Reader question: what is your aviation nightmare?

Crash
Does this ever happen while you sleep?

This reader question was prompted by the comments on a recent Air Facts article. Commenting on a review of wire strike accidents, one reader wrote:

“For quite a few years after I got my pvt license in a Cessna 140A I had bought for that purpose in mid 70s, I had intense, scary nightmares about taking off and flying between and over wires. Not just one but dozens at a time. The entire nightmare was involved with me dodging wires as I climbed out.”

Other readers chimed in to share their own “aviation bad dreams” and offer encouragement, including this one:

“The intense, and deeply disturbing, nightmares you experienced regarding wire encounters are not uncommon among pilots. I had these long before I began flying into airstrips where man-made obstructions could be a factor.”

So we want to know – have you had any aviation nightmares or anxieties? Is it the same issue every time or something different? Share your comments below.

39 Comments

  • Flying around power lines or challenging terrain is also a common nightmare of mine, also landing in strange off airport places and having no way to take off again, and knocking parts off my plane. No one ever gets hurt in my dreams, thank God.

  • I have had the dodging wires nightmare many times over the years. No matter how high I climb, they keep appearing out of nowhere. Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues with them while actually flying.

  • 18,000 hours and it would be wires, I fly both fixed wing and helos. Have had bad dreams about them for years. Next would be more comical, landing without calling the tower.

  • Wires and towers, similar to Duncan’s description. It doesn’t matter how high I fly or that they aren’t there when I depart. I never hit them, but in my dreams, the wires zip by and I wait to feel the impact. Nothing happens and then I wake up. Wires and towers, always.

  • In flight breakup has been my #1 for years. I know the wings are suppose to flex and be okay but lord knows how much windshear and turbulence a 70’s vintage airplane has been through.

  • I had a vivid nightmare a number of years ago about breaking out at minimums at night on glideslope but significantly off horizontally with obsticles all around me.

  • Yep, it’s wires. I’ve only had one nightmare about flying that I can remember, and it involved me taking off down the runway, making my turn out, seeing a large hill in front of me, turning to avoid it, and flying right toward wires. I tried to pull up to go over them, but just as I was about to crash right through them, I woke up panicked.

  • Ice building faster than the aircraft can climb…. right there where you can see the glow of the sun through the overcast but then the aircraft stalls under a load of ice.

  • I’ve had the wires nightmare many times. It usually follows a take off from a street (something I’ve never done for real) and involves climbing and diving to avoid the wires.

    I have had one real life wire dodging experience, when my engine threw a rod, and I landed in a field. I had to get over the wires to land. But there was no similarity to my nightmares.

    Fortunately most of my aviation dreams are pretty bucolic, in which I intentionally land in a beautiful pasture, on smooth grass, to camp beside a softly flowing stream—sort of the aviator’s version of a scene from the 23rd Psalm.

  • I’ve had multiple dreams about street takeoffs requiring me to dodge wires and telephone poles. Also, just as common, I witness an airliner crashing into the house right next to me and I cringe as I wait for the massive explosion… I’ve been flying for 40 years.

    • You might be interested in a novel based on facts surrounding several commercial airline crashes out of New Jersey airport in the 50s where airliners crashed into homes and just missed schools. Three crashes within a few months/weeks of each other. “In the Unlikely Case..” by Judy Blume. Yes, that Judy Blume. Not a child’s book.

  • Glad to see I am not the only one to have nightmares about wires. Back in the day when I flew helicopters for the Army, I had a recurring dream about flying in an area that was literally covered with wires, almost like spider webs. I would try to climb above them, only to find more wires. Almost always woke me up.

  • Wires! Trying to climb through and then diving back down to miss a transmission main. What is the psychology that has so many having the same dream?

  • I’m in my single place sailplane at the initial entry point in the pattern for landing, I’m in a shallow turn looking down at the windsock checking out the wind direction. Next thing I know I’m on the ground in conversation with a couple of people when all of a sudden I realize “damn I forgot to land”! I look up and the glider is still there circling about 1000 feet in the air. Cracks me up every time I think about it.

  • Let’s see there must have been something— oh yes flying a p51 or a f4 u for fun , never did but wanted to . Flew for 50 yrs and 22000 hrs

  • It hasn’t been wires for me but maybe it will now… Nightmares have been laughable (at east, after I awaken) challenge taxiing my (heavy) aircraft on too-narrow road or freeway, with all those pesky light poles. Or becoming aware during flight that copilot didn’t show up and I somehow launched solo.
    When awake, now retired, and flying single engine, midair, or engine failure over urban or rough terrain.

