Monday, 19 December 2016

Flying without fear Blog December 2016


The Media Part One
Over the years, the media have been very kind to us. From national newspapers, TV and Radio - we have had some brilliant coverage. We are so grateful.  The media can be 'tricky' for you though. Why?
The Colombian air crash is an example.  As soon as it occurred, there was a lot of speculation as to what happened.  We were bombarded with emails from worried people asking us what we thought was the cause.  Unlike the 'experts' on TV, we declined to answer.  We have our own theories of course. But these are just theories.  We will wait for the final official accident investigation report to be published and then we can comment.   The media role is to get the stories out quickly and as accurately that they can, based on what they know at the time.   Our role is to give you the facts we know to be absolutely true.  By the way, we have been doing it for nearly 20 years now! 
Some helpful tips for you:
  1. Remember commercial aircraft accidents and even incidents are extremely rare due to all the safety margins in place.
  2. Whatever happened to the Colombian aircraft will be released and learned from.  The commercial aviation industry will share lessons from this accident and that is across all carriers and pilots.
  3. If you can, don't watch the news footage of incidents like these. It doesn't help you and it certainly doesn't help those poor passengers being scrutinised by the media and its viewers.  If you watch things like this in such detail, you are literally burning images into your head. This is not helpful when you are trying to beat a fear of flying.
  4. You were not born with a fear of flying. It is learned. It is never too late to learn something new. 
  5. Beating a fear of flying is a process that goes at a different speed for everyone.
The Media Part Two
We have been in the news lately. Kay Burley interviewed Sully before the film release and then the next day, she joined us in one of our commercial simulators.  Guided by Captain JJ Burrows, she even had a go at flying.  Here is the link 
We will be on BBC 'Rip Off Britain' on Friday 6th January 2017, 0915 BBC  - Hopefully, in a good way!  They filmed one of our recent Heathrow fear of flying courses.
Thank you by email
I wanted to write to you to say a big thanks for what you have done for me. It sounds so cliché but the course undoubtedly changed my life.
I took the flying without fear course back in July 2013 at Gatwick. At the time I had not flown for over 4 years and the mere sight of a plane terrified me. It wasn't just the flight itself,  I was terrified for months in advance and basically it control my thinking from the moment I booked it until I landed on my return. At the time of the course I had just been approached about a job in New Zealand and I had no idea how I could possible get there let along take it.
Your course explained things so clearly. Being able to understand the mechanism of a plane and how it operates safely was so informative and subtle but ultimately brilliant. I remember feeling such at ease on the test flight without really realising what or how it had changed my thinking.
I am now writing to you more than 3 years after my course to say that on Sunday I will be taking my 53rd flight since the course! I have had the opportunity to explore more of Europe, Asia and Australasia and best of all I was able to take that job in Auckland and now have moved again to a new job in Sydney; all of which would have been impossible without your teams help.  Thank you so much for all your help.
Wishing you all a great break...

Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear

Future Dates
PREMIUM: Leeds February 5th; Birmingham February 26th; Gatwick March 5th; Manchester March 26th; Southampton tbc. Heathrow tbc.
GROUND:  None booked at present
CHILDREN: Gatwick Mar 5th.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fear of flying November 2016

Be careful who you talk to!

We have a saying on our courses which goes something like this, 'The most important person you ever talk to is yourself.'  We all talk to ourselves.  Anxious flyers also talk to themselves and what they say tends to fall into a category many call 'negative automatic thoughts.'  Normally, thoughts of doom.

Dr Russ Harris said in one of his books, 'our cautious ancestors lived longer'... 

So, rather than thinking to yourself, 'I MUST control or stop these negative automatic thoughts!'  Why not take Dr Russ Harris approach and learn to accept them for what they are.  Just thoughts, not facts. Thoughts that have kept humans alive for a long time by worrying about stuff.

As humans, we take a daily view on whether things are life threatening or not. Most things during our day are picked up by our watchful brain, but then dismissed before we have even consciously considered them. 

