I need some suggestions...ASAP please!

Flying Illini

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I've always enjoyed being able to share the joy of flight, whether it be through flight instruction or giving tours to the local schools or boy scout organizations. We do probably 10 tours a year for various organizations within the community and it's fun to show the kids and adults around and share GA with others. It's also nice to be able to dispell some of the "media myths" that the adults come in with.
Anyway, I am to talk to (not so much a tour) a person who is terrified to fly. We meet tomorrow at 11am. Apparently he has an airline flight coming up and he is really, really freaked out about it. I'm not sure if he's mentally handi-capped or not, but it seems that way as a city social worker will be accompanying him and she is the one who arranged this meeting. It is my understanding that she felt we may be able to calm his fears a little.

So, my job tomorrow is to meet with him. I will show him around an airplane or two and try to describe to him what he will see, hear, and feel, during his flight.

Does anyone have ANY suggestions as to what I should talk about, what I shouldn't talk about...anything? I've never done something like this before so I've very open to suggestions you may have or experiences you've had with something like this. Have you ever dealt with someone who was afraid to fly...were you able to reason with them? How?

Please help if you can.

FI
 

Snakum

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I'd introduce him to Mr. Xanax.

:D

Dr. Minhberg
(Sorry ... couldn't help it. :( But kudos to you for pitching in in a situation like this. Seriously. Lotsa people wouldn't want to be bothered. It's pretty cool of you to do it.)
 
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Occam's Razor

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FI,

Some ideas:

1. Explain the sounds and sensations: rough taxiway, sound of engines starting, generators coming on-line, thumps of the gear coming up, etc. Sometimes it's good to write them down, in sequence, so that he can anticipate them.

2. Explain how ATC, TCAS, and the crew keep the aircraft separated from other aircraft.

3. BRIEF expaination of redundant systems. Don't go into too much detail...lest it lead to "Why do they need all those back-ups?!"

4. Give him a checklist: Aisle seat, meet the crew (poke your head in and advise them that you're a nervous flyer), watch other pax to observe the "routine-ness" of the operation.

5. Advise him to fly in the daytime. The more senses involved in processing the experience, the better.

6. Don't be patronizing, or demeaning. EX: "It's normal to be scared out of your wits. You're still a great stock broker!" or "Suck it up and get on that airplane, you pathetic pansy! If it's your time to go...it's your time to go!"

7. Under no circumstances should you let him read any posts on this Forum!!!
 

User546

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Occam's got some great suggestions. A couple other things as well...

The biggest thing is to find out exactly why he's afraid to fly, and go from there. People have some really strange reasons why they're afraid to fly. I once talked a friend who told me his 30 year old sister had refused to get on a Delta 767 at the end of a trip because "theres no way that things going to fly."

Explain how intensively trained and highly competent airline pilots are (come on guys, no jokes!) and how safe airline travel really is. Thousands of flights a day, every day and the last major accidents was over 4 years ago.

Explain how the system works and how ATC makes sure no airplanes get to close. You might also mention the minimum separations (above, to the side, and behind) of aircraft while flying and approaching the airport.

That kind of stuff will probably go a long ways to make the individual feel more comfortable.

He might be good to take a good book, CD Player, Gameboy, something that will divert his/her attention during the flight so he's not paying attention to every little noise.

Please give us a PIREP tomorrow when you meet with the person, and how it goes!
 

convair007

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Good suggestions!

I would ask him if he knows how an airplane is able to fly. Then give him a brieif lesson on how lift is created... and finish on how the shape of the wing makes the airplane want to fly. I've been in your situation with several people who are nervous about rides. Usually, they are fine afte they get in the air and start to realize that iy really is quite enjoyable.

Another suggestion, possibly get in the airplane with him and taxi around a bit. See if being in a moving aircraft eases some uncertainties. Who knows he may even get brave and want to go around the patch once.

Good Luck.
 

Immelman

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In addition to the above: If he is actually there and you can show him around an airplane or two it would be great to show him the control surfaces, where they are, what they do, etc -- that way if he has any view near the wings he won't get freaked out when the wing "breaks open" as the spoiler is deployed, etc.

Mention that wings on big airplanes are flexible.. in the event of turbulence they can and do, and are designed to flex a bit (this might be pushing it but if it gets bumpy and hes seeing bending wingtips I'm guessing he'll freak out).

Perhaps explain how a propeller or jet produces thrust as well, likening it to a fan rotating at high speed, and how this thrust is indeed strong enough to power the airplane.
 

ISaidRightTurns

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Also try to explain how an airplane moves around its axis. From the cabin, being on the inside of a turn tends to feel like being dropped to somepeople. At high pitch angles, low to the ground and all that engines noise, its makes people very nervous.
 
T

TDTURBO

Snakum said:
I'd introduce him to Mr. Xanax.

:D

Dr. Minhberg
(Sorry ... couldn't help it. :( But kudos to you for pitching in in a situation like this. Seriously. Lotsa people wouldn't want to be bothered. It's pretty cool of you to do it.)

I'll second the XANAX comment by Snakum!:D

A sledge hammer works very well too.
 

cforst513

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ask him when the last airline crash was in america... chances are he will not be able to answer. use that fact to assure him just how safe airline travel is. talk to him about the MILLIONS of people that get from point A to point B without any incidents occuring, and tell him you never will hear on the news about these millions that fly safely. talk to him about the thousands of hours that airline pilots have to have to be considered for a job (which, in some cases, is fudging a bit). also tell him if anything happens, the plane is a giant glider and the pilots are prepared to divert anywhere and anytime they have to (which, in an airliner, is fudging a bit too). let us know how it goes.
 

