small plane, big phobia
April 14, 2010 9:10 AM   Subscribe

How scary is the plane ride from O'Hare to Cedar Rapids?

I am terrified of flying in small planes. I have to fly United from O'Hare to Cedar Rapids in a couple of weeks. I will take anti-anxiety meds for the flight, but it would really ease my apprehension to hear people's experiences of this particular route, and ideally this airline. Obviously I am looking for reassurance, but I want to know everything!
posted by Morpeth to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total)
What airline are you taking? I take the AA flight, which is subcontracted out to their regional carrier (American Eagle, I think). It's an OK flight. It's not a big jet, IIRC it's two seats on one side, three on the other.
This is a relatively easy flight. Sometimes it's relatively empty so you can spread out or sleep laying down. Sometimes it's almost to capacity. Depends on whether you fly at peak or not. I always found this flight relaxing, only in that it is my last homeward leg (which can make a big difference after flying nonstop from Japan). The worst thing that I ever saw on this flight was the toilet was clogged, but usable if you were desperate. It's not a long flight so just hold your knees together (ha). I never encountered any turbulence or other problems on this route, and it's early spring so it's not tornado season, weather is usually fairly mild this time of year.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2010

I fly in regional jets (I pulled the schedule from ORD to CID, and UAL seems to have Embraer 145s for that route) pretty frequently, and it feels no different than a full-sized larger aircraft. It's a little smaller on the interior, obviously, but is otherwise the same. Taxiing, takeoff, cruising, landing: no discernible difference between that and, say, a 737. Not to me, anyway.
posted by jquinby at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2010

Thanks to both of you. Charlie don't surf: I'm flying United.
posted by Morpeth at 9:24 AM on April 14, 2010

I've flown into Cedar Rapids maybe a dozen times (half on United from O'Hare, half on Northwest from Minneapolis) and had nothing but good experiences. The prop plane is of course a bit smaller, and the seating is less comfortable, but the turbulence isn't much different than a standard-sized jet.
posted by relucent at 9:24 AM on April 14, 2010

Yeah, I flew O'Hare to Columbus in a puddlejumper and it really wasn't much different than a big plane.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2010

I've flown this a number of times. Half the time I've been in a two-seats/three-seats on either side of the aisle plane; half the time in a one-seat/two-seats plane. The latter is a little more cramped but otherwise unremarkable. I've never hit turbulence or experienced anything different from a standard jet (though we were once rerouted to Moline because of ice on the Cedar Rapids runway, which, I am thankful to say -- dear God let it be true -- will not now again be a concern for at least six or seven months. ) And the flight is only an hour. You'll be fine.
posted by collectallfour at 9:38 AM on April 14, 2010

Don't get onboard with expectations and fears -- try to think positively and don't worry. (If you need help, try the Fear of Flying SOAR program. It worked for me.

Embraer 145 are basically private jets pressed into commercial service. Pretend you are Oprah.
posted by teedee2000 at 9:40 AM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

The biggest difference in my experience is that prop planes are much louder inside. You'll also probably have to walk out onto the tarmac to board the plane in Chicago. It's not much fun in the Winter, but that won't be a problem for you this time of year.
posted by Eddie Mars at 9:43 AM on April 14, 2010

I have been in small prop plans a number of times and I really, really enjoyed the experience. I have spent cumulative weeks in jumbo jetliners so getting to ride in a small, noisy, old-school prop plane was for me a ton of fun.

Given that you're going to have the anxiety meds to take, I'd say try to look at it as unique experience. The seating is cramped, I will say that, and it is a hell of a lot noisier, but there's something special about it that I think if you take the time to enjoy you'll find yourself not worrying about as much. That and the likely-benzo relaxation you'll have should make for an easy peasy time.

You'll be fine! Enjoy it*.

*If flying is a phobia for you I am not trying to be pushy by saying this, just trying to give you a positive outlook. If you can't enjoy it because of the psychological distress then just kick back, don't worry it will be over pretty quick with on benzo-time (they've always made hours seem like minutes to me, at least)

Overall, good luck. I know you'll be completely be fine.
posted by deacon_blues at 9:45 AM on April 14, 2010

I wanted to second the recommendation above of SOAR. At the very least, I would go through and search their forums for "Embraer" for a lot of people discussing flying in them. As a phobic flier, I feel safer the more I know--and of course these planes are safe! Planes, it turns out, are safe, which is why they fly millions of times a year with millions of people on them! Obviously, a smaller plane can "feel" different, so it's nice to be prepared. But it's also nice to know that you don't have to fly it, and that someone else--actually, a number of different people!--are taking care of your safety. Your (air) mileage may vary, but I try to look at flights like this as an adventure, not a chore.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2010

I also have a phobia of flying and have done similar flights regularly in the past (Chicago to Sioux Falls on United). I actually like the smaller planes better. I'm not sure why, but they just seem more comfortable. There is less chaos, less "stuff" going on. I don't think they fly quite as high as the big planes, which for some reason I like. The staff on these planes also seem to be much more relaxed and accessible. I tend to spend these flights looking at the ground and figuring out where I am and how much longer the flight will be. Keeps me busy. Luckily this should be a relatively short flight for you. I wish you the best of luck!