Why is flying different then?  Why does flying get special attention?

Our theory is that fear of flying is learned.  It is learned and practised until it becomes automatic.  We then give ourselves a really hard time by saying, 'I am so stupid having this fear. I am selfish having this fear...' 

Here is a simple way to look at this.
  • Fear has a purpose  and being cautious about things we don't understand has an evolutionary/survival role
  • Fear of flying is not something that we are born with - it is learned
  • Unlike other things we could worry about, the anxious flyer focusses on 'flying means dying.' They then practice this by thinking bad things about flying all the time. This causes a strong association in their brain so it gets easier and easier to get more scared with less and less effort
  • It is never too late to learn something new (See Peter's message below)
Messages from humans just like you!

I attended the Flying Without Fear course in Manchester yesterday and I would like to pass on my sincere thanks to all the team who were there to assist everybody with their fear of flight. I am very happy to say to anyone who is considering attending the course that at three weeks away from my 75th birthday, for the first time in my life I boarded a plane had a short flight. I had the time of my life, which I did not think I would do in so short a space of time, i.e. a one day course, and be able to overcome my problem, which I believe in the end to be purely fear of the unknown and being too stubborn to take it on. I would also like to thank the pilots on the plane for allowing me to step into the cockpit and have everything explained in detail to me - it was a wonderful moment. So for those of you out there who have fears, whatever they may be, just take a look at me at my age and don't waste your life not trying to overcome your fears. I can assure you that if you join the course you are in the hands of a great and very understanding team. I am looking forward to my next flight!
Peter Kershaw


Hi team,
Well I've been home a week! I managed it! I flew to Orlando.
First and foremost I'd like to say how impressed I was with the crew on the VS73 on 15th October.
As I boarded a lady named Bev looked at my boarding pass and told me where to sit. I explained I was frightened of flying and she said I was seated "in her section" and she'd come and see me. She came over a few mins later with a glass of prosecco. Rubbed my shoulder and carried on with her duties. Then an amazing steward called Simon told me that flying was his favourite part and not to worry. Bev came and collected the glass as we were taking off shortly. We were sat on row 27 so right next to the galley. Simon could not do enough for us throughout the whole flight. I actually enjoyed it. A few drinks and some delicious food and we were landing. Where did that 9 hours go?  I wish I could book Bev and Simon for all my future flights. They are an absolute credit to Virgin.

We had two amazing weeks in Florida.
On our return our party was all split up over the place but after a few tears at Disney Springs check in, the Virgin Atlantic staff sat me, my hubby and our daughter together in row 68.
I'm so glad they did as the turbulence was horrific. Seat belt light was on for the majority of the journey home. I just kept repeating in my head "it's not turbulence, it's just movement of air. It has the same properties of water except you can't see it" This really worked for me. I was actually reassuring my family that we weren't in danger.
Lovely landing at Manchester. Can't wait to go again.

Thank you so much. Pam x
Future Courses (our prices haven't changed for years!)

PREMIUM: Heathrow December 4th; Leeds February 5th; Birmingham February 26th; Gatwick March 5th; Southampton tbc.
CHILDREN: Heathrow Dec 4th; Gatwick Mar 5th.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Flying without fear October 2016

7 years ago I attended the Gatwick Fear of Flying course after 10 years of not flying, where even the thought of looking at a plane in the sky filled me with dread, anxiety and panic. 7 years on from that day that really did change things and I am now an exceptionally seasoned frequent flyer !!

I initially waited 6 months after the course before flying with my wife and 2 children to Majorca for our first flight overseas on holiday as a family. I was initially a bit nervous on the way to the airport & getting on the plane but as soon as we had taken off (by the way this is now my absolute favourite part of flying !!!) I was remarkably calm and having listened to the relaxing CD ( I still have it but never use it now !!) I was fine and had a great holiday, without spending the whole week worrying about getting the flight home.

