(Re)Learning to Fly

I had my first overseas holiday at age 21 and it was the first time I had the opportunity to step on board a plane. Although there was a degree of trepidation there was also excitement, exhilaration, but no fear as I remember.

Flights became more commonplace during my 20’s and included flights to Hong Kong and Canada. When I first met my wife and we lived 300 miles apart, they became more frequent using the short hop between East Midlands airport and Glasgow as the best way to maximise time together at weekends.

In between the aforementioned flights came a couple of flights I didn’t much enjoy. One when skiing in Chamonix, on the flight to Geneva, I distinctly recall the pilots words. “For those on the right side of the plane, if you look out now you will see Lake Geneva below us………. For those still looking out of the side of the plane you will notice that I am circling Lake Geneva again……… For the most perceptive among you, you will notice that I haven’t been able to change the angle of the flaps on descent so the landing may be a little fast today!” He paused for a while at this point, presumably not for effect. “Please also ignore the fire engines alongside the runway, they are only there as a precaution….” As it turned out the landing was no worse than many others I have experienced but the memory lives long.

Then came a flight on return from a family holiday in Menorca. Turbulence hit and the phrase ‘roller-coaster ride’ best sums it up for me. I wont give details of this particular memory but in weeks, months and years to come the fear in that moment seems to have been amplified each time I took a flight thereafter.

So after a couple more attempts, both family holiday and work related, I simply decided I didn’t want to fly any more. My fear had become so bad that simply stepping into a departure lounge gave way to nausea and ultimately vomiting embarrassingly. That was almost twenty years ago now.

When daughter moved to New Zealand it became apparent that I needed to get over this fear if I was going to travel to her adopted country.

There is another bit of context to this story – I am largely skeptical of anything other than traditional, scientifically validated (i.e. available on prescription) medicine. Up until this point my only crutch to getting on a plane was Valium and Jack Daniels. However, I was persuaded by both my wife and friends to seek help from a hypnotherapist.

Long story already but I wont bore any potential future readers further other than to simply say I went to said hypnotherapy and it seems to have done me a lot of good. Since then I have traveled to and fro New Zealand and, perhaps more noteworthy, have enjoyed a flight in my friend’s light aircraft:

So once more again this week I am (re)learning to fly. A flight to the holiday Island of Corfu – not because I have to but because I want to. I guess I’ll let you know how that turns out.


Have to say the holiday was great and both the flight to and back passed without any incident. Still taking the anti-anxiety drugs but didn’t mix with alcohol this time round so I hope that’s a step forward.

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