me that planes are the safest mode of travel. I get it. But the whole point of irrational fears is that they’re irrational, so I’m sorry to say that people telling me it’s safe will not help. (If there’s anyone else in this class like me, PLEASE back me up on this one). I’ve tried everything from listening to music to medication and nothing seems to really help. However, I recently found out about an app that was created by a pilot to help people who are afraid of flying. It’s called SkyGuru. Obviously, I downloaded it immediately. Here are some features of the app:

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 2.27.41 PM

Full disclosure: the app costs $19.99. The full version lets you input your flight number and will track your flight in real-time. It shows you a thin line that will tell you where you will experience turbulence and how severe, and also sends you messages during each stage of your flight explaining what the plane is doing. It looks like this:

 

 

However, there is a free version, where I can input my departure airport, arrival airport, and flight time. I did this for my flight to Chicago and it is still pretty similar:

 

 

As you can see on the left, it shows the weather at both airports at your time of departure and arrival. At the bottom, there is also a chat feature, which is like a virtual pilot that tells you more information. If you open the chat, you’ll see messages like the ones I received for this flight from the virtual pilot, as shown in the right photo. Not only does it tell you if there will be turbulence, but it also tells you the science behind it and how it poses no problem for the pilot or the plane. It will even tell you the sensations you will feel so that you are prepared for it when it happens. Like I mentioned, the full version will send you messages as you are flying. You can also give it permission to access your microphone so it can tell you about the sounds you are hearing. It’s pretty cool, so I have considered spending the $20 for a further piece of mind.

In the “In-flight” tab, I can track the G-force during the flight. This is my favorite feature. To give you some context on G-force, gravity produces 1 G. Free falling is 0 Gs. In those flights you’ve been on that feel like a rollercoaster, the G-force was probably around 1.6 (severe turbulence). Planes are built to withstand from -1 G to +2.5 Gs continuously, and up to 5 Gs temporarily. I used the app on my flight home to D.C. for Easter break and it didn’t even get over 1.1 G the whole time. To further prove my point, the photos of the G-force meter in the app are below.

 

 

In the photo on the left, my phone was sitting flat on a table. You can see that this is 1 G – just gravity. In the photo on the right, I shook my phone vigorously, more than turbulence would shake your phone. The red line at the top of the meter represents 5 Gs, and you can see that me shaking my phone barely made it past 3. It just goes to show that turbulence is not a matter of your safety, but rather about comfort during your flight. I learned this through SkyGuru, and it has helped immensely.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “But wait, you just said that knowing that the plane is safe doesn’t help.” True. BUT, not only does this app tell you that turbulence is not a safety concern, but it also explains the mechanical and meteorological reasons that a plane feels turbulent unexpectedly. Without this knowledge, every single sound and movement is terrifying.

Although this app hasn’t been a magical tool that has cured me completely, I think it is going to help me more and more as I continue to fly with it. I hope that others who may be like me will try it out, and let me know if it works for them too!

http://www.businessinsider.com/skyguru-flying-app-2017-5

https://thepointsguy.com/2017/05/skyguru-app-turbulence/

10 comments

  1. thebobbystroup · ·

    This is really cool! I don’t personally have a fear of flying, but I will definitely recommend this to someone if I plan on traveling with someone who does. Haha I remember going on a flight in a training plane with the Navy, and it was a pretty wild ride. I know this app is just for commercial flights, but it would be pretty funny to have tried to use it while doing barrel rolls and nosedives.

    In addition to your info about the app, I appreciate you posting this to provide insight into the struggles people face. This made me want to look into seeing if there is a similar app to prevent people from getting carsick. Not exactly, but I found one called, “iGet Car Sick” that uses an iPhone’s accelerometer to tell the driver about the quality of their driving (measures jerkiness of the ride that would lead to carsickness), so they can make adjustments as necessary.

  2. kennedy__bc · ·

    I had never heard of this app before this post and I will say it brought light to a problem that, although I don’t personally face, is an issue that effects a lot of people I know. I think the most helpful part of the app is the in-flight messages describing the current status of the flight. Personally, I have had to talk down my friends who have had anxiety attacks during fights before and the response that I always get from them is, “you don’t know what you are talking about.” These messages fix this problem perfectly, I know my friends would be way more inclined to listen to this app than me and I will certainly be recommending this app to them. I’m also curious to know what kind of advice the app gives to its users about how to combat anxiety and how effective those tactics are. Things such as breathing and stretching techniques would be extremely helpful in order to help improve ones feelings.

