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What Do Plane Crash Nightmares Mean? Interpretations You May Not Know

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Coming Down Hard

The comedian Steven Wright had this to say to the people who tried to quell his flying phobia by reassuring him that the odds of being in a car crash exceed those of being in a plane crash by a long shot:

This difference between the two is that, when you're in a car crash, people come up to you and say, 'Man, are you OK?' When you're in a plane crash, people come up to you and say, 'ARE YOU RECOGNIZABLE?'

Do you share Steven Wright's fear of flying?

Plane crash dreams have a few basic themes, such as:

  • Control issues
  • Powerlessness
  • Thoughts and mental processes spinning out
  • Abrupt life changes

Let's look at each of the above in the sections below.

Plane Crashes and Control

Beyond the severity of damage, one basic difference between car crash dreams and plane crashes is control. Cars are familiar vehicles anyone of age can use to travel, and they require very little training beyond a student driver course and the practice experience brings.

Pilots fly planes.

The rest of us drive cars.

When we fly, we are relying entirely on someone else to get us where we are going. And this person is someone who we cannot see, who we've likely never met, and whose name we do not know. We are completely, 100 percent out of anything remotely resembling control. As such, lack of control can be a primary meaning to dreams involving plane crashes.

Look at your waking life and ask yourself if there is any particular area where you feel you lack control. Are your emotions spiraling out? Do you feel your career is in danger? Is a loved one locked in a destructive spiral you feel powerless to pull them out of?

Worst Air Disasters


7. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

August 19, 1980

Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 163


Mechanical failure/pilot error

6. Southwest coast of Ireland

June 23, 1985

Air India Flight 182



5. Forest northeast of Paris, France

March 3, 1974

Turkish Airlines Flight 981


Mechanical Failure

4. Charkhi Dadri

November 12, 1996

Mid-air collision over Charkhi Dadri India between Saudi Flight 763 and Kazakhastan Flight 1907. This remains the worst mid-air collision in aviation history


Pilot Error

3. JAL Flight 123

August 12, 1985

Mid-Air explosion, largest single aircraft disaster in history


Mechanical failure

2. Tenerife, Spain

March 27, 1977

Los Redeos Airport Disaster


Pilot Error

1. Manhattan, United States

September 11, 2001

World Trade Center Attack



Walter White's Words of Wisdom About Airline Disasters

Feelings of Powerlessness

In the waking world, plane crashes are bona fide disasters that involve high casualties. Sometimes a plane crash not only takes the lives of those in the plane, but can also involved those on the ground.

Again, look to your waking world and see if you feel you're part of an party to some situation where you feel a potential exists for disaster to fall in the lives of many people? You don't have to think pandemic, something like a divorce could be an example of an event that affects more than one person and carries long last repercussions.

Plane crash dreams may symbolize the frustration and anxiety that accompany being involved in something where you feel the person in charge is incompetent. Especially if this person is putting others, including yourself, in a dangerous situation that you are unable to stop.

If any of the aforementioned rings true, look are your feelings and see if they are valid. Look and see if there is something you are missing and if there is some way you can take control of this situation you feel you need to have control of but lack.

Alternatively, look at your surroundings and see if surrender—not control—is in order.

The Hamster Wheel of Thoughts

Air as a symbol typically deals with the realm of thoughts and mental activity. The zodiac air signs—Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius—all deal in mental activity. These signs are where we find genius, where individuals see things from a totally different viewpoint and sometimes change the world.

However, if the plane in your dream is crashing, this might symbolize that your thoughts are spiraling and your mind is spinning in on itself.

A plane crash dream might also mean that those wonderful ideas you have birthed in your mind need to come down to earth. Perhaps they need to find form in the outer world, not just in the interior one

Airplanes crashing are also symbolic of anxiety, worry, and the danger focusing on fear can bring to those caught up in a mental hamster wheel.

Dramatic Life Changes

An airplane crash is more of an event than a process: one moment there is clear sailing in the skies and the next there is chaos and destruction. The event is intense, abrupt, life-altering and often life-ending.

