Fear of Flying: Web Sites and Resources to Help You
June 30, 2009
This is the first in what I hope to be a short series of posts explaining how I was able to conquer some of my core life fears and anxieties. I am publishing these in the hope that this might be of some assistance to someone else on the same journey as I have been on.
This post covers specific Web-based resources and tools I used in my work on overcoming my fear of flying. It is important to remember that there is a difference between tools and actual methods and approaches. I will touch on the latter in future posts. I am starting from the business end of my fear-conquering plan and working inward.
I probably should also add the disclaimer that I have no training or certification in counseling or aiding with fears or phobias and my advice should not be considered in any way professional or medical. These are just records of my own experience.
Web Sites and Online Resources that I Found Indispensable
Flightlevel350.com – This site amazes me. It’s free; it’s vast. There are thousands of videos of airplanes of all stripes and in all locations worldwide in (mostly) completely everyday situations. Want a passenger viewpoint of a 737 flight by Alaska Airlines out of PDX? Done. Want a top-deck 747 shot from a Cathay Pacific fleet? Done. If you are of the type that immersive-virtual experiences really help you kick into your anxieties and desensitize, this is a treasure trove. I told you that the site amazes me. I have trouble fathoming that there are so many avid aero-philes out there shooting and editing video of so many aspects of flight. Apparently just out of the goodness of their community-loving hearts. The site’s search engine does allow you to be quite specific about what you are looking for–great for obsessive folks like me who want a specific experience–but you will need to be using Windows if you want to join the pay version of the site (and thus be able to download videos for offline viewing). This is a pity. In my particular sensitivity, sounds are a big trigger for fear. I found that going full screen on the videos here and using headphones put me in a great space to work on recovery.
Airliners.net – This is the still-image analog to flightlevel350.com. Photographs from all angles of all things plane-like. I personally attach a good deal of anxiety to the specifics of cabin layouts in jet aircraft, so I used this site to look at interior photos of planes similar to the one I was scheduled to fly on (a Boeing 737-700 for those not paying attention to every strict detail I’ve ever mentioned). I was even able to find a recent photo of an Alaska Airlines 737-700′s first class layout so that I was looking at something very applicable.
TakingFlight – A support site for those suffering from fear of flying, with a user forum focused on these concerns. The community is supportive and led by several professionals in the airline industry (including “Captain Hutch” and an aerobatic instructor. While the forum users are very friendly and empathetic, I never ended up posting my trials or story here. The interface is a bit clunky–not their fault; almost all Web-based forum software sucks–and I’m surprised that user traffic is as low as it is. For such a common terror, aerophobia doesn’t have a huge online community presence (unless I missed something).
SeatExpert – A site whose entire raison d’etre is detailed seat data about every major carrier’s aircraft down to the last overhead bin. A great resource for locating the best (and worst) seats on a given plane. While this is geared as a regular traveler’s resource (not for freaky fliers like myself), I found it comforting to be able to verify that my seat choice was indeed a great one, and prepare for what the aircraft would be like.
Other Web Sites
SOAR – One of the most popular for-pay fear-of-flying programs. It looks comprehensive and complete, and comes with real human support. However, it is fairly expensive and–holy crap they completely redesigned their Web site within the last few weeks. What an improvement! It’s amazing what a facelift does for its image. SOAR has been around for a long time (their site claims 1982) and comes with guarantees. A few hundred bucks will get you a multi-DVD course with other materials.
FearOfFlyingHelp.com – This is a free online course-let created by Captain Stacey Chance. It’s a collection of information and YouTube videos that unfortunately blow up both browsers on my machine most heinously (many, many embedded YouTube videos per page) and the layout is a bit wonky. However, it is a warm-hearted, not-for-profit, community-based resource and as such I am thankful for it.
Fear of Flying Help/Tips - One of the few fear-of-flying resource aggregators I was able to find on the Web. It’s a bit stale but has some useful links.
There is a strange balance of what is available to the fearful flier online. There are a large number of–excuse the phrase–rather fly-by-night companies, looking to make a buck or two by peddling self-help books and courses. Some look more reputable than others.
The lack of large online communities surprises me and makes me wonder if I somehow didn’t find the big place where everyone is hanging out. If one in six people indeed suffer from at least significant flying-nervousness, it seems bizarre that there wouldn’t be more of a crowd here. What good sites do exist are mostly crufty, 1990s-looking affairs clearly whipped together by the non-web-savvy. More power to them, of course, but where are the larger organizations? Missing, it would seem. Maybe there just isn’t enough money in this. Or maybe most people really do need personalized, professional help, the kind you can’t sell on a Web site.