Lesson 5: Your Virtual Practice Flight

(Approx. time to complete: 10 minutes.)

Are you prepared to "own the world"? In this lesson you will take a "virtual" practice flight. On the next page you will have an opportunity to access even more information (overwater flights, flying with kids, etc.), tailored just for the graduates of this course. You will also have access to a printer-friendly version of this online course.

"I owned the world as I flew over it..."
- Charles A. Lindbergh


"Dear Captain, I took your course about a month ago and it helped immensely. I've flown for many years, fearless, and for some reason this year, anxiety and panic attacks hit me. I was now a person who was totally terrified of flying. I have to take a moment to say thank you. I sent a donation and enjoyed your Bonus Page; there was lots of interesting stuff on there. Well, keep up your wonderful work, keep up your humor (which was probably my most favorite part in reading), and I hope someday to have you as my pilot. :) Take care."

"Virtual" Practice Flight

Practice and preparation is the key to accomplishing any endeavor successfully. Whether you are a first time flyer or a seasoned veteran, I recommend you complete this virtual practice flight. The thought of your flight may overwhelm you, but if you break it down into manageable steps you will cope much better. Do one thing at a time and do it well, then move on to your next challenge.


  Therapist discusses exposure therapy


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Day Before My Flight

Ask yourself why you are flying. It helps if you feel you are in control of this decision. As adults, we are all free to do exactly what we want, we just have to accept the consequences. For example, you are free to skip the flight to your friend's wedding. Your friend is free to understand why you didn't fly, or your friend can get mad at you. Everyone has their choice to make.

I have a feeling your choice is to fly for whatever particular reason. You have probably chosen to fly because it will make life easier on yourself in the long run. Don't worry, this is a good choice. Later, you will most likely be happy that you made this choice.

Just remember, you do not have to take the flight. You are taking the flight because you have chosen to. If you feel someone is forcing you to fly, deal with that before you fly. Nobody likes to be told what to do. You are in control of your life!

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Do not rush. Start preparing for your flight early. Make your travel plans and buy your tickets well in advance if possible. Set aside time on the day before your flight to get organized.

Use your "Support Package". Refer to your "Checklist for Success" page often. As you accomplish each item on your checklist place a check-mark next to it. When you feel anxious use the "Feedback Form" to record the event. Use the "Cheatsheet Tools" page to calm yourself.

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  • 1. Your "goody bag" of entertaining items.

  • 2. A hard copy of this course.

  • 3. Your "Support Package" printouts.

  • 4. Fear of Flying Audio Course and/or Wing of Discovery book or CDs

  • 5. CD or MP3 Player (iPod) with headphones.



Pack a "goody bag". Put some thought into bringing books, audio or music CDs, magazines with scenic photos, games, snacks, etc. Why not bring the best stuff you can think of to make your flight as enjoyable as possible? Wouldn't it help if you looked forward to your time on the plane

 Physician discusses medication


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The Night Before

Before you go to sleep read and practice your "Cheatsheet Tools". Become familiar with the three relaxation exercises.

Prepare your body. Forget the alcohol. Get a good night's sleep. Set 2 alarms. Make sure you set the alarms to go off early enough so that you are not rushed in the morning.

Morning of Flight

Remember, you are in control, be deliberate. Dress for success. Wear clothes which make you feel confident. What you wear can make you feel good about yourself. Stay focused on the fact that you have chosen to take the flight, no one is forcing you.

Don't block your upcoming flight out of your mind, go into this with your eyes wide open. Don't surprise yourself at the plane with the reality that you are about to take a flight. With the help of this course you will be the most informed, organized, and prepared passenger on that plane!


Have some breakfast. Don't drink orange juice or coffee on an empty stomach, the acid can upset your stomach. Drink plenty of water, the air in the aircraft cabin is dry. Go easy on the coffee. You don't need the extra stimulant (adrenaline).

Some people try alcohol or serious prescription drugs such as Xanax to take the edge off. Please use very sparingly and be sure to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. If you do drink, be careful. Just one drink aloft equals about three at sea level, and post flight hangovers can be unpleasant. Besides, alcohol adds to dehydration.

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Leaving for the Airport

Leave early enough so that you can drive leisurely to the airport. Allow time to find a parking spot, check your bags, clear the security checkpoint, and check in at the gate one hour before your flight. During your drive to the airport listen to my Fear of Flying Audio CD. Also, practice the "Tense This" and "Belly Breath" exercises, save the "Virtual Vacation" for a time when you don't have to keep your eyes on the road!

At the Airport

Recently, the TSA began screening all checked baggage at all commercial airports across the United States. Several methods are being used to screen checked baggage. The most common methods involve electronic screening, either by an Explosives Detection System (EDS) or an Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) device.

The TSA suggests that you help prevent the need to break your locks by keeping your bags unlocked. In some cases, screeners will have to open your baggage as part of the screening process.

Once at the airport you can use curbside check-in with many full service airlines. This allows you to check your bags and get a boarding pass right at the curb. That means you can go straight to the security checkpoint without having to stop at the ticket counter. You are normally allowed one medium sized carry-on bag and one personal item such as a purse.

