A few years back, at the peak of my (newly retriggered / WHERE ARE YOU, MALAYSIAN PLANE???) flying anxiety, I wrote a self help book entirely while on planes, to soothe myself. Book people I showed the product too said it didn’t contain enough factual information and maybe should be a memoir so I put it aside and forgot about it, but was reminded of it because of  recent tragedy (BUT REALLY, WHERE ARE YOU.) The book will probably never get published, but I love it, I really love it. I love what I was able to work through while writing it. And so, I’m just going to email it to whoever wants to read it, and also put parts of it here. See below for my profound and moderately informed chapter on How Planes Fly.


Okay, dummy. I know that understanding the physics of flying won’t wipe you of worry entirely, but it can definitely help you a bit. And now I, Bekah Brunstetter, whose college GPA was lowered .5 points by science alone, who cannot point to her spleen, who cannot name stars, will explain to you – in layman’s terms – the Physics of flying. Let’s get f**king nerdy, you guys!

Let’s start with Bernoulli’s principle, and also take a moment to celebrate that that was absolutely the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever written in my life. Celebrate. Onward! Daniel Bernoulli was a Dutch-Swiss math genius (1700-1782.) Dude was so smart, his father (who pretty much invented calculus) at one point kicked him out of the house for essentially beating him in a science fair. Bernoulli’s principle is pretty much what keeps planes in the air. It’s not luck, it’s not prayers, it’s not irony, it’s physics.

This principle states that when fluid (air) moves around moving object, low pressure is creating above the object, and high pressure is created below the object. This high pressure keeps the object in the air.

So that, I’m positive, makes perfect sense. Welp, not entirely. Almost. Let me back up, because I’m really smart and have much knowledge to share, and a lot of overcompensating to do for the fact that I kind of don’t know how to do anything but write and bake bread.

It may not seem like it, but air is a fluid just as much as water is. Scientists apply the same principles to both substances, and oftentimes, theories of aerodynamics are tested under water. Basically, a bird swims through the air. A fish flies through the water. They’re interchangeable. They’re essentially the same thing. ….except for gravity. But: Bernoulli’s principle is what keeps planes in the air. What fights gravity. The force of the low pressure above the wings, and the high pressure below the wings, cushion the plane and keep it in the sky.

So, when we’re flying, we’re not just floating in mid-air like it might feel, ready to plummet at any moment.  The air is keeping us there, and there will never suddenly be no air. We are resting on something. Something is above and beneath us. The atmosphere. Identify it: make it something friendly, tangible and real. Fluff! Koolaid! Mattresses! Call it what you will. It really helps to visualize that you’re on that substance, especially during turbulence. Some douchebag is just jumping on the mattress to show that the red wine won’t spill on his wife’s silk pajama’s. That’s all that’s happening. BERNOUILI! I did my homework. Am I a Scientist Yet?

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