SiuDude

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User997 said:
People have some really strange reasons why they're afraid to fly. I once talked a friend who told me his 30 year old sister had refused to get on a Delta 767 at the end of a trip because "theres no way that things going to fly."

Well, I hope that this person does not have a trip on the A380 coming up. Because that thing is NOT going to fly!
 

UnAnswerd

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You need to describe everything.

First and foremost, tell him that hundred of airplanes crash every year, just like automobiles. The idea here, is that he's probably already comfortable with automobiles, and if you convey similar statistics correlating to airplanes, he'll feel more comfortable about it.

But you need to really drive home the benefits. For instance, tell him that unlike automobile crashes, airplane crashes leave very little chance of survival. This way, he won't have to be worried about potential disfigurement. Tell him that when most airplanes crash, death is typically instantaneous. He need not worry about pain. The idea, again, is to convey the reason flying is so great.

Be sure back up your points with scientific data. Tell him that at cruising altitude, the temperature is around -20F, with time of conscienceness around 15 seconds. Again, this will reassure him that if a major problem arises in the airplane, he'll probably be unconscious before it even hits the ground. You may wish to point out the "Payne Stewart" incident, to help explain the pressurization system.

If he is worried about potential terrorism, you need to reassure him. Tell him that hijackings are very unlikely in the post-9/11 environment. Educate him. Explain that terrorists are more likely to use bombs and explosive devices to destroy airplanes, because hijackings would be very hard to pull off.

Lastly, explain what turbulence really is. Describe to him that all forms of turbulence are simply moments when additional stress is being placed upon the airframe. Explain that turbulence can be so destructive as to tear the wings off of aircraft. Reassure him by explaining maneuvering speed. Show him a Cessna POH, and let him see the maneuvering speed for the Cessna. Tell him that as long as you stay below this speed, even severe turbulence can be survived.

Lastly, be sure to tell him that very competent people are in the cockpit. Explain that some people even PFT, and that some of these guys reach the cockpit in less than 2 years after having 0 flight time.

The whole idea here, is to reassure him, and have him relax and enjoy the flight.

Good luck!
 
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Crimson03

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Show him the movie 'Airplane' make sure he understands that if anything bad happens it will be funny for those watching.
Seriously just talk about how routine airplane flying is. I would'nt give him any mechanical details or aerodynamics, unless he asks how something works, if the guy is scared shitless he isn't going to comprehend anything. Loading him up with details will only give the guy specific things to be afraid of. My two cents is that a little poorly understood knowledge will only scare him more. Take the this is routine angle, skip the details.
 

Goose Egg

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Crimson03 said:
Show him the movie 'Airplane' make sure he understands that if anything bad happens it will be funny for those watching.

That cracked me up! Good one!

-Goose
 

navigator72

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While flying for a scenic operator I had a newly married couple show up and the new bride asked about the flights while her husband waited in the car. When I asked if her husband was going , She said he is absolutely terrified of airplanes. I had a small chuckle and walked down to the car and asked him if he was seriously scared of flying (he had a horrified look on his face). His wife came down to the car and begged and pleaded for him to go......... He was frozen in his car from fear..... (this is where I became determined to free him from his fears). I suggested that he at least get out of the car and come up to the scenic booth and talk to us. He mentioned we might just be tricking him to get him near the plane and we would throw him in and take-off. (after explaining to him that that would be illegal, I finally convinced him to step out of his car and walk up the the scenic booth).
At this point I asked him to come look at the plane (he walked back to the car). I walked to the plane and grabbed the key out of the ignition and took it down to the car and handed it to him explaining that we would not be flying until he gave me the key back. He made me and his wife promise to not try anything tricky. (if they had not been a fun couple I probably would have sent them away and not spent so much time with them).
I finally got him to the airport fence and spent a few minutes talking him into walking out to the ramp with me and his wife. I showed him the wing and the propeller (letting him touch the items as I gave a brief explanation of each item. I asked him if he would like to see the inside, I opened the door and let him peak inside (I swear to god, his face was as pale as a ghost). Since he had the key, I told him he could sit in the plane and look around. (it took him awhile to do this also. Finally I offered a very short scenic flight, with the option of tunring back at anytime, even if we were still taxiing. He took off and sat back in his car. I told his wife to wait a minute and walked by myself down to his car and told him that he had to do this for his new wife (she really wanted to go).. He realized this and came back to the plane, making me promise over and over to turn back at any time and also told me to not hit any air pockets. (luckily the sun was setting and the winds were calm). I had him strapped into the front seat with me and started the engine. He had one hand gripped with fear on th side of my seat and the other stuck like glue to the side of the door. His wife was excited..... We started taxxing and I noticed his eyes were closed, I mentioned it's much more scenic to have your eyes open. We taxxied the whole way to the runway and I asked if he wanted to go up..... We waited and finally I got a very hesitant ok. We took off and other than not being able to bank the plane for fear that he might have a heart attack we were flying. I finally caught him looking out the window as we flew along the coastline. I think he was lightening up. I asked him if he wanted to continue and he said yes. We flew for close to an hour and to make a long story even longer,,,,, I even got him to take the controls for a bit. When we got down you could tell this flight had changed his life.
He stopped by the scenic booth later that week when they were leaving town and thanked me again, telling me that I had saved him what would have been years of therapy.
 

UnAnswerd

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navigator72 said:
He realized this and came back to the plane, making me promise over and over to turn back at any time and also told me to not hit any air pockets. (luckily the sun was setting and the winds were calm).

Did you demonstrate the stall/spin???
 

k_EAT=ho_ME

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If you follow all the advice in this thread, you'll probably be able to sign the guy off to take his Private written.
 
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