Does the mention of the word airplane cause your stomach to clench uncomfortably? You’ll do anything to avoid hearing or seeing anything about planes. Except, when you come across an accident involving an airplane on the news you’ll cling on for every minute detail? Where booking a flight has your heart racing and awakens that feeling of being trapped you avoid so much? And if you do make it to the airport at all, the entire experience of flying is a trembly, teary traumatic experience? If so, you might want to hear about the Fly Fearless Course in Dublin.
It turns out, one in six feels this way at some point in their lives. I’ve reached the point where I’ve had enough of it. I’m sick of missing holidays with friends and family. My want to travel and see the world is over coming my determination to keep my feet on the ground. It was for that reason I attended the Fly Fearless course in Dublin recently. Michael Comyn runs the course, one of the first people to fly solo in Ireland at the age of 16. His goal is to remove your fear and get you in the air again. He’s willing to share all he knows in an effort to put people at ease when it comes to flying. If you want to get over your fear, keep reading for my:
Fly Fearless Course Review
Firstly though, I’d like to tell you a bit about my own fear. That way you will be able to judge my experience accordingly. I haven’t got the sort of fear where I can get on a plane, but turbulence terrifies me. I’ve got the kind of fear where even hearing the word air plane makes me nervous. It’s not just the taking off or the turbulence or the landing. It’s every single part of the experience from the drive to the airport, to sitting at the gate with my legs shaking. Walking onto the plane feels like I’m sealing my fate and then I feel stuck there, barrelling through the air without being able to get off.
Where it all began for me
I was on my first flight at seven weeks old. My fear began as soon as I was old enough to know what was happening. It pretty much plummeted from there (get it?!). I’ve been on exactly 20 flights. Eight years ago, I stepped off a flight home from New York which experienced heavy turbulence the entire flight. I decided I would not step foot on an air plane again. Although my want to travel has me trying to overcome my fear, I have had eight years on the ground to entangle my fear into an even tighter ball than it was before. Now, I book flights that I don’t turn up to. I am tired of it.
I arrived half an hour late for the Fly Fearless course, and nervous, but ready to face my fear. Me and my carefully selected coach (!) were brought up to the board room, where we would spend most of the day. We sat in the two available seats, with notepad, pen, water and snacks provided. The biggest wall of the room was glass, and looked out onto the huge flight simulators. It was all so impressive.
The course – Fly Fearlesss
Fly Fearless is split into three sections: Aviation, Stress Response and Strategies to help. We got to go in a flight simulator in the middle too. There was also a break and lunch with sandwiches and tea/coffee provided. You are well looked after! I think my favourite part of the entire day was getting to talk to all the other participants. It is very easy to talk to people knowing you share a sort of bond. Sharing a fear really brings people together and it was so interesting to hear everyone’s stories.
The simulator was great. Although I won’t lie, I was shaking like a leaf for the first few minutes. It seemed too realistic (I know that’s the point). I almost believed I was in a real plane rocketing down the runway. The two pilots were so nice and made me feel at ease – after a few “I don’t think I can do this” moments! It was really great to see the pilots in action. I’d always believed the cockpit to be a stressful place, grabbing for leavers and pressing buttons while shouting mayday into their headsets. It turns out movies are not your friend! But actually, flying a plane is a completely ordinary experience and something the pilots are professionals at?! Who knew!
For those with a fear based around turbulence or actual flying, the aviation part of the day will do wonders. Michael and the two pilots, talk through every aspect of a flight, from taking off to landing safely on the ground again. The guys do not leave you to wonder about anything. We were reassured that turbulence is not the end of the world or the beginning of a disaster movie like we think it is, but rather, it’s a normal part of flying. If you’re afraid of the wings falling off, or turbulence knocking you out of the sky, this part of the day is so helpful. If that’s what your fear is based around, I’d imagine would be enough to have you back in the air again.
You learn that pretty much all the occurrences during a flight that make us more afraid, such as turbulence, a go-around landing and scary noises, are all a completely normal part of flying. We just perceive them so much differently. Then the avoidance and coping mechanisms we adapt – such as sitting in certain seats, or avoiding planes altogether only solidify in our minds the need to be afraid. This gives rise to a vicious cycle of thoughts that worsen our fear. Even knowing all this is such a comfort.
Something which I found weirdly comforting, was learning that in Ireland, one in six people are afraid of flying. This is majorly due to our culture. Irish people have always been brought up fearful. Micheal illustrated this perfectly. He asked us how many of us were afraid of thunder and lightning as children, and we all laughed. I remembered being told to plug everything out, close the curtains and don’t sit near anything electrical. I’m guessing everyone else was having similar memories. I felt almost an instant relief. I’d always thought my fear was down to some psychic ability I have to predict my death. This part of the course helped me finally realise how untrue this is. I’m afraid of so many things, storms, public transport and flying is just another one of them – they can’t all be the cause of my demise!
The crew gave us tips on how to reduce our anxieties on the day of flying. Some great ones were don’t fly hungry, or tired, and get some noise cancelling headphones – did you know low frequency noises increase your stress hormones? Well you do now! And some other ways of dealing with our nerves on the flight. On completing the course, 90 days phone support is provided, where, if you’re flying, you can call Michael beforehand just to refresh some of the information in your mind to put you at ease and settle your nerves.
The staff were absolutely lovely. Although Michael admits he can be quite tough on people, it’s only in an effort to have people realise flying is normal. Giving someone huge amounts of sympathy only reinforces in their brain that something is wrong. The pilots were also so patient and willing to answer any questions – no matter how ridiculous they seemed.
Before leaving, Michael encouraged us to go on a flight as soon as possible. Ideally within three months of the course, and to fly as regulatory as possible. It is important to expose yourself to flying regularly to have your brain realise it’s all normal. Eventually it will learn it’s not something worth raising the panic alarm for. Michael has been running the course since 2008. He has had over 1600 people participate with a 92% success rate.
Although I didn’t leave feeling fully “cured” of my fear, I realised how my fear has a much deeper origin than just being afraid of flying. I did leave feeling hopeful though, and assured I would fly again. That was enough for me. I think almost everyone left feeling elated. One man I spoke with said he was going to book a short flight as soon as possible, which was great. If your fear of flying has you missing out and you’re ready to do something about it, I really encourage you to consider taking part in this course or one similar. Even look into it. You may find that taking this small step will lead you to putting your fear completely behind you.
I’m so grateful to Michael and his team for such an educational and interesting experience. Also, for having me realise that I will go on a plane again. Hopefully soon.
I have successfully flown since doing the Fly Fearless course! Just a couple of months after the course, I flew to Edinburgh from Dublin. Not only did I do it, but it was not a bad experience, in fact the flight over was pretty fine! To top it all off, a few months later I flew AGAIN to Portugal. I have another flight planned for a couple of months time too.
Before this course I had not flown in 10 years and had no plans to. Now it’s amazing to be able to plan travels and actually go. I genuinely do owe so much to this course!
If you’re interested be sure to have a look at my other reviews:
To have a look at the Fly Fearless website, click here.