Ben Ross: No need to fear – Captain Allright is here

Something to Declare

Human beings think there's something peculiar about flying. It just doesn't come naturally. Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, once wrote: "There is an art, or, rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss." Birds do it, bees do it, and – despite being wingless – even educated fleas can launch themselves from dog to dog. But we humans don't do airborne. Our monkey brains and bodies just haven't got that knack.

Of course, the invention of the aeroplane solved the whole throwing-yourself-at-the-ground-and-missing thing. We let engineering take the strain, with the Jet Age opening up vast horizons of travel possibilities. But you still have to convince yourself that getting into a metal tube and going up, up and away will actually work. And for some people, that just isn't possible.

According to Flying with Confidence, a new book published this week, roughly one in three of us have a fear of flying, with symptoms ranging from "mild discomfort" to "severe terror". It's apparently attributable to two things: "a lack of knowledge about how an aeroplane actually operates" and "irrational fears that cannot be explained".

Aside from possessing the most reassuring surname in travel, Captain Steve Allright is one of the book's co-authors. He's piloted Boeing 747s for British Airways since 1990 and is involved with the airline's long-running courses for nervous flyers. If anyone can dispel that "lack of knowledge", it's probably him. "People are only frightened of what they don't understand," he told me. "So if you can create some knowledge it becomes more logical. Even down to the first ding-dong on the intercom. To somebody that's already anxious about flying, it spells imminent disaster, whereas in fact it's Jane calling Mary to the front because they've run out of orange juice."

But what about those "irrational fears that cannot be explained"? That's where the co-author of Flying with Confidence, psychologist Patricia Furness-Smith, comes in. There's plenty of helpful information from her about managing anxiety, including the following very sensible exhortation: "Don't suffer from role confusion. Let the pilots operate the aircraft and you operate your lungs."

I'm not sure whether the book's revelation that "every new aircraft type is tested by firing an already dead bird about the size of a chicken into a running engine" is something I need to know. Nevertheless, there is something fundamental at stake here: human happiness.

Air travel has become such a part of modern life that a fear of flying can be truly debilitating. According to Furness-Smith, overcoming such fears can breed contentment elsewhere: "I frequently hear from past clients that their lives have made a turn for the better in other areas such as relationships or job prospects."

And remember: if Captain Allright says it's all right, it's all right, right?

'Flying with Confidence' by Patricia Furness-Smith and Captain Steve Allright is published on Thursday by Vermillion (£10.99). See our film at bit.ly/happyfly

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'