  3. mikecarillo111 · ·

    I really enjoyed this post for a few reasons. The first is that my brother downloaded it immediately as he will be flying to Florida this weekend and has a SEVERE fear of flying. He, like you, has taken multiple medications that he claims doesn’t put him at peace. Additionally, he has told us “we don’t understand” so much that my parents have just told him to “tough it out”. I always felt bad for him cause everyone has their own fears. Second it’s really cool that the app is in live time but would this be an issue if the flight doesn’t have wifi? Or is it all preloaded as long as you input your information about the flight prior to takeoff? Finally, the concept that people are prescribed xanax and other drugs for flights is a scary thought. These are highly addictive substances that could lead to failure later in life. The simple explanations about the flight could really help settle this fear and keep flyers off the pills. Great post!

    1. katherinekorol · ·

      I’m glad I can help your brother out because I know how debilitating the fear can be. I’m also the only one in my family and they never have understood and think I’m being dramatic. To answer your question, the app works in airplane mode. As long as you put the information in before switching your wifi off, it can use the sensors in your phone to determine what stage of the flight you are in. Again, this is only for the paid version of the app.
      I know what you mean about the drugs. I was prescribed Xanax and it has helped a little, but it is a very small dose and anyone who takes it knows that your body will adjust and you have to increase the dosage. Doctors don’t give you refills for it either since it is a specific instance where you get anxiety, so if I ever want to get more I have to go in and ask for it again. Overall, anxiety medication isn’t worth the hassle because it really does almost nothing.

  4. graceglambrecht · ·

    very cool app! I fly a lot and occasionally start to freak out if I think too hard about the plane or the things going on around me. I think an app that can help mitigate those fears is an awesome development and hopefully more apps will start to help out with other fears, like bobby mentioned in his comment. I think a lot of people dont actually know what is happening when they are on an airplane so its awesome that there is an app that can explain it to you and give you a little bit more information on whats going on.

    I will say that the price point is high and its actually the most expensive app i’ve ever heard of. Would be interested to learn more about why its so high priced and for those who have purchased the full version, if its features are really worth the premium version over the features offered by the free version. I think the chat bot is a really important feature that is offered in both.

    1. katherinekorol · ·

      Since you were curious about the price, here is information I pulled from the FAQ of their site:
      “Here is the math: $6 goes to Apply. We have $14 left. Each flight that you request the information for costs us a little less than $1. If you have flown with the app 15 times, we have not made a penny. If you have flown 30 times, we pay our $. We have invested a lot of money, time and effort into creating this product. And any investment should be rewarded, don’t you think? So, the app cannot cost any less than what it is. Soon we’ll be releasing lite version with “pay-per-flight” option.”

  5. RayCaglianone · ·

    Super relatable post, I can definitely claim to be one of the 15. I’ve always hated flying and your point about irrational fears is so true: there is no “calm down” when your mind gets going! I’ve gotten to the point that I can tolerate flying without horrible anxiety, but this app has really piqued my interest. Specifically the turbulence point: what has always freaked me out about it is the unpredictability. One minute you’re cruising easy and the next it feels like you’re getting jolted out of the plane. To have an app that could reassure me when to expect turbulence and the totally rational (and safe) reasons it is occurring could make a huge difference. Apps like these may not eliminate the need for medications, but at the very least provide a safety net for nervous flyers like you and myself.

  6. NeroC1337 · ·

    The post quite amazed me what this app could do. The one thing that is really intriguing to me is that how does an app is able to predict actions of an airplane. My assumption is that the app could track the location just like tracking our iPhone locations. Then the app was be able to respond with the weather condition, and forecast even turbulence ahead of time with the location input. I do understand that the live-monitoring turbulence is through the activity on your iPhone, but to forecast the turbulence ahead of time, I believe that the app also needs input of the route of the airline. Then my questions go that how does this app obtain that information? Because in order to forecast I think the app needs to gain detailed information on the flight-route. I just do not know whether or not these information is publicly available.

    1. katherinekorol · ·

      In the paid version, they will actually pay for the information for your flight to obtain route information, which is why the app costs so much money. In the free version, they base the turbulence forecasts on the shortest route that the plane will fly from one airport to another.

  7. danmiller315 · ·

    Fun fact: I flew on a plane for the first time over winter break, and lucky for me it was a cross country trip to San Francisco. I DEFINITELY would have downloaded this app because I had no clue what was going on during my first flight. I would have kept my eyes glued on this app the entire time.

    The most interesting part about this post for me is that the app was not created by a person who is afraid of flying, but a pilot. One of the great things that we have seen emerge in recent years is the technological innovations that have come out of a need seen by others in society, and this app is a perfect example. Identifying a social need and determining a plausible solution to quell the issue is something that apps and digital technologies have gone a long way to amplifying.

    While I have had limited experience on airplanes, one thing I did notice is that the information that is available to you in-flight depends on the airline. I think this could be a deterrent for some travelers to pay $19.99 for the full version of the app when they can receive a fair amount of the information for free from the airline. In any case, I thought this was a cool post and I’ll definitely try out the app the next time I fly!

%d bloggers like this: