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by Joe Harkins - Apr 14, 99
You may search Amazon.com's web site in vain for books credited to Helen
A. Mayer. Likewise, searches on that name across the entire Internet will draw a blank.
Earlier this month, at age 91, she passed away in virtual obscurity, despite having
co-authored one of the most important books ever written about overcoming the fear of
Yes, I give full credit to Erica Jong's
liberating novel of that name from the early 1970's. But that was about a different kind
of fear and a rather special form of flying.
I'm talking about the fear of actually soaring above earth, moving
through open skies on an invisible cushion of air, as a form of transportation. Many
people are terrified of flying although it had been the unattainable dream of the ages
prior to this century.
According to a survey commissioned by Boeing, the aircraft builder,
that is an issue for 1 out of 6 Americans. An estimated 25 million people would
"rather take the bus."
In the years since that survey was compiled, fears of accidents have
been compounded by barbaric acts of terrorism. And it's likely that travelers' fears will
increase as international tensions climb.
Those fears persist despite facts that establish that golfers have a
higher risk of being struck by lightening than commercial aviation passengers have of
being killed in an airplane crash. According to a variety of public and private sources,
both Commercial Aviation (what we fly as paying passengers) and General Aviation (also
known as "private" and "corporate" flight) just completed their safest
Still, phobia is no respecter of statistics, fame or accomplishment.
According to Godrey
Aviation the list of those who don't like skipping along the clouds includes world
champion boxer Muhammad Ali, science fiction author Ray Bradbury and former president
Most people know that John Madden, throughout his many years as a
football announcer, has used only ground transportation. But not everyone can afford the
time and expense that requires.
Articles by Laura Bly in USA
Today's archives and subsequent pages linked at the bottom of that page contain
resources, on and offline, for help in overcoming the problem.
Help comes in a variety of forms. Books, videos, tapes, and seminars
may be sufficient for those who merely need reassurance and support to unclench those
white-knuckles. Many web sites offer them, sometimes combined with actual flight
of Flying Foundation
For those whose fears are deeply rooted and paralyzing, professional
counseling, often culminating in a "graduation" flight, may be an answer.
Fear of Flying Clinic
Courage to Fly
But, if a calm, experienced voice will soothe your fears enough to
allow you to catch the flight that leaves in a few hours, the web site of Diana Fairechild
suggests that a phone consultation with her may do the job well enough. She promises,
"I will not try to talk you out of fear of flying
with facts about how safe the statistics say everything is . . . " which makes sense because you wouldn't have to have read this far
in this column if that's all it takes.
A bit of ridiculous distraction may be enough for some. I know I find
it quite difficult to be afraid of anything while wearing my own helicopter beanie. You
can buy yours online at Beanyland,
the company that's "Changing the way America flies."
Now if you are still puzzling over what is important about the book
written by Helen A. Mayer, the "a" stands for her maiden name, Aberson. Ms.
Aberson wrote the book "Dumbo", the story of an elephant whose large flexible
ears were an embarrassment until he learned to use them as wings. The book has been out of
print for decades but her story, with her collaboration on the script, was made into the
Disney film of the same name.
Like many fanciful tales, the story really is about something more than what appears
in the text. In this case, it's about realizing you can reach beyond any apparent
handicap, despite the ridicule of others, once you accept yourself for the unique
individual you are and overcome the fear of failure.
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