Attadale resident tackles fear of flying head-on in flight simulator


Attadale resident Valerie Arrowsmith behind the controls of a Boeing 737 at Flight Experience’s flight simulator. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d474321
Attadale resident Valerie Arrowsmith behind the controls of a Boeing 737 at Flight Experience’s flight simulator. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d474321

AUSTRALIANS love to travel.

In 2016, 9.9 million Australian residents left our borders for adventures abroad, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Domestically, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development figures showed 59.36 million passengers in the year ending July, 2017, up 1.6 per cent on the previous year.

But despite the astonishing numbers, and the flood of travel pictures on social media, there are many who can not bear the thought of boarding a plane.

Attadale resident Valerie Arrowsmith was one of those people.

Extreme turbulence on her return to Perth from Sydney 15 years ago triggered her fear of flying.

The plane landed safely but air travel was never the same for her again.

“Taking off and landing was fine, but otherwise I felt out of control,” she said.

“Any slight movement I’d be gripping my seat.

“It was horrible. I couldn’t do anything.”

In the past, staff would coax her on to planes and reassure her everything was safe, but there were times her anxiety was so bad she backed out of holidays even after arriving at the airport.

“The last few weeks leading up to a flight I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep,” she said.

“I couldn’t look forward to holidays because just getting on to planes was so stressful.”

Aviophobia is not uncommon, with some estimating as many as one in four experience a little anxiety to incapacitating fear about travelling by plane.

To manage her fear, Ms Arrowsmith recently completed the Fear of Flying course at Flight Experience in Northbridge.

It involved a combination of face-to-face consultation with a psychologist, flight education and a Boeing 737 flight simulator to mimic the experience of air travel.

Director Peter Chin, a former Captain with Emirates and a Qantas First Officer with more than 30 years flying experience, said results had been positive.

“The course is designed to give people confidence and the tools they need to reduce their anxiety levels associated with air travel,” he said.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to see people walking away from completing the course having overcome their fear.

“Many report their anxiety levels drop by as much as 50 per cent.”

Ms Arrowsmith said the course had helped her, with successful visits to Singapore and Ko Samui earlier this year and a visit to London planned for 2018.

“I was a little nervous but nothing compared to past experiences,” she said.

For information, visit perth.flightexperience.com.au.

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