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"Something spooky in the air"
Friday, April 27, 2007
Something spooky in the air
People who are skittish about flying have been able to enjoy air travel
after taking a class called Flight Without Fear
By Kelly Yamanouchi
The Denver (CO) Post
Carri Baxendale, 41, hadn't been on a plane since she was 8 years old.
A fear of flying paralyzed her. She had never traveled farther than Kansas
City, Mo., to the east, Galveston, Texas, to the south, Rapid City, S.D., to
the north and Moab to the west.
But after taking a class to get over her fear, she successfully took a
"graduation flight" to Salt Lake City on March 24.
"It was time to move on," Baxendale said.
She bought a Salt Lake City T-shirt and slept in it when she got back from
the trip "so when I woke up in the morning, I could see I wasn't dreaming."
She has already booked a flight to Fort Worth, Texas, next month to see her
father and hopes to fly further.
"I'd like to eventually go to Mexico," she said. "I've always wanted to go
on a cruise."
The Flight Without Fear course was sponsored by Frontier Airlines and
organized by the Colorado chapter of the nonprofit Ninety Nines Inc.
International Organization of Women Pilots. Another class is coming up in
Before the course was put on hiatus after Sept. 11, 2001, it had been
sponsored by United Airlines.
In the process of teaching the class, flight attendants and other employees
learn a lot about calming frightened passengers.
"Anything that will help people overcome their fear of flying means that we
can have another passenger," Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas said. "One of the
things that makes for good customer service is understanding that not
everyone feels comfortable about flying."
Twenty-seven percent of U.S. adults would be at least somewhat fearful of
getting on an airplane tomorrow, including 9 percent who would be very
afraid, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll last year.
Frontier employees volunteer to help teach the class, which some called an
"For us, it's hard to fathom a fear of flying," flight attendant Annie
Elliott said. She says she can now better help people who are afraid, to
"walk them through the flight and just kind of talk them through it."
The course curriculum includes lessons from aviation workers about what
makes airplanes fly, the role weather plays and how flight crews are trained
for emergencies. Students also are taken on field trips to Frontier's
maintenance facility, to a Federal Aviation Administration facility and to
flight simulators. At the end, class members fly together to Salt Lake City.
Frontier pilot Donna Miller said Cam Kenyon, vice president of flight
operations, encouraged her to restart the program with Frontier's help.
"I love to fly, and I want everybody to love to fly," she said.
Scharline Branan, 58, took the class to recover from a frightening
experience she had while flying to Des Moines, Iowa. On that 1975 flight,
the plane had to come to a jolting stop.
"I've been scared ever since," Branan said.
Her fear made visiting family in Florida and Georgia an ordeal that required
Some with a fear of flying think regular occurrences like turbulence or the
extension of wing flaps indicate a problem, and they "freak out."
"I thought the bell meant a problem," said Chris Rives, 28, who lives in
Loveland. "I had a totally different image of what a pilot does. I thought
they were just constantly pushing buttons and switches."
After taking the class, "I visualize these pilots, and they're just calm,"
Rives bought a ticket to visit her nephew in Washington, D.C., last October,
and ended up canceling the trip because she was too scared.
"I told myself I wouldn't let that happen again," she said.
Along with the information presented in the Flight Without Fear course comes
some plain advice.
For Branan, the line that changed her thinking was, "Your worry isn't going
to keep the plane airborne, so let it go."
"Before you come to a class like this, you feel so alone, like, 'What is the
matter with me?"' said Kate Blair, one of the 17 class participants. "I've
been afraid for 15 years. It's been a turnaround."
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