Barbara Bush flew to Indianapolis on a commercial jetliner Thursday to show that she regards air travel as safe despite the threat of gulf war-inspired terrorism.

"My husband and I talked about it. It just seemed like an important thing to do," Mrs. Bush told reporters as she left Washington National Airport aboard USAir Flight 267.The first lady, who was making her first commercial flight since her husband became president two years ago, was to visit a veterans' hospital in the Indiana city and nearby Grissom Air Force Base.

Since the gulf war began a month ago, many Americans have avoided air travel for fear of terrorism, causing a severe slump in airline business.

USAir, one of the largest domestic carriers in the United States, announced this week that it would have to make massive layoffs because of the slump and the increased cost of fuel due to the gulf crisis.

Asked why Americans might be afraid to fly, Mrs. Bush said "I don't know but they'll know I'm not. I'm not afraid to fly."

The president's 65-year-old wife, who took the window seat of the first row in coach, was accompanied by nine aides and bodyguards on the 81-minute flight.