Airport Security Checkpoint

Bring a government-issued photo identification card (such as a driver's license) or passport to the airport. Only ticketed passengers will be allowed past the security checkpoint. Be on your best behavior. DO NOT JOKE about bombs, weapons, etc. No one will have a sense of humor about such things, and you could very well find yourself detained by authorities

Here is a list of permitted and prohibited items. All unattended baggage or articles will be reported to authorities. You should expect an increased frequency of hand-held metal detector searches. All of your baggage will be screened and possibly hand-searched. This inspection may include emptying most or all of the articles in your bag.

  • • Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport.

  • • Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry, and accessories that contain metal. Metal items may set off the alarm on the metal detector.

  • • Put all undeveloped film and cameras with film in your carry-on baggage. Checked baggage screening equipment will damage undeveloped film.

  • • Carry-on baggage is limited to one carry-on bag plus one personal item. Personal items include laptops, purses, small backpacks, briefcases, or camera cases. Remember, 1+1.

  • • Place identification tags in and on all of your baggage including your laptop computer.

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Boarding Lounge

When you get to the boarding lounge check in at the gate to confirm your seating assignment. If you get the chance take time to look out the window at the planes. This would be a good time to think up some questions for your Captain.

Your flight will board about 30 minutes before departure time. Before boarding take time to sit, relax, and review your Cheatsheet Tools. Then thumb through your magazine with the scenic photos.

Listen to sounds of the boarding lounge.

Boarding the Plane

When your seating group is called gather your belongings and proceed on board. When you enter the plane mention to the flight attendants that sometimes you get a little nervous about flying and ask if you may visit with the pilots. This is very important because it can really help you feel at ease. At the very least, ask a flight attendant to deliver your Letter to the Pilot.


Visiting the Pilots

Even since 9/11 many airlines still allow you to visit the pilots. The pilots are always happy to have visitors, the flight attendants know this. You might be surprised at how receptive the pilots will be when you enter the cockpit. Being a pilot can be lonely, we spend hours locked in a little closet-sized space. But remember, visits to the cockpit can ONLY be made on the ground and not during taxi or in flight.

We love to show all of our gauges, lights, and gizmos. So chat with the pilots, they are regular people (for the most part), with completely normal families. Ask questions, mention your nervousness, they will understand and reassure you. The pilot's confidence is contagious. Now you have a friend up front who knows and cares about you!

 Airline Pilot discusses cockpit visits

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Finding Your seat

Time to find your seat, store your bags, and get comfortable. If you are sitting next to someone say, "Hi. My name is _______. Does flying ever make you nervous?" Talking to and sharing your fears with someone else can do wonder. Besides, this is an opportunity to meet some very interesting people going to very interesting places! (Just like you!)


Viewing the following video and sound clips is optional, but this is your opportunity to practice your relaxation techniques. Watching these videos may make you nervous at first, but this is OK. You are in control of how you feel. If a video or sound clip bothers you, remember that you can pause it and calm yourself before continuing. Replaying them until you learn to relax is quite beneficial. Desensitize yourself to flying by using this form of virtual reality exposure therapy. Condition yourself to succeed. You can do it!
 Finding your seat, stowing your bags

Take time to become familiar with your surroundings. Notice the overhead controls, you will probably have a light switch, air vent nozzle, and flight attendant call button. If you need to use the call button during flight be careful, too much call button "action" can make the flight attendants a little cranky.

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Engine Starting

At this point conditioned air is probably being supplied by the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The APU is a standby turbine powered electrical generator which also acts as an air conditioner. When the pilots start the engines they will shut off the flow of cold air for just a minute. This air flow is used to spin the jet engines for starting. Once the engines are started the cabin airflow can now come from all of the running engines.

Departing the Gate

Sometimes your plane will be "pushed back" from the gate. During push back you may hear "clunking" noises from the tractor's tow bar. Other times your plane will do a "powerback" from the gate. During powerbacks the engines are placed in reverse thrust. To put the engines in reverse, special doors redirect the thrust to move the plane backward. You will know when the plane is doing a powerback because you will hear the roar of the engines to provide the necessary thrust.

 Passenger view 737 pushback & taxi

Taxi for Takeoff

During taxi to the runway please pay attention to the flight attendant safety demonstration.

Listen to flight attendant safety demo PA. (Courtesy of Paavo Tihverainen)

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 Hawaiian Airlines DC-10 Safety Demo Video




Airlines have established a conservative policy with regards to the usage of portable electronic devices (cell phones, computers, etc.). Regulations permit the use of specified electronic devices that the airline has determined will not cause interference with aircraft systems. There have been no conclusive studies that prove electronic devices cause problems. However, there is some anecdotal evidence, most reported in older aircraft. With regards to using your gadgets, check with your airline and follow crewmember instructions.

While taxiing for takeoff you may hear noises coming from the hydraulics as the flaps are lowered and your new friends (the pilots) make one more control check.

Listen to the sound of the wing flaps extending.


You may notice the wings bounce a little while taxiing, this is good. You want flexible wings that give a smooth ride and flex, but don't break. There will be a short PA from the pilots and a "ding" to notify the flight attendants to get seated for takeoff.


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