Further holidays to Spain, Ibiza, Menorca, Tenerife, Malaga, Italy, France, Fuerteventura, Corfu, Greece (Some of these destinations several times) have followed in addition to over 40 UK flights to Manchester, London, Stanstead, Gatwick & Newcastle on much smaller propeller planes have followed.

To put it into context, when I came on your course, I expected it not to work but did it for my wife, who had bought it for me as a last resort. I was the most petrified person about flying in the world (No joking here, I was without doubt scared to the point of crying even thinking about flying).

So what's changed ?

I now can't wait to get on a plane !!! - All of my fears have been explained and I understand them. I understand about all the things that used to scare me and know how to deal with them. The biggest 2 points for me were :-

Turbulence - Not nice for anyone but on the very odd occasion where I have had a partially bumpy few seconds ( and that's all it normally is) I look at the cabin crew who are happily and busily doing their jobs, smiling etc and liken it to being on a train - Put simply if the cabin crew aren't worried then neither am i

Nervousness - Took a while to realise that these nerves are not worried signs but signs of excitement now !!! Getting on a plane is the start of something fun usually and I for one have learned to love it !!!

As stated before in the post, I didn't think the course would work for me and all day I was trying to talk myself out of the fact that it would work for me, right up to the point of getting on the plane for a short flight that changed everything !!!!

The team at Virgin do a great job and there are so many of them to help you. Listen to them and it will change your perspective.

I hope reading this helps and I would love to go through the experience again as it really does free your life in a travel sense beyond your wildest dreams !!!!

7 years on and my grateful thanks to the fear of flying team for giving me back

Family holidays
Freedom to travel
Great memories
Future Course Dates

PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th; Birmingham Feb 26th; Southampton tbc.
GROUND: tbc.
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Course worked for me and still is

When people come on our course, there is often the question, 'Does it work?'
We have answered this as well as we can over the years.  The short answer is YES.   Not only does it work for the vast majority of people that attend, it tends to stick too.  Not 100% of people experience this massive shift quickly.  For most people, the course works best when it is combined with other things. When the course is treated as part of a process of beating the fear. 
When it does help people, it is enormously rewarding for us but more importantly, it gives people choices of how they travel. Please see a couple of lovely emails we have received this week:
Dear Virgin Fear of Flying Team

I am writing to you to say a massive thank you for changing my life in ways I could not imagine possible.

This letter has been a long time coming but, as we have already passed the 10th Anniversary of my attendance at the course and are approaching my upcoming flight to and from Orlando on Virgin Atlantic it appears to be the right time to contact you and let you know 'what difference a day makes.'

Prior to my attendance on the course on 23 April 2006, I was afraid to fly. I was stuck in an abusive relationship with someone who like to control where I went and what I did and it appeared that would be my future from the age of 25 onwards.

My parents however had other ideas and for my 25th Birthday they discussed with me the option of doing your Flying without Fear course and I agreed to attend. On my birthday I received a letter saying that I was booked on the course on 23 April 2006 at Manchester Airport.

I attended the course with low expectations, as you do not believe that fears can be conquered or at least tamed in such a short time period. However, it is nice to be proved wrong from time to time. I recall each part of the day in great details, the introduction, the Captains JJ and Dom, David and my team leader Paul. Even now, when I take off on a flight I can hear Paul's advice to 'drop your shoulders and relax'!

When you leave the course on the day, you know that something in your life has shifted but at the time it is hard to quantify. For me, it was enabling me to find confidence – not only to fly and visit beautiful places around the world which I thought would not be possibly but also to change your life.

I recall going back to work and booking my first trip away – with my mum to Vienna. A postcard was sent to the FWF team and all was well. I recall we had contacted Special Assistance and the cabin crew who had been assigned to look after me said that it appeared I had no issues at all and was a lot more calm and relaxed than many other frequent flyers.

However, the biggest change which came from your course related to my personal life. I remember one of my colleagues asking 'What exactly did they do to you on that course? You are a different person, more positive and ready to face challenges'. Having opened up a new world to me, I wanted to try more experiences and booked a holiday with a friend to Berlin – this friend is now my husband.  It gave me the confidence to leave my former partner and be with someone to explore the world and try new things – so much so we visited Europe three times in a nine month period when we first got together.

