Getting over a fear of flying

Dave Pizer, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:37 PM ET

 

Aerophobia

 

Safest way to travel? Try telling the white-knuckled wreck in Seat 13B. To hell with statistics. It may be much safer to fly in a commercial airplane than to ride in a car, but for years the idea of tearing through the air thousands of feet above the ground in a plane was more than Catherine Beddall could bear.

 

As a child, the 29-year-old used to fly to visit family and friends in Vancouver and Victoria about once a year.

 

When she was 11, Beddall began to realize she was afraid of flying.

 

Her fear worsened over time, and when she was 18, Beddall gave up flying.

 

"When it came time to go visit some friends at UBC when I was in university, I just said I would try taking the bus," recalled Beddall.

 

About one-in-three people have some degree of fear when it comes to flying, but about half of those are so terrified they swear off flying entirely. That's when the fear becomes aerophobia.

 

Rachel Dahill-Fuchel, 40, an otherwise fearless New Yorker, gradually became so terrified of flying that eight years ago when her beloved grandmother died, she couldn't bring herself to fly to the funeral.

 

Dahill-Fuchel and her husband changed their honeymoon plans 13 years ago from a flight to Paris to a road trip up to the Adirondacks, which she admits was probably "infinitely more dangerous."

 

Dahill-Fuchel said flying gave her a sense of imminent doom. "Everything from physical trembling to sobbing uncontrollably, to praying," said Dahill-Fuchel.

 

Both Beddall and Dahill-Fuchel have taken a course called SOAR -- Seminars on Aeroanxiety Relief -- to overcome their fear. Capt. Tom Bunn, a retired commercial pilot and licensed therapist, founded the course. It teaches the physics of airplane flight to help fearful flyers understand why flying isn't as risky as it feels.

 

Bunn said people who are afraid of flying lose control of their emotions because they feel like they're not in control of the situation and there's no escape.

 

"They think 'The plane is going to fall. I'm going to panic... My children are going to be orphans,'" said Bunn.

 

Since taking SOAR both Beddall and Dahill-Fuchel have taken to the friendly sky.

 

In fact, this past August, Beddall flew to Italy with her fiancee to get married.

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