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Old 10-18-2009, 12:40 PM   #21
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What part of flying do you fear? Takeoff/landings? Claustrophobia? Turbulence? Crashing? Is it just a single item or all of the above?
. Takeoff, landings, flying, turbulence, crashing. . . the whole experience. Yet it is nothing specific; I understand the relative safety of flying intellectually, just my body doesn't understand.

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When you board an airplane go into the cockpit and talk to the pilots. Yes you can still do that on the ground even with all the security issues. I used to stand at the door greeting passengers and if I spotted a "Nervous Nelly" I would invite them into the cockpit and explain our aviation experience, route and weather. That alone seemed to calm most.

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I would really like to do that. I want to know who is driving.
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Old 10-18-2009, 01:08 PM   #22
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Interesting, while I have have a fear of heights, planes don't bother me. I guess it was because when I grew up, I was always flying one place to another. Some of my first memories are in airports.

However, I don't care for cable cars or for standing too close to the edge when hiking up mountains. And I let my wife drive up mountain passes such as Independence Pass or Going to the Sun Road.

I have a friend who was afraid of flying. Xanax worked for her but the side effect was she got very loopy, as her DH put it. Kept playing with the hair of the person sitting in front of her.
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Old 10-18-2009, 01:23 PM   #23
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Martha,

What part of flying do you fear? Takeoff/landings? Claustrophobia? Turbulence? Crashing? Is it just a single item or all of the above?

If it makes you feel any better, I do not like roller coasters and I am an ex fighter pilot that enjoyed the extreme, violent maneuvers that we did and still do with my own acrobatic airplane. If it is crashing you fear I am also a retired commercial pilot with 37 years of active flying and 15,000+ hours and have never had a close call. If you can visualize the hundreds of flights a day from your nearest commercial airport and multiply that by the thousands of airports around the world, airline safety is incredible in this day and age.

We go to extremes to avoid turbulence but having said that, I cannot recall an aircraft ever breaking up because of it.

Someone mentioned flying in a light aircraft. If you do that, make sure you go on the smoothest of days with little or no surface wind as you might come back more frighten than when you left from the bumpy ride.

When you board an airplane go into the cockpit and talk to the pilots. Yes you can still do that on the ground even with all the security issues. I used to stand at the door greeting passengers and if I spotted a "Nervous Nelly" I would invite them into the cockpit and explain our aviation experience, route and weather. That alone seemed to calm most. Of course being charming and dashingly handsome may have helped with the ladies. :-)

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Martha,
I agree with Ck 6 especially the part regarding small aircraft and flying on a smooth air day.
I am a private pilot who flies Angel Flight missions for those needing transportation for mostly medical conditions. Every once in a while I have an Angel Flight individual who is anxious about the flight. What usually works is to let them "fly" the mission once we are airborne and at cruising altitude. Focusing on flying the aircraft and not the fear of flying in most cases completely removes the anxiety. With that in mind, you may want to consider taking a flight "lesson" with a qualified flight instructor who is sensitive and understanding of your phobia and will walk you through the mechanics of flying. It's a rather small price to pay compared to cost of other remedies and if it works look at the many adventures it opens to you. Hope this helps.
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Old 10-18-2009, 02:55 PM   #24
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My father was a pilot - small planes - and I like little planes better than big ones.

I remember being on a small ( 5 passenger + pilot ) plane connecting to the Outer Banks, looking down and thinking - "OK, we can land on that highway, we can land there ... Hmmm - water looks shallow enough there ..."

I never got my license, but I took lessons. It was fun.

The only panic attack I ever got was in a meditation class, when I flashed on the next week's karate promotion. Nothing to do but sit there and watch the blood pressure and adreneline go WHOOOSH. It was interesting in a perverse way.

My personal take is that since I didn't do anything, my body &mind didn't learn to avoid anything, and didn't try that again.

YMMV

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Old 10-18-2009, 03:28 PM   #25
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Although I am afraid of heights, I am not afraid of flying and it is difficult for me to imagine how that must feel. (To me, flying seems unreal and like a movie - - if I was outside the plane where I could fall, I would be a basket case, though).
These things are irrational but the effect is certainly real. I too am afraid of heights. Put me on a cliff edge and I have to lay on the ground to look over the edge. A tall ladder and my legs shake. Yet I can stand at the top of a tall building and lean over if I have a solid railing to hold on. And I used to sky dive from little Cessna's. One of the most fun parts was stepping outside the plane, holding on to the strut and standing on a little foot step thing over the wheel, waiting for the go signal

My fear of heights doesn't really interfere with anything I want to do so I ignore it. But if I wanted to do something like mountain climbing I think I would look at some of the things people mention here to overcome it. Of course, it might be better to have a panic attack in a plane that someone else will eventually land, than to risk freaking out halfway up a cliff.
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Old 10-18-2009, 03:30 PM   #26
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I have no experience with phobia or panic attacks. I have less knowledge about flying and aircraft than some of our other posters. Some of the suggestions about small aircraft are excellent. Signing up for an introductory lesson at an un-crowded airport might be the experience that you need. Remember, as the paying student you are in charge. A significant part of the lesson should be spent on familiarizing you with the aircraft and you can arrange to sit in the plane as long as you want to. Make sure the instructor understands your circumstances and establishes a go/no go point so that YOU can abort the take off if you want to. It seems as though you don't know why you are afraid and we don't know if or why a small plane experience will help. For the small expense and low risk it might be worth a try.
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Old 10-18-2009, 03:53 PM   #27
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I would also not recommend a small plane ride for you...it could backfire and further amplify the fear.

