A_HBT17246005.JPG The small planes that fly in and out of Napier Airport aren't for everyone. Photo / Warren Buckland


What if the engine falls off, what if the wing snaps, what if the wheels don't go down, why is it making that noise?

They're all thoughts that have flashed through our minds while readying for take-off.

A fear of small planes meant two Bangladesh cricket players, captain Mashrafe Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal, opted to take a six-hour drive from Auckland to Napier last week.

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It left them a tad weary in the legs for a battle with the Black Caps - Mortaza went wicketless and Iqbal scored just 5 runs as the Bangladeshis were soundly beaten.

The pair are far from the only ones with a phobia of the small metal birds flying in and out of the smaller regional hubs like Hawke's Bay Airport.

A Hawke's Bay resident, who didn't want to be named, said his small plane phobia was so bad, he'd even refused to fly in the rescue helicopter to Hawke's Bay Hospital after sustaining a serious injury in Wairoa.

"I refused to get in, I opted for an ambulance, there was no way I was getting in the helicopter."

He'd never flown in a plane in his life and didn't plan to - which caused a few problems when going on overseas holidays with family or friends.

"They can go on a plane, I'll go on a boat, but there's no way I'm getting on a plane.

"I was supposed to fly to Auckland for a work seminar but I told my bosses that I can't fly, so they got me a rental car to drive up and I went there and back in a day."

His reason for not flying - a lack control.

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"Just once you're in there, you have no control, if anything happens there's nothing you can do about it."

Programme director of Fly Without Fear Limited Grant Amos said "control freaks" was a good potential description for those who refused to fly.

A psychologist, Amos has a strong background in the aviation industry.

Air New Zealand asked Amos to set up his programme in 1982 and from that time he's coached members of the public to sports stars, celebrities, doctors - all who have fears of flying.

"A lot of people I see are often at the top of their game. I've had household names take my course and they're used to being in control. But in planes they don't get a say.

"The joke is that people think they're in control when they're driving down the road in their car, but they have no control of that either because they can't tell what the road is going to do, what the weather will do, what the engine is doing, how drunk the other drivers on the road might be - it's a myth that people create in their own heads.

Grant Amos says he's coached many people who afraid to fly due to 'lack of control'
Grant Amos says he's coached many people who afraid to fly due to 'lack of control'

"There's about 10 per cent of our population who will not or cannot fly and many of those people disguise their fear in lots of ways, they become very good with excuses.

"What you'll find with these cricket players is size equals safety - so big planes are safer.

"There's also the same mistake that they think planes with propellers are less reliable than jet fan engines when in fact both the engines are jets."

Amos said most people in the population "have no idea about aviation" in terms of how planes fly, what keeps them in the sky and their strange mechanical noises.

"People draw a line, they don't actually go out and research anything to do with aviation - if they did, then they'd help themselves.

"I've worked in this area a long time and a majority of people we coach are dealing with something they don't understand.

"It's not a phobia - it's an anxiety disorder - but that doesn't mean that phobias aren't involved."

Amos said some 20 per cent of people he saw to have issues with flying were "practised to rehearse a phobic reaction to certain environmental factors that they bring to flying".

Some people will have a fear of heights while claustrophobia was another.

"They say they're claustrophobic when they're on a plane, but they don't have a problem with movie theatres, restaurants or lifts - they just use it when they're on a plane."