Fear of Flying: Part 2

Frank Gillingham, MD

My last column discussed fear of flying and began a discussion of its treatment. To reiterate, every successful program starts with the fearful flyer learning as much as they can about the safety of air travel, the operation of airplanes and the air traffic control system.

Once the feaful flyer has begun to trust the industry, most psychologists and fearful flyer programs recommend a set of suggestions on how to control behavior. R. Reid Wilson, Ph.D., a psychologist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina who founded the American Airlines Fearful Flyers program, recommends a six step program. (Dr Wilson's website,, is a wealth of information and self-help tools). Of course, the first step in Dr. Wilson's program is to trust the airline industry. The other five steps are described below. Remember, there are many approaches to this problem so be sure to review the "Other Resources" listed below.

Points to Remember

Some business travelers discover an increased sense of control and comfort if they make their own flight arrangements instead of relying on the corporate travel agentsthe beauty of the internet is that it often lets you make your own arrangements while obeying your corporate travel policies. In addition, you should decide in advance where you will sit. An aisle seat allows you to move about the cabin more freely. The window seat allows you to control the window shade. It's also best if you avoid detailed press coverage about airline accidents. You don't need to shun it but the mind has a way of remembering the strongest emotion. So if you savor the blow by blow account of the Concorde accident too intently you may stimulate negative thoughts the next time you fly.

Other Resources

There are many excellent sources of information on the Web, in addition to Dr. Wilson's site ( The Fear of Flying Clinic website (, provides an excellent FAQ about the airline industry and a list of fearful flyer courses around the world, perhaps including one in your area. SOAR, Inc. ( also offers an excellent FAQ with answers provided by Capt. Tom Bunn, MSW, CSW, LCSW. SOAR hosts a message board on fear of flying and a live chat every Wednesday. In addition, according to Capt. Bunn, their program is guaranteed and has a very high success rate.

Final Comments

Some businesses will pay for employees to take fearful flyer courses or visit a specialist but many employees pay their own way because they prefer privacy.

There are some excellent books for fearful flyers as well, available from such common sources as Amazon.

A qualified mental health professional can be of tremendous assistance in helping your cope with fear of flying, and anxieties in general.