Maybe this info will help...LH had his private pilot's license (VFR only) back in the early 80s. I audited ground school so I would be a better informed passenger "just in case" he needed assistance. I was taught the full details of flight: mechanics, controls, airspace rules, radio communications and preflight checklists. It was an excellent course. I had no desire to be a pilot.

I am not afraid to be a passenger in commercial aircraft, except just before touchdown I still get a small fear reaction. I love the thrill of takeoff. I am afraid of heights, but not when airborne.

In the single engine prop plane, I will admit I was very afraid. But having gone through ground school helped me understand what was happening and I was able to assist as chartist and lookout for other aircraft. I also "took" the controls for very brief periods to get the feel of them. This helped me with the fear of being "up there" in such a tiny plane.

Would understanding more about flight mechanics help allay your fears? Is it the takeoff, landing, turbulence, or not being in control of your fate?

I give you a lot of credit for trying to find an answer to overcoming your fear of flying.
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Old 10-18-2009, 06:16 PM   #28
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Googling around I found that there is a fear of flying "course" in Minnesota, one of the few in the country. Fear of Flying - Program in Minnesota and Michigan You go for a couple of days, they teach you about the planes, about how to handle anxiety, and then take you on a flight.

I emailed them as it doesn't look like there are any more courses this year EXCEPT next weekend, which is probably full up and and and and I am not sure I am ready.

Freebird, it is all the things, the takeoff, the landing, the turbulence and most of all not being in control of my fate. One thing that did not help was my FIL's situation. He was ill with cancer and my spouse persuaded him to move up north from Florida to be close to us. His doctors concurred. He repeatedly said that he would die if he had to fly. His sons and doctors pushed him. He got on the plane and died enroute. I was afraid before, but this contributed to my giving up on a solution.
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Old 10-18-2009, 06:54 PM   #29
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One thing that did not help was my FIL's situation. He was ill with cancer and my spouse persuaded him to move up north from Florida to be close to us. His doctors concurred. He repeatedly said that he would die if he had to fly. His sons and doctors pushed him. He got on the plane and died enroute. I was afraid before, but this contributed to my giving up on a solution.
Hmmm. Guilt, fear of following FIL by dying during the flight.....maybe a therapist could tease this out.

I confess to having had fear of flying for decades. I was fine until I was in a near miss over London, Heathrow. It got worse after I spent a period doing patient transport in small planes. I get quite nervous during turbulence, especially on the descent, when I vizualize us going "splat" in a field somewhere. I am much more terrified in small turboprops, which bounce around much more.

I have to travel for my work and even for family reasons and I don't have a way to avoid flying. I seem to be improving, though. What helps for me? First, I got involved in the patient safety movement and realized that I was safer on a scheduled flight than I would be as a patient admitted to a hospital; second, I focus on the crew. If they are wearing wedding rings, I think about them going home to their spouse and kids at our destination (and I often engage the flight attendants in conversation so that they become real people with rents, mortgages, and families to go home to, not risk takers, in my mind). I prefer to travel with friends with whom I can have an animated conversation when I can. I allow myself to relax with an alcoholic drink on a long flight, and I make sure I have something engaging to read. But I still do get a cold feeling of dread from time to time when yawing and bouncing up and down through cumulonimbus clouds

I suggest you start with tapes and books, and seriously consider the course in Minneapolis (after all, you can drive there!!!) or some therapy. That is, assuming you really want to fly!
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Old 10-18-2009, 07:54 PM   #30
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I ride a motorcycle.
Well, hmmmmmmm!

But you get the analogy.

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Old 10-18-2009, 08:03 PM   #31
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Well, hmmmmmmm!

But you get the analogy.

Audrey
Yeah, I just thought it was kind of funny.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:03 PM   #32
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Yeah, I just thought it was kind of funny.
Bunch o' crazy hippy types messing with motorcycles, planes and RVs. I've never heard of such a thing. Why don't you act your age...
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:42 PM   #33
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Seeing the pilot has not always been a positive experience for me . On our last flight the one pilot looked like he could collect SS and the other looked like he was earning money to go on spring break .
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:49 PM   #34
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Seeing the pilot has not always been a positive experience for me . On our last flight the one pilot looked like he could collect SS and the other looked like he was earning money to go on spring break .
Hey! "There are old pilots and bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots."