Your course meant that I could fly and, following a flight to Vienna my then boyfriend was able to propose to me in front of my favourite painting in my favourite city; it meant we could fly to the states and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway for our honeymoon.

So here we are, ten years later and I am treating my husband (in anticipation of this 40th Birthday next year) to a once in a lifetime trip with my favourite airline to go to Orlando to celebrate his favourite time of year – Halloween. As it is a special celebration ( I will be celebrating my 10 year Virgin anniversary too but don't tell him that!) , I have even splashed out to fly Upper Class on the way out, sadly it was out of my price range to do so on the return flight.

We flew with Virgin in Premium Economy in 2014 and it was a wonderful experience – the staff were kind, courteous and always helpful so it makes perfect sense that for our special trip we would choose them again.

Without your help, this would not be happening and I am sure that my life would have taken a very different path had it not been for that spring day at Manchester Airport in 2006. I will be eternally grateful for the way in which your team have changed my life for the better.
So, all I can say is thank you Virgin. I will continue to sing your praises for the next ten years and beyond. You are the greatest and I will be forever in your debt for opening up the world to me and my family.
Kate C

Hi I did my course April 13 2014 and I'm currently flying to Norway thanks to all your help . I flew to Iceland September 2014 as well which was great. Attached is a photo from the plane.
Cheers.    Sonja M

Best wishes,
Paul & Richard
Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th; (Birmingham & Southampton TBC)
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Special blog for David Landau

This blog is to recognise and savour the work of a very special friend, mentor and colleague David Landau.  David was part of the original set up team at Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear in November 1997. 

David worked as a psychotherapist on our courses for approximately 12 years. Some of our fear of flying attendees described him as the 'voice of chocolate.'  (His amazing and relaxing voice can still be heard on-board some of the Virgin aircraft on the fear of flying channel.) 

A mutual friend, Neil French (internationally known hypnotherapist and trainer), has dedicated a webpage to keep David's work alive.  Here is the link

On a personal note, the team here at flying without fear are very fond of David and he is sorely missed. He taught us so much about how the brain works and how it deals with fear. Aside from that, he gave his time and wisdom willingly as he was dedicated to helping people live a life without limitations. There are literally thousands of people in the world that are now living fuller lives after meeting him at his clinic in Teddington or, with us at an airport hotel somewhere...  

The team spend hours driving around the country to our different venues. We often relied on David to keep us entertained  (and awake) with his humour which tended to range from dry/subtle/sophisticated through to outrageous/shocking/rude! 

David Landau. 29.09.1931 - 1.03.2016

Paul & Richard

Friday, 2 September 2016

Redundancy and recent news


When we run our fear of flying courses, this is a word that our pilot speakers use all the time that causes confusion around the room sometimes. In the rest of the world, this word means a job ending. Not particularly a good thing.  In commercial aviation safety training, it means something else - a very good thing.

When our pilots talk about redundancy, they are referring to how much back  up and extra capacity there is within commercial aircraft.  There is no one single thing going wrong that will cause the catastrophe that a nervous flyer imagines will happen.  Everything on the aircraft has back ups.  There are alternate systems to cover anything if, in the unlikely event, anything  untoward should happen...2 - 4 pilots, 2 - 4 autopilot computers with software from different suppliers, extra hydraulics, manual back ups.... the list goes on and on.

Recent news headline this week!

Passenger jet makes emergency landing in Ireland with 16 injured...
We have read the media coverage and it is riddled with inaccuracies.   Unexpected turbulence of a severe nature is thankfully really, really rare. However, the aircraft is not in danger. If you are strapped into your seat, no harm will come to you.  The aircraft can sometimes change altitude quickly but it does not move that much. A three foot change in altitude would be enough to discombobulate you if you were stood up and not expecting it.  Main message, don't believe everything that you read.  If you ever have been in actual severe turbulence, you are in a very rare group. It is exceptionally unlikely to happen. On our courses, we talk about this in a lot more depth so please accept our apologies if this seems a 'little light' on the explanation front.

