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Fear of Flyingno - it's not a hairpiece, just a bad haircut                                                                       back to TTN home page
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 flying.

    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 year.

    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 Ronald Reagan.

    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 experience.

    Flying with Confidence Video
    Pegasus Fear of Flying Foundation
    The Delete Technique
    Freedom Seminars
    Flight to Freedom
    Institute of Human Factors

    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
    Fear Takes Flight
    SOAR Program
    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.

-30-


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