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Flying superstitions comfort travelers

UPI News Service, 09/19/2011 

Many travelers flying out of Detroit said they have superstitious rituals allowing them to feel safer while traveling by plane.

James Steinhagen, 62, of Troy, Mich., said he rolls his finger along with the rhythm of the plane's acceleration down the runway when the aircraft is beginning its take-off procedures, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

"My thinking is that this will help keep the engines running as we prepare to climb into the air. Fortunately, I have not had a situation where this didn't work -- at least not yet," he said.

Carl Steinecker, 64, of South Lyon, Mich., said he and his wife lift their feet off the floor of the plane until it leaves the ground during take-off and Dr. Thomas Harding, 53, of Milwaukee said he lifts the armrest to help the plane get into the air.

Tom Bunn, the psychologist and pilot behind SOAR, a program that helps people get over the fear of flying, said flying superstitions help travelers create an illusion of control in a situation that worries them.

"Since people look into the air and see nothing holding the plane up, it all seems like magic anyway, right? So if you lift up on the armrest, it might help the plane rise," Bunn said. "In addition, there is an anthropomorphism going on -- the plane is not just a mechanical object, but it has feelings. You think the plane is trying and struggling, and you need to help it, so there is the spinning of the finger to help the engine turn. There's the lifting of the feet off the floor, which is really kind of cute."

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