Thank you!

I attended your course in January last year on the windiest day at Leeds/Bradford airport – flying usually consisted of a max two hour flight prompted by I discovered unfounded fears. Just to let you know I have been on 6 flights in the last 2 weeks travelling to Sydney/Melbourne and Kuala Lumpar – your course is brilliant and without it I would never have achieved this!
Many thanks
Deborah B

Best wishes,
Paul & Richard

Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th.
GROUND: Heathrow Sept 18th; Bristol Sept 25th.
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Janine's story

This is a true story of how Janine, one of our team leaders, beat her own fear of flying.... Hope you like it...You will often see Janine helping out on our courses now, helping others to beat their fears too.
I think my fear of flying must have started when I was a child. I went on a flight at the age of 5 to Jersey for a family holiday, although I remember the holiday like it was yesterday, I don't remember anything about the actual flights.

My mum didn't really like flying, so as a family we never went abroad, my Dad would travel for business and managed to get Mum on a few trips, but not until I was much older. By this time I had grown up with Mum telling me how much I hated flying as the flight to Jersey had apparently hurt my ears and the longer this went on, the greater my fear of flying became. What I was afraid of I don't really know! 

I was happy holidaying in Cornwall and doing the 12 hour train journey to the south of France, I didn't even have an interest in travelling that much as I never challenged the thought that I could fly. After my Dad died I looked at a few aspects of my life and my apparent fear of flying was one of them. A friend pushed me into attending a flying without fear course. I didn't really want to go and spent most of the morning telling myself and anyone that would listen that I was not going to do the flight at the end of the day.

As the day went on, the team were great, really caring and I didn't feel any pressure to do anything I didn't want to do. The course has a psychology session that was really helpful, they even sat with me and took time one to one to talk things through. (Although I didn't manage to get on the flight that day, I was able to get right to the aircraft before it all got too much and I was taken back to the terminal to wait for the others to return).

I went away with determination that I hadn't really had before and re thought my plan, by this time, the course had done enough to actually change my way of thinking, this wasn't any way to live, there is so many amazing places to visit, so many things I have been missing out on, trips with My late Dad, friends and family.

My next move involved visiting a local flying club Take Flight Aviation in Warwickshire with the thinking that I might feel more in control in a small plane. The boss of the business happened to be there and took pity on me and suggested he take me on a five minute circuit to start with. It actually took the guys two hours to get me in the plane, but we went off and did a circuit it felt OK so we ventured a few miles further and went off around Stratford upon Avon. In the following weeks, I went back and did a few more local flights.

My next step was booking myself on the flight only part of the next flying without fear course in Birmingham, this time I went on my own, of my own choice, I was more relaxed and managed to do the flight, it was an amazing feeling to have actually done it, after so many years of not even being able to look at an aircraft, to actually starting to enjoy it. I then booked the shortest flight I could find from Southampton to Jersey, and then back to Birmingham. 

Eventually I started being more adventurous Geneva then Greece, gradually building up to longer and longer flights. Along the way I even joined the flying club and started to have some flying lessons, and was able to go away with the flying club on some amazing trips in light aircraft, including island hopping in Greece and Ibiza, something that I had feared for years I was actually enjoying, so many great places to visit. 

You can see that my fear was quiet real and had been instilled in me over many years and the fact that I had overcome something that I thought impossible. This made me want to help others the way Virgin had helped me, so when I was sure I was over my fear, and there were a few hiccups along the way, I offered to help out on the courses. I think that having been in that situation, that other people who fly regularly may not appreciate fully, really helps me to help others. I understand their situation and how they are feeling, although everyones fear is different, because I'd been there myself. 

The Virgin course was the best thing I have ever done, it has literally changed my life and I would recommend it to anyone.

Janine Wheeler
Sintra Hair Plus

Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th. GROUND: Heathrow Sept 18th; Bristol Sept 25th.
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.