FLYING WITHOUT FEAR
I was certainly wondering if the Gatwick air traffic team had just been watching the movie ‘Airplane’ the previous evening or that they had an ironic fun sense of humour as they had allocated Gate number ’13’ to the plane that was to carry the Virgin Airlines ‘Flying Without Fear’ passengers for a brief flight?
I honestly did not think it made a blind bit of difference for most of the nervous flyers as they made their way, if somewhat tentatively to the gate, but certainly a few did notice and some of the relaxing techniques that they had learned during their day long course did come into play.
Getting onto the plane was certainly a challenge for some of the 160 people who had paid around £250 pounds in order to try to help them deal with the anxiety of being on, in or around an airliner.
In some circumstances partners had paid for their wives or husbands to take the course and deal with the fears that stop them enjoying the benefits of air travel together!
A whole day? That to some does seem to sound rather extreme, but the designers and operators of this course Richard Conway and Paul Tizzard are getting incredible results as they see very tense clients at the start of the day and then see many beaming and relaxed ones some 8 hours later.
Questions, questions, question is very much a key part of the day, as they encourage their clients to ask as many as they like “No question is stupid or silly” is what Virgin Pilot Adele Roberts tells the throng at the Holiday Inn at London Gatwick.
What if the engines cut out? What is turbulence? What are air pockets? Is true that the brace position is designed so that dental records are left after a crash? Adele and other members of the team dealt with dozens of such questions not only in the set sessions but also at coffee breaks and lunchtime, the Virgin team members are literally on call the whole day fielding questions and delighted to do so.
Adele’s part was to explain technical matters and exactly what her job entails when she is piloting a plane. She went through in great detail from the moment she arrives at the plane what her duties are, right the way through taxiing, take off, getting in the cruise and then landing again. She took great pains to explain in advance any noises that passengers may hear and also what things they may see when looking out, particularly at the wings. With its numerous control surfaces it’s a hive of activity during any take off and landing sequence so she gently took the course members through the routine in order that they understand what they are seeing is very normal.
Being normal is what Paul and Richard tell their clients, many people develop all sorts of fears and phobias around aircraft and with a chance to ask questions and hear from airline professionals many of these fears disappear very quickly on a course like this.
As Richard Conway, puts it “We want to be able to answer everybody’s questions, we do not want one person to leave this course without us answering every one of their concerns”.
Also there to help is a Howard Cooper Hypnotherapist, NLP Master Practitioner and Rapid Change Expert who’s relaxed and at times very amusing style put many clients at ease with a variety of techniques that help the mind and body to deal with flight or the thought of taking a flight. Tapping near your eyebrow or near your wrist or under your arm may sound rather silly but these types of techniques do help many clients to complete the course and even go on and help others too.
Some ten years ago Sue McKnight from Southampton herself a fearful flyer at the time did a course and has since been involved helping as a Team Leader and has gone on to fly over 100 times since. A flying feat that was rewarded with a presentation of a bouquet of flowers by the team in front of the course members.
Helping others on the course came quicker for one client who supported other members as the plane came into land back at Gatwick. Young biology student Holly Wilkins (20) from Solihull was right there giving reassurance to others after her take off anxiety hit around 7 out of 10 but some 20 minutes later it was around 2 out of 10 in the landing cycle and the more relaxed Holly was hand holding to a fellow member who was still feeling rather traumatised at the thought of landing.
“This whole day has opened up something special for me, pilot Adele’s talk has given me such a better understanding of the whole flying experience, it was the highlight for me. Since the age of 14 I have had a real struggle to deal with this fear. I did some research and found this Virgin course and felt that it offered something special that similar ones operated by other airlines did not have and the whole day has proved to me that I made the right decision.”
Holly added, “ At take off I had to admit I was nervous, but not like I normally would be and then when we were coming back into land I was so relaxed that I was supporting those sat around me!”
Holly’s next flight is a 3hour flight in seven exactly days time and she feels she is really ready to now face that.
Not every person did complete the day, one young child asked to leave the plane just prior to departure from the gate and two adults too did not make it to the plane.
Paul said, “This could be thought as a failure for us but it is not the end for them or us, they can come back and fly on another course. Sometimes with a little time and more chance to use the techniques that they have learned from us they come back and make the flight, that’s when we know we have completed our work with them. In fact on todays flight there were several clients from previous courses who came along and took their flights, they too received a certificate to acknowledge and remind them of that”.
Concern from me for one nervous flyer in his mid twenties on the course from East Anglia who’s girlfriend had paid for him and for her to attend as he had never flown before. He literally tried to jump out of his seat at take off, but after speaking to him later back on the ground, he was so ecstatic and positive about the whole experience. “I admit I was freaked out at the take off at first, I was not sure, but once in the air I started looking out of the window and I loved it”.
The courses are extended to deal with younger flyers too, running in parallel with the adult course at Gatwick was one for children aimed at ages from age 6 to 14 escorted by a parent it costs £375.
Having seen first hand the results of such courses I would certainly encourage any travellers who perhaps have a partner/friend that will not fly or has issues about this form of transport to explore courses like this. They are carried out in and around Europe they take place at many airports around the UK and have the ability to enhance peoples lives significantly.
I witnessed a freeing up people’s lives and minds on the course, where the troubled waters of fear were calmed by a wind of change that blew in from the mouths of the flying experts from Virgin.