It matters if you fly commercially, or privately, if you are a nervous, or fearful flyer, to some extent. Most flyers (if you are not a pilot or the pilot for the flight) have some misgivings each time they fly, but some of us just resign ourslves to the fact that you need to fly and have little control over the many factors that could impact the flight.
Some factors that cause concern regardless of flying commercially, or privately, are obvious like the weather, over water flights, mountainous terrain, airports in the mountains and small airports (usually short narrow landing strips). Some are not so obvious but due to past accidents and the subsequent news reports still cause some concern. Some not so obvious concerns include security, aircraft maintenance condition, pilot complacency (dependence on automation versus pilot skills), pilot training and experience and pilot fatigue.
Outside influences such as hijacking, terrorist activities and the growing incidents of lasers pointed at cockpits are also thought about prior to flight by some. In private aviation hijacking and terrorist activities are unlikely but the threat from laser light (accidental or on purpose) is growing in the US and in Europe. After 9/11 and other previous horrible events (Lockerbie Scotland) commercial travelers were on edge and the recent “disappearance” of the Malaysian airliner has done little to quell those fears.
So how do you overcome your fears and what can you do? If you fly commercially there is little you can do to change a flight plan, the point of origin of the flight and the destination, checking the experience and training of the crews or the quality of the aircraft maintenance. These are all controlled by the airline. US airlines have a very enviable safety history; however you are still at their mercy when it comes to security check in, crowded aircraft and the unavoidable delays and cancellations. If you fly privately, either on your own aircraft, through a fractional program or by charter, it is a different story.
If you own or co-own the aircraft then you have firsthand knowledge of the crews experience and training and the maintenance status of the aircraft. In addition, you pick departure and arrival location, times for the flight, who you fly with and most importantly you have the ability to terminate or not start a flight if there are any factors that bother you. If you participate in a fractional program you have the comfort factor (if your provider is one of the larger ones) that pilots are highly skilled and routinely trained, the aircraft is maintained as it should be (with a large staff overseeing such maintenance) and you have the ability to cancel or terminate the flight if you have a weather or other concern, however, you might get charged for the cancelled flight. With most charter operators they can provide you with their past histories and audit reports from independent aviation professionals and, as with fractional programs, you have the ability to cancel or delay flights for any reason but once again you may be charged for any itinerary changes or cancelations.
So what should you do? Do your homework on the method of air transportation you use and if using commercial stay vigilant. If you have your own aircraft make sure your crew knows your preferences and if you fly fractional or charter these companies usually build a profile on your likes and dislikes, make sure the profile is accurate.