Fearless flyer finds her wings
Reader Val Watson wrote to us about being stuck in France with her flying phobia. So we contacted Easyjet... and soon she was on cloud nine
When Connexion reader Val Watson wrote in earlier this year she was at her wit's end: "I'm recently widowed and don't know how to travel back to the UK without my husband. He always used to drive as I am too terrified to fly. But I can't drive all that way on my own."
Val lives near Castelnaudary, right between Carcassonne and Toulouse airports and has family in Coventry. "I really want to go to a big family get-together in June but because I really can't bring myself to fly, it looks like I'm stuck in France forever!" wrote Val.
So we contacted Easyjet and arranged for Val to go on a 2-day Fearless Flying course at the end of March in Gatwick. "I never expected The Connexion to help me so much!" she says. "And I was really helped by another reader who saw my letter in The Connexion," she explained. "Dave and Joe Emmett live near Perpignan and they helped me a lot. Dave is a retired pilot and he was brilliant. They came and stayed for a weekend and really supported me."
It still took courage to do the course, however. "Just walking into Gatwick Airport on the Saturday afternoon made me nervous."
But there were 160 people on the course and she soon realised that some of them were even more frightened than she was. "About 60% of the group had claustrophobia, and quite a few others were phobic about heights, like me."
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The course leaders went through all the technical details of how planes fly and what noises to expect, and went onto dealing with phobias and using relaxation techniques. "One of them explained that a plane is driving along on top of air currents, just like boats drive along on top of the sea, which completely reassured me," she explains.
On Sunday morning, she did the experience flight with her confident flyer friend Rita. "I was really scared, I had sweaty hands and everything. You have to go through the whole check-in process just like any other flight, and when I got to the tiny plane door, I balked. I nearly gave up but Rita was there and the crew were so supportive I managed to board the plane."
Before she knew it the plane had taken off, and suddenly she wasn't scared. "I loved it. I was eager to look out of the window and everyone on the plane was yelling and cheering with joy! I was disappointed that the flight was so short, in fact."
Val says that everyone seemed to feel the same. "When we landed everyone was hugging and kissing each other. I was on a total high! I felt I could do anything, get my own pilot's licence, go wing-walking, absolutely anything! And I'm still on a high!
“Two days later I flew back to France with my friends and it was fine! I couldn't believe I'd waited so long to get on a plane. The train journey to the UK to do the course was so expensive, so long and tiring, and the plane is so cheap and easy!"
Read more about Fearless Flyer courses held at various UK airports here