PS - another thing that helps me get through these things which I think is a little more tangible than "think positive" is to print off some pages from Captain Stacey's Fear of Flying website. He's wonderful and the words really help reassure you throughout the flight, even if you have to keep reading them over and over.
posted by bristolcat at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I fly United often. The route between ORD and CID is flown by Embraer 145, Embraer 175, and CRJ-700's and 200's. These are smaller than the Boeing 737's or Airbus A320/A319's on bigger domestic routes, but they're not tiny turboprop planes. These are all regional jets. We're not talking about Cessnas here.

You can learn more about these planes (and their seating configurations on United) by checking out the United section on SeatGuru.

If I had to choose a flight based solely on the plane, I would go for the CRJ-700. The inside cabin generally strikes me as the most spacious and it has slightly less noise than the E145, and they are (generally) newer planes. But again, we're talking regional jets here. Many "small" planes are turboprop planes, such as the de Havilland Dash 8's operated by US Airways on the east coast. The RJ's are bigger and quieter than those by a long shot!

(And just because I've expressed a slight preference for the CRJ-700 doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with flying the E145 or E175.)

On the E145 and E175, I have seen people get flustered because there is not that much overhead storage space. (All seat A's are by themselves (both a window and an aisle seat) and have no direct overhead storage room.) I think on all of these routes, United will also offer to "gate check" large hand-carry luggage (i.e. rollerboards), because there just isn't enough space. This is fine.

SOMETIMES on these planes, there will be weight redistributions, where they ask passengers to sit in different parts of the plane. If this happens on your flight, don't panic. It's normal on light loads, it happens all the time. It's not like we're hearing stories of regional jets falling out of the skies because the passengers all rush to the front/back of the plane and throw the weight distribution off!
posted by QuantumMeruit at 9:55 AM on April 14, 2010

Those Embraer 145s are quite nice. I've noticed recently that many of my better small jet experiences have been on Embraer aircraft so I'm always pleasantly surprised when I board one, regardless of the size, and look forward to the experience.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:02 AM on April 14, 2010

I fly United from O'Hare to Moline or Cedar Rapids all the time, and have for years and years. All of the above advice is solid. You don't have anything to worry about. The plane is smaller, but other than that there aren't any differences. In fact, often when I fly the plane isn't very full and I'll have several seats to myself.

The strangest part of the flight is simply the people on it. I always look around and think, "why the fuck are you going to Moline?" Then again, I'm going there.

Anyway, you'll be totally fine. Enjoy the flight.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:08 AM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I flew from O'Hare to Cedar Rapids on American and it wasn't a tiny plane, it was just smaller than bigger plans. In each row there was 1 seat on one side, and two seats on the other side. Other than less space, the trip wasn't appreciably different than being in a big plane other than you feel it a little more on take off and landing. A really cool thing about Cedar Rapids is that the airport is tiny and fast. It took me about five minutes from the time I deplaned to get to baggage claim, and my bag was already there.
posted by Kimberly at 10:21 AM on April 14, 2010

A really cool thing about Cedar Rapids is that the airport is tiny and fast. It took me about five minutes from the time I deplaned to get to baggage claim, and my bag was already there.

This is the greatest thing about flying to these tiny midwestern airports. All of that stress and horribleness of O'Hare and the like? Yeah, in Cedar Rapids you'll be off the plane and out the door in five minutes. It's awesome.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2010

As everyone else has said, there's not much of a difference between being on a smaller commuter jet and a larger one. That said, I have one major piece of advice -- make sure that you're not seated in the last row of the plane. The smaller planes tend to be a bit more claustrophobic to begin with, and the seats in the last row generally don't recline. Being stuck in the window seat on the last row of seats is a miserable way to spend time.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:37 AM on April 14, 2010

Not scary. I've flown that route several times. Bring a book you really want to read, or bring your favorite music or a podcast you really enjoy, and save it for when you're on board. Tuck a treat like a bag of M & M's or whatever you like best to enjoy in flight. You can do this. Best of luck!
posted by Kangaroo at 12:04 PM on April 14, 2010

Yeah, the AA flight is a "regional jet," don't know about the UAL flight. I didn't think anyone flies turboprop planes anymore. Oh you should be glad you never flew this route back in the days when the only service was from Ozark Airlines. They flew propjets that were just deafening inside the cabin.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2010

You'll need those meds more for your stay in Cedar Rapids than you will for the flight ;)

I kid. I grew up there. It's a nice town.
posted by wwartorff at 2:38 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

It seems that a moderator perhaps misunderstood and then yanked a comment I made. It was more of an inside joke to locals, referencing wwartoff's remark.

Let me just clarify, Cedar Rapids is known for its intensely bad smell due to grain processing plants. If you have breathing problems, it would be best to pass through town quickly, and find lodging elsewhere.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2010

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