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Dealing With Wife Who Won't Fly

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Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
First of all, I'm generally a lucky guy. My wife has tolerated me building a plane, flying it about whenever I want to and spending a LOT of money on ratings and building time.

What I'm after, though, is to get her to let me fly our family on trips out of town. My folks live about 250 miles away and right next to an airstrip. Flying 1.5 hrs versus driving 4.5... sure sould be nice to load up the family in a 6-seater and fly.

She says she's scared to fly. She's flown with me before and did pretty well (sat there reading her book and checking out the scenery). That was "before kids" though.

Anyone ever successfully dealt with this issue? Any suggestions? Sure is a shame to have all these hours, ratings and certificates and not be able to take advantage of them.


I too have a similar situation, and would love to hear anybody's advice. I took my wife up once and she did ok until it got dark and she couldn't see the ground. She recently admitted to me that she is even scared on commercial flights. I now doubt I will ever get the family flight vacation....

Good luck,

I've had a similar situtation with my mother. The most important thing is to take their minds off of what's going on. My mother actually grabbed the yoke on take off the first time (she was quite scared and wanted something to grab onto...doh!). After a refresher lesson on how to NOT grab anything, things went smoother. I taught her how to use a VFR sectional to navigate and by doing that, she started to enjoy the scenery. She still hates landing and take off though. I think the more exposure people have to small planes, the less afraid they become. Make sure to point out the fact that it is more dangerous driving to the airport than it is actually flying the plane.
I think it is more an issue of trust than anything. As a CFI, I see this with new students (esp those who have never flown before) somewhat frequently. They will be nervous for the first few lessons, but that gradually goes away as we fly more and they begin to trust me and realize "hey, this guy knows what he's doing."

In your case, I think you need to ease your wife/mom/etc. into trusting your skills and believing that it's safe. Really, the best way to do this is to fly with them a couple of times; and, the more you do, the better they will feel about it. Start by doing a couple of sightseeing flights, just the two of you. You can do some $100 hamburgers, or whatever. Just get them in the plane and feeling comfortable. Eventually, they won't be bothered by flying with you at all. That's when you can propose the idea of family trips, and taking the kids up, etc.

I guess the main point is that you gotta fly a couple times w/ them before you earn their trust. Flying once doesn't really do it, and they don't really understand your ratings/hours and what they mean. They just want to feel safe, and the only way to deal with this is to fly with them until they do (they will, eventually).

Good luck dude.. :D
My wife won't and never will get into a small plane with me or anyone else. Pretty much killed it for her when I decided to take her up in a 206 Grand Canyon tour (I was just a passenger). Wind was blowing something fierce on take off and landing and to get to the canyon we had to cross a small mountain range with some pretty good mountain turbulance.

I was still working on my private at the time so I hadn't had a chance to take her up on a nice day and there is no way she will now.

We have a deal. I don't go to the mall with her because it terrifies me and she doesn't go flying with me.

SOMEHOW, my hobby is cheaper- go figure.

aggie, if your ever in the dallas area and need a fly buddy send me a note. I office at Northwest Regional airport just south of DTO.

ps. I thought the Aggies were going to upset the longhorns last week- GiG'em Aggies
The fear may come from the feeling of not being in control and not knowing what to do if something went wrong.

How about a couple lessons with a competent and mature (no "see what it can do"...) flight instructor who could increase her confidence in how airplanes feel to fly.

Most people don't understand how stable airplanes are. My sister, who grew up riding in the family plane, thought the engine quit during a stall. Luckily she let us know why she was scared, and after a few lessons she feels much more comfortable.
I have the same problem with my wife and kids. The best thing I have found out is to give them all something to do. For instance, make the whole flying experience for them fun and enjoyable. Make it into a game is what I do. For instance, make them get into counting how many airlplanes they can see, railroad tracks etc etc. After awhile, they will be fighting over who saw more cows. Make sure you have plenty of snacks.
As for the wife, the same thing. Get her involved with navigation 101, and tuning the radios if your using flight following and center. If your plane is equiped with a auto-pilot, engage it on HDG and ALT and have the wife fly a bit. She can't do much correction, but she will see how easy it is. Whether she knows the auto-pilot is on is up to you.
Another thing I found out that my wifes likes to do is on landing, give her a chore say for instance, she works the rudder pedels. Say to her that her job is to keep the nose straight and you will land the airplane. That takes her mind off what's going on and concentrates on the task at hand.

Ever since then, and getting everyone involved, we have enjoyed many hours in the air together and my wife and kids now bug me for more airplane rides.
Best of luck
Hate to disagree but a flight in a GA aircraft is about 7 times more dangerous than the drive to the airport. See Richard Collins' article in the October issue of Flying Magazine for more myths. The good news is that as GA pilots we have a great deal to do with the risk factors that are the greatest threat to the safety of flight.
She may need to take some lessons with a CFI she is comfortable with. Once she has a better understanding of how the aircraft is controled and gets to do it herself with an outside sorce (who she is comfortable with(CFI) she "may" feel better. Dont rush her and dont let her go up on a bumpy day untill she feels safe. If she can get to a point where she feels safe you are home free.

Good luck.
I don't disagree with Mr. Collins' information, but I have to assume he's taking all GA into acct; including the people who fly non-inst qualified into clouds, run their planes out of fuel, two hours a year, etc.

Flying takes a significant chunk of the exposure, hour for hour out of the picture. I'm assuming Mr. Collins' information is based on an hour for hour comaprison. In other words, a 4 hr drive would expose one to x chance of an accident. That same drive could be flown in aprox ¼ to ½ the time, leaving only a 1.75 to 3.5X chance of an accident in a GA aircraft versus a car. Also, something a little less tangible is the behavior of a pilot flying the wife and kids versus oneself or a buddy. For these reasons, I feel like my flying my family would be as safe or safer than driving.

I appreciate you passing along the info, but was really looking for tips on how to convince my wife to fly with me, not justify her fears! :)


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