Overcoming a Fear of Flying

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Overcoming a Fear of Flying

If you know five people, there is a good chance that two out of the five have some anxiety towards flying.  They may not admit it. Some will have little rituals that they do before they fly to keep themselves safe. For example: taking a lucky charm with them; going to the bar for ‘dutch courage’ before boarding; sitting in a certain seat on EVERY flight; only flying during the daytime…

You can manage getting around not flying, if you try hard enough. You could probably get to most places in the world without getting on a flight (if you have the time and the finances). The trouble is, that the fear is running your life. The fear is controlling you. Not only that, it is controlling the choices of people that would like to fly with you as well – such as your partners, your children…and maybe, it has even stopped you taking jobs or promotions that involve travel?

The Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear programme has been running since November 1997 and currently helps 2-3,000 people per year overcome their fear of flying – so they can enjoy holidays, travel for business and see parts of the world they never thought they would. 

Thoughts from a flying convert

Here is what Dave, from the most recent Flying Without Fear course had to say after the course.  His message shows how much determination he had to beat his fear and how easily it would have been to back out

“My fear of flying was a level 9 out of 10 and it’s now a 5. I would describe my fear level as similar to what having a gun pointed at your head might feel like, so my level of fear was very, very extreme to say the least!

I managed to get to the plane. The steps were waiting and I started backing away. Paul (one of the course providers) spotted me and asked if I was OK (I wasn’t really!). He helped me get on the plane and from there sat next to me and reminded me about all the techniques that worked for me, and he helped me refocus on those rather than the fear itself, and moved my focus away from my extreme levels of fear! Thanks for being so patient Paul.

Ralf (the pilot) really helped me overcome my fears that were due to the technical aspects of flying. Knowing that there are lots of fail safes for every critical part of the plane was so liberating for me (e.g. 4 engines, 2 auto pilots, 2 pilots etc.). The most effective techniques for me were CBT, mindfulness and diaphragmatic breathing.

The sense of humour of the trainers was very important to me also. When I was totally freaking out at one point, Paul joked that if I made it to the ground I would have to grow long hair and maybe even dreadlocks. This made me laugh during my panic attack and made me relax (we are both bald!).

A very pleased bald passenger, Dave”

Five types of fears

The fears can take many forms.  The Flying Without Fear courses address both the technical and psychological basis of fears.  The top 5 fears, in no particular order are:

  • Lack of control
  • Turbulence
  • Enclosed spaces
  • Fear of crashing
  • Terrorism

The reality is, that the list is endless. 

Five reasons for developing a fear

The reasons for developing the fear are just as endless.

  • Since having children
  • Since getting older
  • It just started one day and I don’t know why
  • Bad flight/turbulence
  • Passed on by parents

Ten Tips to overcome a Fear of Flying

Whatever the fear and however it started, there is a lot that you can do to help yourself at a practical level. Here are ten tips to help you:

  1. Arrive the airport early, so you don’t have to rush
  2. Think about the pilots… would they really be piloting it if it wasn’t safe?  They have families too!
  3. Turn off the ‘switch’ inside you telling you you’re in a lion’s den needing to run.  This is the ‘flight or flight’ response.
  4. Remember turbulence can be uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous.
  5. Our sense of balance isn’t accurate aboard an aircraft.   Keep a glass of water in front of you as a spirit level.  When the aircraft is banking (turning) or you’re experiencing turbulence, look at the glass and you’ll notice that the water’s moving a lot less than you perceive it to be.
  6. Remember think positive…it is the safest form of transport…FACT!
  7. There’s no one single system that operates on an aircraft.  Keep in mind that there are back-up systems for everything on-board.
  8. Don’t read the papers about any incident that occurs. Commercial aircraft ‘incidents’ are so rare that they always make the news.
  9. Don’t watch those programmes about air crashes.  How are they supposed to help you?! All you do is visualise ‘the end’ in more vivid detail!
  10. Work on breathing control prior to flying in preparation.

Flying Without Fear Course

The next Virgin Flying Without Fear course from Southampton is Sunday 21st June 2015 and can be booked at www.flyingwithoutfear.co.uk

This short video will give you an insight to the course and thoughts from some very happy attendees.