Taking the fear out of flying

2

The ‘ding-dong’ of the intercom when the cabin crew communicates with each other does not mean imminent disaster, one of our captains at ‘Flying with Confidence’ tells us. Nervous yet knowing laughs erupt from the 40 odd people, who have dared to show up for the course.

You may think this is absolutely ridiculous, but the joke kept playing over and over in my head, making me choke back tears. Be they tears of fear, embarrassment or recognition of the impending doom of the scheduled afternoon flight yet to come, I was not sure. For I am one of those people who is suspicious of any noise the plane makes, sure that at any minute the plane will fall out of the sky and I’ll plummet to my imminent death.

So thanks to my lovely parents who had to deposit a trembling, sobbing mess at Frankfurt Airport this summer, leaving me miserable and certain that my hours were numbered, I found myself signed up to this £239 course at Glasgow Airport. As the joke replayed itself again, I did wonder whether one of my friends was right – were they capitalizing and taking advantage of my fear?

It turns out they weren’t.

Upon entering the lobby earlier in the morning and getting my materials and boarding pass, I suddenly burst into tears. I drew so much attention to myself, that a friendly member of the cabin crew approached me to ask how I was feeling. What a great way to start the day.

However, it turned out that I was not alone. We were clearly a nervous bunch of people of all ages, with some of us never having flown, others fearing mid-flight turbulence, and those like me who have flown in the past but fear it will be the last thing they ever do.

Throughout the day we were taught by two pilots about aviation security, pilot training and the physics behind it all. It turns out that planes don’t stay in the air by sheer magic, through my persuasive mental powers, or due to gripping the armrest continuously throughout the flight – who would have thought? An equally important lesson taught to me throughout the course, is that planes don’t drop out of the sky even if both engines fail. Indeed, the plane will continue gliding for up to 100 miles (with peaceful and serene tunes accompanying it accordingly in my mind) if both engines were to stop working. I may, in fact, be crushing on Bernoulli’s principle.

The remainder of the course was spent with a psychologist teaching us to use elastic bands to ‘snap’ away our fear, learning breathing techniques to keep panic attacks at bay, or even employing muscle exercises and positive imagination to calm nerves. (I imagined being on a tropical island eating a delicious ice cream, as opposed to my usual visions of a plane engulfed in flames with bits torn off plummeting to the ground.)

You might be somewhat skeptical of this course (because yes, some slightly weird clenching, and Lamaze class-esque breathing was involved), but I haven’t had such a great flight in ages. All of us, including two sets of pilots, cabin crew and the psychologist, made it on the flight over Western Scotland, every move and sound being narrated and explained from the cockpit. I enjoyed (and I repeat, enjoyed) the flight and the views of breathtaking lochs and mountains (breathing in 1-2-3-4 and out 1-2-3-4). Who is to say, next time I might actually be able to watch a film or sleep on a long-haul flight.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Kuster & Wildhaber photography

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