I travel around the world on business and vacation, so thankfully flying isn't a big fear. However, I know plenty of people who are nervous or even terrified of flying. That's understandable when you're packed in a heavy hunk of moving metal miles above the ground.
Unfortunately for those people, flying is still the fastest way to travel long distances so it's sometimes unavoidable. That's why app developers are putting together apps that aim to help people stay calm.
Japan's All Nippon Airways just released a free app called Takeoff Mode (Free; iOS) that lets you play a game with calming music while you're waiting for takeoff. You tilt your phone screen to move a blob through puzzles, which the developers hope is engaging enough to keep you distracted.
Here's the app in action.
Takeoff Mode sounds like a good idea, but there are a few concerns that mean it might not be as effective as you would hope.
First, the app can figure out when the plane is taking off based on sound and acceleration and tweaks the game with a little "taking off" animation. That seems like it would undo the work of distracting you from the plane taking off.
Also, some people have reported that playing the game in flight leads to motion sickness, which is never good. And, finally, it's only for iPhone right now.
Fortunately, if Takeoff Mode doesn't work, you have some alternatives that tackle the fear of flying in different ways.
SOAR (Free; Android, iOS) is the work of airline captain and licensed therapist Tom Bunn. It tries to calm your fears by giving you information.
The app walks you through the statistics on plane safety, how turbulence works, what various aircraft sounds mean, what backup systems are in place and more so you always know what's going on.
SOAR even taps your phone's accelerometer to tell you the G-forces the plane is experiencing so you can compare it to the plane's limits. You'll know at a glance that the plane isn't in danger of breaking up. Of course, your mind knowing what's going on and your body knowing this are two different things, so mid-panic is probably not the time to start using the app.
Another app is VALK ($4; Android, iOS). This one includes statistics and useful flying tips, but the main focus is relaxation exercises to keep yourself calm. There's even a panic button that starts an audio recording to guide you through a relaxation exercise.
Again, this is a good idea, but in the middle of a panic attack it might not help as much as you'd hope. So, if you do try these apps the next time you fly, be sure you have your usual way of coping on standby just in case, or make sure it's a short hop.