Planes crashes happen suddenly—one minute you're in the air, the next you're in an intense, abrupt, completely life-altering experience. However, despite the pain which may accompany this change, the ultimate result is usually one of the person's life being completely cleared out which results in liberation from a stagnant life.

The same may be true of airplane crash dreams. They may represent a necessary change, usually in your thinking that allows you to enter another 'plane' of existence--the current 'plane' must crash to allow new freedom of existence. Should this be the case, remember that what always survives the crash is the black box—that part of you that keeps your memories, your dreams, and your soul alive!

Crashing and the Importance of the Unconscious: Why Dream Interpretation Matters

Our unconscious sees our lives from a much broader lens, especially from the lens of being a driving force in our lives.

One reason interpreting dream is an important part of life and not some future predicting parlour trick or self-indulgent hobby is because the goal of interpreting dreams is self-integration and human wholeness. The goal is to discover what we're hiding from ourself inside our selves.

The hope is that, by taking stock of the unconscious, we can align both the conscious and unconscious minds so they are acting in concert. We want these two parts to engage in a friendly partnership, rather than fighting with one another. Unfortunately, conflict between the conscious and unconscious is the common mode of being and is one that typically involves self-sabotage.

We often have no idea that we are acting against our interests. How could we? We often aren't aware of what our interests authentically are!

The unconscious is a powerful force. And that force is completely amoral. The unconscious does not deal in morality or ethics or consequences—it wants what it wants and there is little to stand in its way when it goes to work.

Crash Landings

Every so often, a plane crash does not end in disaster. Occasionally, a pilot makes all the right moves and manages to make a nosedive take a turn upward at the last minute.

Remember that no matter how disturbing a dream's imagery may be, no matter what the life change disaster it appears to be pointing to, no matter how far gone things feel in the waking world, you are in charge of your life. Nobody can fly your plane like you can.

If your dreams seem to be filled with misfortune remember that even when the unconscious appears to be working against us, it is actually acting in what it believes we truly want but deny.

If your dreams indicate that your conscious and unconscious minds are in discord, get them in tune. Be honest about your goals, your life, your desires and don't relinquish your power to the shadow to settle your business. If you the message your dream is sending you is that you're already spiraling down, put your nose up! Be the hero pilot your life is looking for.

Crash Landing on You

Anxiety Dreams

If you find that your dreams of air disasters involve you not as a passenger but as a pilot, you may be experiencing what is known as an anxiety dream.

When we go through intense times, or are on the verge of taking the plunge into a rite of passage (think marriage, moving, graduating, going to college, starting a new career), the plots of our dreams may be one long, drawn-out expression of the anxiety we feel regarding those changes.

For example, pregnant women often dream of miscarriages. People about to marry may have recurrent dreams of missing their weddings or any number of nuptial mishaps. Graduates may have recurrent test disaster dreams. New employees may have difficulty getting through a night without dreaming they're showing up naked for their first day at their new job.

If you find yourself in crash after crash after crash and you're going through some huge change, it is highly likely that all the unconscious is telling you is that it literally has no words for the anxiety and stress stored in it.

When confronted with anxiety dreams, remember that anxiety is a feeling, not a prophecy. The only thing that is completely undeniable about feelings is that we feel them. Feel what is going on in, acknowledge it, and take it for what it is: a feeling!

Not All Crash Dreams Are Bad

It may seem like there is little good news in plane crash dream symbolism.

Not so!

Airplanes are vehicles we use to travel to unimaginable heights at (literally) jet speed. They allow us to glide above the Earth in all her glory.

Dreams of falling from the sky could be your psyche's way of saying that it knows you have the potential to fly, but some overwhelming fear—perhaps a fear as simple as that of accomplishing what you never dreamed possible—is grounding you.

Fear can be healthy. Healthy fear exists to warn us when there is lethal danger present and is there to help us stay alive. It is not there to keep us from living. Unless what's on the other side of the fire of fear is a firestorm, set it aside, take the the skies and fly over the flames.

You are the only Superman your life has or needs!

You are the only Superman your life has or needs!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Madailein Aisling Ireland