Fear of Flying – No More
I am a fearful flyer. There, I said it! I have been a frequent flyer for many years – during college, as a retail executive, and most recently as a management consultant. I have always been terrified of flying. Methods of coping have ranged from praying, to obsessively checking air turbulence reports, doing my own “flight plans” and frequenting airport bars prior to departure.
In October 2010, I finally signed up for a four day – two weekends - Fear of Flying Clinic in Seattle. The general idea is that if one learns about flight it helps to alleviate an irrational fear. I have been asked, “What motivated you to finally do something to about your fear?”. I was motivated to travel with Tom, my boyfriend – he loves it. I wanted to see family and sights in faraway places without the all too familiar terror – and my work requires it. As the class began we introduced ourselves and our fears. I found myself totally worn down after being terrified all these years. It was such a relief to be around a group of people who understood such fear – other students and staff.
During the class Robin, an international pilot, taught us how flight really works – what makes those planes stay up there. He also went in depth on weather and turbulence – my all time favorite - current technology, and FAA rules and regulations. The head of maintenance for Alaska Airlines explained how their fleet is maintained. A flight attendant described her role and experience in the air. A behavioral psychologist worked with us on things like relaxation. We even had a session with veteran air traffic controllers. The highlight was going up into the control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and watching them in action.
Best of all I got to ask “all” the questions I had accumulated over the years regarding flight and my fear. It was fantastic! Guess what? Planes can't really fall out of the sky and “air pockets” don’t exist. Ocean crossings aren't cause for panic. Most systems have two back up plans if something fails. We also learned that the media is not a “fearful flyer’s” friend.
The class ended with a graduation flight to Oakland. Wow - one classmate had not been on a plane in 30 years - another in three years. Needless to say I was the only MVP gold. We were all so grateful for the warm support of the staff. Better yet, the clinic has definitely helped me ease my fears about flying. Tom claims that I am "normal now" when I board a plane. The other day I actually fell asleep on takeoff. During turbulence, I expect that I will have to remind myself what I have learned. I am so relieved to have dealt with my fear. Instead of obsessing about an upcoming flight, I now look forward to the destination. At the graduation celebration I told the pilots I’ll let them do the "flight plans" now!