I took a good friend and his 18 yo son flying last Thursday. Here's the "public post" I put on my blog and FB.
It was very rewarding to be able to help a young man overcome his fear of flying and find out that it is actually fun. The rest of this post is kind of a long, but I didn't want to post more details on my blog because I didn't want his son to be embarrassed about being so scared. I wrote that he was nervous, but that would be the understatement of the year. Here is the Paul Harvey "Rest of the Story" where none of his friends will see.
As I said in my post, his son had flown once on a commercial flight when he was 4 yo. As I was going through my pre-flight with them and answering questions his son was shaking, as in his whole body shaking because he was so nervous. I did my best to calm him down as I continued telling them about how the plane flies, what keeps it in the air, the safety features, etc... We got through that, got him calmed down enough that at least you couldn't see him shaking anymore, and pulled the plane out of the hangar.
I wanted him in the front seat so hopefully I could get him to take the yoke for a minute later in the flight.
"Ok, Greg you're going to be in the right seat and your dad in back."
"I don't want to be in the front."
"But if you aren't in front you won't be able to fly it at all if you decide you want to."
"I won't want to."
"Well, if we have any problems and have to land on a golf course, in a field, or on a road, the person in the right seat gets out first."
"Ok, I'll sit in the front."
We got in and everyone bucked up, at which point he started breathing a little faster and said "I can't do this."
I didn't want to see him just give up. As I told his dad later in the evening, even if he decided that he didn't want to fly ever again, I wanted to see him face his fear and overcome it because that would benefit him in other aspects of his life. So, I put on my best negotiator hat.
"Ok, so let's do this. I'm going to start the engine to get a little cool air going. Then we're going to taxi down over there and do a run-up to make sure everything is working right, and if it is we'll just fly around the pattern once and land. We'll take off, start climbing up, make a turn to the right, make another turn and level off at 1,000'..."
He cut me off, I did not know that not only was he afraid of flying, he was terrified of heights.
"It's ok, it won't feel like you are very high."
"But 1,000 feet!!!???"
"I promise, it won't feel like it. It's only going to take about 3 minutes (ok, I know it is a little longer than 3 minutes around the pattern but figured he wouldn't notice) and then we'll be landing. All you have to do is hold on for 3 minutes. When we land you can tell me, 'I never want to do that again," and we'll just come right back to the hangar. You can say 'I want to do that again, but I can't handle it right now,' and that's ok, we'll come back here and go a different time. Or, you might say 'That wasn't so bad, I want to fly a little more,' and we'll go fly around some more and see things. Deal?"
With that we taxied down and after the run-up flew around the pattern once and I thankfully made a beautiful landing at which point he said he wanted to fly some more. On the subsequent flight we just did some flight-seeing he loved it. Over his High School, past their house, down to the coast, and the air was so smooth. At 3,000' I told him how high we were, but that it just doesn't feel like it and he agreed. I told him I'm afraid of heights too, but in the plane it isn't the same because you don't feel like you're going to fall off the edge of something.
Over and over he kept saying how cool it was and he is looking forward to the next time we fly.