  • I really thought my nightmare of flying under wires that just kept appearing and trapped me underneath was unique. I agree that someone needs to look into the commonality of this theme. There are a lot of ways to screw up flying and this is really low on the probability if you’re not flying at an unsafe altitude but it seems to be the top theme on the subconscious. Wierd!

  • Speaking of wires…..

    During training one day, my friend and flight instructor had me fly into a dirt strip a number of miles away from our origin airport, Ryan Filed in Tucson. He said he wanted to show me something that I am to avoid at all costs, know about prior to avoid having to do aerobatics to avoid, and generally keep me alive in the future by not stupidly flying into “it” in the first place.

    We landed, taxied up to his friends hangar, and he introduced me to the man that was replacing three (3) feet of his wing on my flight instructors crop dusting plane. It seem my instructor took off, had the sun in his eyes, got too close to the power transmission lines, realized too late where he was, expected to now know what it feels to be a blue electrical plasma ball……but that didn’t happen…he was close to the ground…hitting the electrical ground wire (found out later – the reason why there was not a Marvin Martian “boom”…there’s supposed to be a boom…….), spun around and was able to get the Ag-Cat (I think that was the brand) on the ground within the airfields parameters. Remember….desert….flat……..experience…luck? Oh hell yes. He was approximately 200 feet in the air when he sliced the wing. Note: It was a clean slice……and as an A & P, I could have done it nicer with tools…but not by much. My instructor had over 13,000 hours and still showed his “fledglings” (he called us that) that it can get serious in a micro-second. I thank him to this day for instilling me with his professional persona……fly the airplane…have some fun while first flying the airplane.

  • For me, midair collision. But like Cary Alburn, most of my aviation dreams have been very pleasant. I used to lull myself to sleep by imagining the entire sequence, from opening the hangar, to preflighting then pulling out and starting the airplane, taxiing, and taking off. Usually about the time I lifted off, I drifted off.

  • I had a GREAT flew for well over 50 years. I am an Aeronautical Engineer graduating from RPI in 1955… trained to become a pilot in the Air Force class of 57H.. flew B-47s in SAC… flew T-Birds, F-84s, and F-86Hs in Mass. ANG, and finally owned and flew Cessna 182; and worked for Pratt & Whitney for about 40 years. The only Aviation nightmare I ever had was the time when some “AH” pilot did something stupid to ‘take-me-out’….. and that almost happened one time flying our Cessna 182… I was turning final when I observed an airplane coming straight at me on a collision course….. I got out of the way… landed OK; and never saw the airplane, or the pilot….. but I wonder what ever happened to that “AH” that just didn’t know what or where the “H” he, or she was in the landing pattern for that airport. Message learned…. always, ALWAYS, be on the look-out for the unexpected; and know what you are going to do if an ‘adverse’ flying situation occurs… your life DOES depend on it!

  • Interesting subject for an article that I never thought I’d see in the AFJ. Have flown 50 years, in 28 aircraft varients, to 53 countries, and in one war. Only repetitive nightmare was Vietnam air-combat induced just after getting “back to the world” (as we called the USA.) It was always the same … after bailing out at low altitude and getting a good chute, I’d look down and see many NVA reaching up to catch me — then I’d bolt awake. No nightmares with airline, corporate, or GA flying — just too much fun. Still enjoy going up.

  • Wires!

    In a car I can see them so clearly. In the air they are almost always invisible. Even poles or towers are hard to see. So, why not require all wires to be painted Day-Glo Pink or Orange, and have streamers and balls attached? Better yet, put all wires under ground.

    And, to add an annoying factor, those strobe lights on towers are much more visible from highways and houses than the air. Even pilots spend more time in their cars and grounded chores than in the air. Why not shield strobes from the ground, or better—make all strobes red. And, while we’re at it, why not put lights on hard to see guy wires?

    Once a year a rescue helo may fly close to a tower, while 24/7 we groundlings are subjected to head ache causing strobes. Does anybody have an airborne proximity detector for ground obstructions?

    Maybe Occasional Cortex could add these to her list of Modest Proposals.

    • We live out in rural Texas Hill Country and use IH-10 a lot and there are a lot of cell towers and you are right about those damn strobes, but it seems the strobes only come on when the red lights burn out, thank God. When I see a strobe on I always think, “Was that always there?” (I’m old) But a day or two later it will be gone.

  • WOW, been flying 53 yrs. and 10,000 hrs. I have had the wire dream many times, low and unable to climb because of overhead wires. I thought I was the only one until now. Haven’t had it for a long time (thank you) I guess all pilots are wired the same to some degree.

  • Uncontrolled cabin or cargo fire at 30W…halfway across the Atlantic, and your choice becomes: do I kill everyone or do I try to give 5 or 10 of them a chance in a raft?

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