THE OLD phrase goes – feel the fear, then do it anyway – but some people are so scared of flying that they miss out on experiencing the wonders of the world. Let’s face it, it’s just not practical to drive to New York, or take the train to the Barrier Reef! If you have a fear of flying, you are not alone – according to a new website, 40 per cent of the world’s airline passengers are nervous about flying.
The amazing fact is that very few of those passengers know what to do about it. The good news is that the site, scaredofflying.com, offers solutions for you to overcome your worries and help you to go flying without fear.
The website contains a mix of reassuring information, details of CDs and books, seminars and an online forum where nervous passengers can discuss their fears and be reassured by the website founder and book author, Captain Keith Godfre. There’s even a section called Reassure Me and a quiz to illustrate how safe air travel really is. Captain Godfre has over 20,000 flying hours and was, until his retirement from British Airways, a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) examiner for flight tests and training. He is now an examiner for the CAA in human factors training for aircrew.
Captain Godfre’s book, Flying Without Fear, claims to be a down to earth, easy to read book that addresses the needs of anxious flyers, and has helped countless people to fly without fear. The book is based on the hundreds of questions that Godfre was asked by anxious passengers during his long career with British Airways, and on interviews with nervous flyers during his retirement. It works by emphasising the normality of flying, debunking many popular myths and swapping them for facts. Chapter one covers some of the simple questions that nervous passengers long to have answered – here are a few:
Q. How long could you stay up if the engines stopped at 35,000 feet?
A. If the engines stopped at cruising height, you can glide for 30 minutes before you’re on the ground. You could glide about 120 miles. All the controls work as if the engines were still going.
Q. What are the things that make passengers most nervous?
A. Noises most of all, unexpected movements of the aircraft, not being in control of what’s going on, not understanding what’s going on and turbulence.
Q. What can be done about it?
A. Read a book like this and get some information. Perhaps go to a talk in for nervous passengers. Have a flight simulator experience. Attend a nervous flyers’ course. Or go on a nervous flyers’ flight. There are also phone lines where you can talk to pilots.
Captain Godfre also runs one-day seminars for nervous flyers from Hampshire, UK, and it seems that airlines are also attempting to tackle the problem of getting jumpy passengers onto their planes. Virgin Atlantic recently announced the introduction of one day workshops at Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, aimed at helping sufferers overcome their fear of flying. Already 57 people have signed up to the course at a cost of 355 euros, including an optional 45-minute flight at the end of the day.
Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, says: “These courses make a real difference to people’s lives, including business travellers who, despite being frequent flyers, can get anxious on every flight.”
The course has already been running for a number of years at other British airports, including Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham, and offers participants the opportunity to see the planning and calculation that goes on behind scenes as flights are preparing for take off. They are taught how the airlines make precise calculations before take off to account for passenger numbers, the weight of luggage and the fuel on the plane, and told that their plane is highly unlikely to crash into another aircraft because they operate in a very broad space in the sky – 300 metres apart, above and below, and eight kilometres horizontally.
The day starts off with briefings from two Virgin captains who talk about how the aircraft functions, as well as noises and safety. After lunch, a psychotherapist teaches potential flyers the skills that will help them control their flying fears. The flight at the end of the day contains a running commentary from the pilot about what you have learnt during the course. Virgin Atlantic also has a special assistance department, which you can call the next time you fly.
Virgin is not the only carrier involved in helping nervous flyers. British Airways also runs courses with pilots, cabin crew or ground staff at five UK airports aimed at addressing people’s fears, at a cost of 420 euros.
So, next time you start hyperventilating at the thought of a long haul flight to a dream destination, take some action and catch that flight!