There’s a job for everyone, right? Presumably, though, if you have a fear of heights, there are some jobs you should probably stay clear of. Window cleaners, roof repairmen, crane operators… aeroplane pilots… that type of thing!
There surely aren’t any airline pilots who fear heights? Well, believe it or not, this is a real thing. People with a fear of heights can and do become pilots.
Interestingly, around 1 in 10 pilots are alleged to suffer from a fear of heights, but estimates vary wildly. One retired Aviation Phycology professor estimated that in some groups of pilots he had studied, nearly 9 in 10 suffered!
The stats are just as muddled in the general population. On the one hand, it is claimed around 5% of the general population suffer from a fear of heights. On the other, some polls report over 50% of the public suffer!
In this blog post, we will explore if you can be a pilot with a fear of heights, and, what you can do to overcome your fear.
Agoraphobia and pilots
First, let’s look at what agoraphobia actually is:
For some people, their fear is so severe that they avoid any situation where they might be high up off the ground. So, can you imagine how difficult it would be to pilot an airplane if you had a fear of heights?
Well, it turns out there are many pilots with agoraphobia, and it often doesn’t form a large issue in their day-to-day lives:
I’m scared of heights, will I be a bad pilot?
While it can be difficult, there are many people who have a fear of heights who make great pilots. The Israeli defence force looked into fear of flying in their pilots, and found it was surprisingly common.
Interestingly, many pilots with a fear of heights report that in an aircraft they do not suffer.
As a result, if you are worried your fear of heights may stop you from being a pilot, one of the best things to do can be to book a trial flight in a light aircraft.
Available relatively cheaply, trial lessons will allow you to see if your fear remains present while operating. You might be surprised to discover that, like many pilots, agoraphobia doesn’t materialise in the cockpit.
Even if your fear of heights does materialise in the cockpit, there are also many things that you can do to help ease your fear. While there is no set “cure” for acrophobia, a wide range of treatments are available, with therapy described as extremely effective.
It is important to remember that you are not alone in your fear. Many people have a fear of heights — it is one of the most common fears — but it is a problem that in numerous instances can be solved. Therapy, from CBT, exposure therapy, and even VR therapy in flight sims have all been used successfully to treat agoraphobia.
Equally, even if you have a fear of heights that persists, don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dream of becoming a pilot. Experience has shown that many airline pilots suffer from a fear of heights and have a successful career. For many, the combination of focus on pilot related tasks, alongside the feeling of control, means that agoraphobia doesn’t materialise in the cockpit.
So, there you have it! You can be a pilot even if you have a fear of heights.