September 4, 2017

How to kick your fear of flying

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Modern aviation has changed people’s perception of the world — journeys that once took days or weeks by wagon, train or ocean liner are now possible in mere hours.

Yet a staggering number of people won’t — or can’t — take to the skies because of serious flying phobias, says a seasoned British Airways pilot who has dedicated much of his career to helping people overcome their fear of flying. “At best it’s an embarrassing secret and at worst it can ruin holidays, strain relationships and even limit careers,” says captain Steve Allright.

While there’s no magic formula to cure a fear of flying, Allright’s Flying with Confidence course, held all over the world, including South Africa, provides practical and psychological insight into the origins of this fear, and techniques on how to overcome it.

“There are two parts to the course. The first examines the technical side of flying. The clunk of the landing gear or the noise and vibration when the flaps are retracted or deployed are all perfectly normal, but can trigger anxiety. It really is a case of knowledge empowering, because if people know what is happening and why they feel more in control,” he explains.

“The second part deals with understanding phobias and fears, alongside practical, tried-and-tested ways of dealing with these — and that includes being in the right mindset before you fly and how to react if you do become anxious.”

With around 25% of people experiencing some level of fear associated with flying and one in 10 people suffering from a full-blown phobia, Allright’s courses are usually well-attended, to say the least.

Putting it all into perspective, Captain Steve Allright

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Captain Allright shares some of his top five tips to overcome your fear of flying:

1. Trust the crew: pilots are some of the most highly trained and tested professionals on Earth. They undergo rigorous selection procedures and complete simulator tests every six months to keep their licences.

2. Understand lift: wings enable the aircraft to fly, not the engines. A commercial aircraft flying at 9 100 metres above sea level can glide for about 160 kilometres.

3. Remember, turbulence is uncomfortable but never dangerous. It is a natural phenomenon and a perfectly normal part of flying.

4. Learn to control your breathing: when you feel anxious, hold your breath, then take a long, deep breath in, followed by a deep breath out. Continue long, deep breathing.

5. Split a long flight into 30-minute sections. Go with a plan of things to do, perhaps things you never get around to. Write a letter, watch a film or read a book.

Find out when Captain Allright is next in South Africa here .


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