Conquering Your Fear of Flying

By Scott Vogel

The Washington Post

Q: Do you have any suggestions or advice on overcoming the fear of flying?

A: First off, it seems congratulations are in order. How’s that? You have publicly admitted your fear, which turns out to be one of the three most important components of conquering aviophobia. “Don’t keep it a secret, because it’s secrets that kill us,” cautions Ron Nielsen, a.k.a. Captain Ron, whose website,, offers scads of pertinent information as well as multiple methods of addressing this problem. Nielsen, a former commercial pilot, says he and his company have helped thousands of people get over the fear of flying since 1987.

“The things people are most afraid of are takeoff and turbulence,” he says, which is why educating yourself about the mechanics of flying — No. 2 on the list of Nielsen’s suggestions — is so critical. Learn how planes are built, for instance, and how their construction helps jets bob like corks when flying through a storm.

And once you’ve learned all that, forget it. Sort of. “Learn how to distract yourself,” Nielsen says, the final element of his tripartite approach. Breathing exercises will help, as will listening to certain audio stimulation CDs (Nielsen’s is called “Flight Harmonizer,” part of a kit that costs US$24.95), “because the audio part of the brain is co-located with the amygdala.”

Yes, it all comes back to the amygdala, as per usual, that part of our brain involved in fear conditioning. As Nielsen puts it, everyone feels that familiar stomach-dropping sensation during clear-air turbulence, but it’s how our brains interpret that sensation that makes all the difference. He believes strongly that breaking unhealthy associations, which may be due to a traumatic incident in one’s distant past, is key to triumphing over your fear.

FearlessFlight, based in Phoenix, is just one resource on the internet, where you’ll find video seminars, books, CDs and DVDs on the subject.

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