Saturday, February 21, 2009

First Flight

For Sunday Scribbling #151-Trust

I’ve always suffered from aviophobia and claustrophobia and consequently, swore I would never fly. No way! However, when daughter Sunshine began talking about us making a trip to Arizona for a writer’s conference, the little voice inside me whispered that I might indeed be forced to eat my words.

Being a mother, I know the importance of listening to my little voice. So I determined to embark on a personal self-cure mission. I Googled “fear of flying” and found one site of particular interest. It was created by a pilot who had logged many miles of safe flight. The information appeared to be beneficial, and after scrolling to the end, I decided to pay the small fee and purchase the DVD Mr. Captain Pilot had made especially for us aviophobes.

As the planned event drew closer, the pressure increased. Sunshine kept reminding me, “You’ve got to decide soon. I need to register for the conference and book the flight.” Part of me really wanted to accompany Sunshine on the trip. In addition to attending the conference, she had planned to arrive a few days ahead of time, rent a car and do some sightseeing in the beautiful state. Neither of us had ever been to Arizona and I knew the trip would be lots of fun. That is, if only I didn’t have to fly to get there.

Having procrastinated as long as possible, I scheduled a vacation day from work and promised Sunshine I would make a decision before nightfall. I spent most of the day watching the DVD. Fellow aviophobes discussed their fear of flying, and Mr. Captain Pilot sought to assuage the various concerns with comforting facts about the safety of flying. One worry shared by many was a loss of control—putting your life in the hands of a complete stranger. Yes, flying involves implicit trust in the pilot. But Mr. Captain Pilot assured the viewers that our trust would be well-placed.

It was a gut-wrenching decision, but by 4:00 p.m. I finally made the timid announcement, “I guess I’ll give it a try.”

Sunshine was immediately on the computer and had soon booked a flight leaving Tuesday morning. I knew there was no turning back now. The next few days passed quickly. Sunshine took care of booking the rental car, planning our itinerary, and making hotel reservations. I was busy making my list of things to pack, finishing a special project at work and trying to get things caught up to a point where it would be feasible for me to be gone for almost a week.

I will admit that I was a bit excited. But also, I was really scared! I could envision myself having a major panic attack on the plane--gasping for air, leaving my seat, hugging the floor in the aisle while shouting, “Land the plane and let me out NOW.”

Tuesday morning soon arrived. We rose early and loaded the car. I did all the things Mr. Captain Pilot had advised on the DVD—“eat a light breakfast, don’t drink anything with caffeine and go easy on the orange juice because of its acidity.” Once we arrived at the airport, the hustle and bustle of getting our boarding passes and going through security kept my mind occupied so there was little time to conjure up the disturbing images of myself in the small, enclosed cabin of the plane.

There was only a short wait before our flight was called to board. As we made our way back to our seats, I surveyed the surroundings. The cabin did seem a little cramped cozy. Just imagine you are at home in your easy chair, I told myself. Consider the flight as a good opportunity to relax and catch up on some reading. (These were not my ideas—they were some of the suggestions from the DVD). At this point, however, I was willing to play whatever mind games were necessary to get me through the flight without a full-fledged panic attack.

We settled in our seats and I opened the overhead vent, allowing a stream of cool air to blow gently onto my face. (Another hint I had picked up from the DVD). I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and tried listening to my MP3 player. Oh, I never relaxed enough to go to sleep during the flight, but I did manage to remain pretty calm. I was quite proud of my conduct. Why, I even got brave enough to open my eyes and look out the window. What a beautiful sight.

Before long, the pilot announced we were ready to begin our descent. Some travelers do not like this part of the flight, but I enjoyed it very much. It was interesting to see the airport below and to watch the distant buildings grow larger as we approached the landing area.

Soon the plane touched down. Thankfully, it had been a successful flight and landing. Glad to be on the ground again, I heaved a sigh of relief as the passengers began filing out. The pilot stood near the exit, greeting the passengers as they departed the plane. I wanted to compliment him for the smooth flight. “Good job,” I said. “I was a little nervous since this was my first flight.”

He looked at me with an understanding smile as he replied, “Thanks. Mine, too.”

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  1. What an interesting account you have written! I'm happy that DVDs such as you bought are available to the aerophobic. And I think you are brave to have finally boarded that plane!

    I've always loved flying, but I've been fearful of other things.

  2. did you kick him? Great story!

  3. I loved the ending. That was great. I've flown a few times before, but not since 9-11...and I'm a basket case every time one of my children flies. For me it has nothing to do with trusting the pilot.

  4. What an excellently-written story! I like your light-hearted tone and the way you pull the reader in and don't let go! Cool ending, too!

  5. Kudos to you, you beat it, you did not let it beat you! Good girl.

  6. Welcome to the friendly skies and glad you enjoyed our fair state. As someone who works with fearful flyers at, I'm glad you found something to help you. A lot of it is about control issues and trusting the pilot. His response to you, however funny, goes to show you that sometimes people don't really understand what fear of flying is all about. Next time try meeting the captain ahead of time and telling him you're a nervous flyer. Pilots sometimes need reminders that not everyone loves flying as much as they do.

  7. Excellent! I'm glad you chose to go! Funny ending...

  8. wow, i loved your retelling of this! especially the part at the end.. who knew?