Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

I Believe I Can Fly; HEALTH One in Four People Have a Fear of Flying, Making Holidays Hellish. CATHERINE WYLIE Checks in Early to Learn to Fly with Confidence

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

I Believe I Can Fly; HEALTH One in Four People Have a Fear of Flying, Making Holidays Hellish. CATHERINE WYLIE Checks in Early to Learn to Fly with Confidence

Article excerpt

Byline: CATHERINE WYLIE

S we taxi towards the runway the captain Asays: "Breathe and squeeze, everything's normal. Just another day in the office for us up here!" Armrests are gripped and hearts race as the plane thunders along, before beginning its bumpy climb into the skies over Heathrow.

A cabin crew member leaps into action to help a woman two seats in front of me, who's crying uncontrollably. But the pilot continues to reassure us that the turbulence we're experiencing is perfectly natural.

'OK', I think to myself, 'so the bumps aren't pleasant, but it's normal, everything's fine'.

And I realise that I, too, am remarkably relaxed. Usually, flying's a terrifying experience for me - not terrifying enough to stop me taking to the skies altogether, but it certainly ranked as a big source of anxiety.

I'd constantly monitor the cabin crew's body language and facial expressions for signs of impending disaster, all the while imagining my face on the front page of newspapers, convinced that this is it - I'm just minutes away from being part of tomorrow's main news story.

If only every flight I'd been on had featured such a comforting captain, it would have saved the wrists and - on more awkward occasions - the thighs of the people unlucky enough to sit next to me.

This is no ordinary flight, though.

It's the final stage of British Airway's (BA's) Flying With Confidence course.

It turns out I'm not alone in my scepticism about a 390-tonne Jumbo Jet flying across the Atlantic at 35,000ft - the course has been running for 25 years and there are around 120 of us here today.

In a conference room, a safe distance from Terminal 5, a large chunk of the course revolves around explaining exactly how planes manage to stay in the air, with talks by two BA captains.

We're also told about Air Traffic Control - one of my big worries. But it turns out, they're a pretty well organised set-up, run by people who know what they're doing.

A psychologist speaks to us too, and there's a real atmosphere of 'we're all in this together'.

Ours is a common phobia, we're told. One in four people have a fear of flying, so it's perhaps ironic that just 16% of people are phobic of death. A whopping 39% are terrified of snakes, making the slithery reptile the most common phobia (feel free to insert Snakes On A Plane jokes here).

The good news (depending on who you are) is that last year, more people died putting a knife into a toaster in the UK, than globally on an aircraft.

The statistics are reassuring, but when you have a phobia, you convince yourself that your plane is one of the doomed ones, even if the odds deem it unlikely.

My own phobia really took off following the 2009 Air France disaster, when a plane from Rio de Janeiro bound for Paris went missing over the Atlantic, killing everyone on board. …

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