Grey hair is gooood in a pilot!


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Old 10-18-2009, 09:50 PM   #35
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Seeing the pilot has not always been a positive experience for me . On our last flight the one pilot looked like he could collect SS and the other looked like he was earning money to go on spring break .
And your problem with this dynamic duo was...?
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:15 PM   #36
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im not sure if a couple xanax would help...but i know if *I* took a couple xanax and maybe had a drink, i'd be willing to FLY the darn plane....


no good advice here though.... i wish you luck
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:48 PM   #37
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Martha,
I can definitely relate to your fear. You are not alone in this, by any means!

Although I do have a fear of heights, I was able to get on planes and fly all over the world for business. And then one day, I couldn't do it. I didn't have any rational explanation; I just couldn't get on a plane. I managed to avoid flying for a few months, but finally had no choice but to fly with a group of colleagues to a mandatory meeting. I mentioned my fear to one of my coworkers and he told one of the flight crew. Next thing I knew, I was visited by a pilot who happened to be on the plane (not the plane's pilot!). He sat down next to me and explained what all the noises, lights and "ding dongs" meant during the flight; he explained about the air currents and the turbulence avoidance systems and generally helped me feel more in control of what was happening because I knew that there was a reason for everything.

Then, before we landed, he taught me a simple meditation that I continue to use every time I fly. He told me to close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing, then to picture myself in a very safe, relaxing environment. For me, that would be swinging in a hammock listening to the ocean's waves. Now, I associate the movement of the plane as the hammock swaying, and the droning noise of the plane as the sound of the waves lapping on the shore.

I've also found it helpful to invest in a good pair of Bose sound abating headphones (I got a great price on a pair at an auction of stuff people left behind on planes) -- and I've set up a playlist of particularly enjoyable songs for my iPod. I avoid caffeine and alcohol on the plane but always bring some favorite snacks, along with my own little travel pillow as I find it comforting to have it with me.

Do I still get nervous when I have to fly? Yes, but I know that I'm safer in a plane than in a car and that thousands of flights take off and land safely each day. I know what to expect during the flight -- and that as long as the flight attendants are moving around the cabin, even any expected turbulence isn't going to be much more than a few bumps in the road, so to speak. And I have my music and my "hammock swaying in the ocean's breezes" to relax me. Now, most flights, I find myself dozing off and waking up near the end of the flight.

I hope you can address and overcome -- or at least minimize -- your fear of flying. If I could do it, I know you can. Good luck to you.
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:53 PM   #38
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I had my only brief panic attack when scuba diving in Guam a few years back. It was only brief and minor, and after a brief re-surface I was OK and able to go back down. But I know how scary it felt. I can barely even imagine a major attack and how you must feel.

I really wish that we could still visit the cockpit while the plane is in flight. Some years ago before 9/11, I used to visit the cockpit and sometimes even spend up to atwo hours in there with them on long-haul flights between Asia or Europe and SFO. I really do think that may help but its now impossible. On the other hand, I would certainly recommend going up in a small plane, with a trusted pilot or instructor who will let you handle the controls. I will say that it will probably make you panic, at first, but so long as it is a nice calm day, and your instructor/pilot friend is very experienced and very good with dealing with nervous nellies, you will probably learn to relax. I would suggest some touch-and-goes, with your hands on the yoke (with the instructor at first, and then with his hands off, and just yours on it). This will give you a sense of control and ease. Whatever you do, don't go up in a small plane in the back seat with no headphones and with no one to help you calm down if needed. It is cramped, noisy, hard to hear without the intercom/headphones, and if you panic with no one to help you calm down you may start grabbing for the pilot...that would be dangerous to you and to him.

All of this said, I have an old colleague who had a fear of flying, and she overcame it...she had to because of her job (US country manager in a global company with HQ in Europe). I do know that she went for counseling for a very long time, and took Amtrak for cross country trips during the worst of her phobic period. I think she also ended up taking anxiety meds when she finally flew again, and she never flew alone. I flew with her once on a trip from SFO to Boston (she was lightly medicated), and we hit a very minor bit of turbulence and she came a bit unglued...grabbed my hand, and I squeezed it harder than the strongest handshake I have ever had from a big brawny guy...and I'm a guy.

Finally, I would suggest the Fear of Flying program you mentioned. I would not do it this weekend though. Rather, make an appointment way out in advance, get counseling and maybe even meds in the meantime, and go do the program when you can. You've got some time, you're retired. In the meantime, drive.

R
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:21 PM   #39
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First, I got involved in the patient safety movement and realized that I was safer on a scheduled flight than I would be as a patient admitted to a hospital...
You say this as though it's a good thing!
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:54 AM   #40
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Lets see over the past 30 years of occasional business travel. Two aborted takeoffs,
two aborted landings,what I would call an assault landing in Nashville, an icy runway landing,a total fog landing,takeoff in a blizzard not fun, landings in thunderstorms.
Do I fear flying, somewhat.
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