My passion for airplanes – and my fear of flying

I was nineteen years old when I happily entered the world’s biggest commercial aircraft, embarking on a working holiday trip to Australia. Airplanes have always fascinated me ever since I was a small kid, so this was a big deal – I loved flying. However, that flight turned into world news as one of the engines had an uncontained failure, leaving the aircraft crippled, and breaking somewhat of a world record in error messages.

Johanna in a Gripen C cockpit during a student fair.

For clarification, this was not a Saab aircraft, and as you can tell, there was a happy ending to that story as I’m sitting here now writing about that incident. However, this incident traumatized me into having this irrational fear of flying, at the same time as it led me on a path to become an engineer – I just had to know how it all worked! That big aircraft – and of course, the pilot flying it – was still able to go back and land safely even though shrapnel from the engine had punctured it severely. This realization sparked an interest for engineering and aerospace that got me to where I am today, and I love what I do at Saab. While I don’t like being inside of airplanes, I love standing by the runway feeling the power of them during take-off.

People often ask me if I have become more or less scared of flying since I started working at Aeronautics, where the sound of an aircraft and the smell of jet fuel is your everyday at work. My job has definitely helped me understand what an immense effort there is behind designing an aircraft and making it fly safely for decades. Safety always comes first in our business, and believe me when I tell you that flying is the very last thing to be scared of. My rational mind knows this, but the problem when flying is my emotional mind, which cannot erase the memory of a trauma. However, these days I can understand for example the sounds of the aircraft while in the cabin, how turbulence really is nothing but bumps of air, and how much those wings can actually bend (it’s a LOT). I have acquired a lot of knowledge from working here and that understanding really does help.

Despite my fear of flying I have been lucky enough to get to travel the world, and I haven’t let the fear stop me from discovering the world. Stepping into an airplane is stepping out of my comfort zone, but doing so is what makes us grow as human beings. And one should never stop growing. So my final words for this blog post is: don’t let fear – whatever it may be – stop you from chasing your dreams. Because sometimes, overcoming the fear makes you stronger than you might think.

Greetings from inside a hangar,
Johanna