A Pilot’s Guide for Fearful Flyers

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If you or someone you’re close to has a fear of flying, you too miss out on travel together to faraway, fun adventures. Here’s help.

For all flyers, knowledge is power: the more you know, the less the unknown fear can displace your travel plans with fear of the unknown.

In this compact, powerful book, I give a firsthand insider’s view of a 32+ year airline pilot at the world’s largest airline: what to expect, sensations, sights, sounds, and what’s really going on–especially in the cockpit.

Don’t let fear of flying ground you or those you care about. Take this positive step towards the freedom of air travel. Do it now.

To order, just CLICK HERE.

Here’s a sneak preview:

A Pilot’s Guide For Fearful Flyers

Captain Chris Manno

Fort Worth, Texas USA

Copyright © 2017 Chris Manno

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-1975882402

ISBN-10: 1975882407


For every fearful flyer, there’s often one or more family or friends who are therefore also grounded. Meanwhile, surface transportation eats up vacation days and limits travel options. Many destinations, including a vacation abroad, are out of the question for everyone, not just the fearful flyer.

This book is about empowerment, letting the fearful flyer displace dread with facts and insider knowledge to make choices based on what they want, rather than some unknown they can’t envision or don’t understand.

I’ve been a pilot at the world’s largest airline for more than 32 years, over 26 of them as captain, and I empathize with fearful flyers. I’ve seen firsthand that even the most nervous flyers can be reassured to the extent that at least allows them to fly in reasonable comfort and ease, thereby opening up a whole new and broad world of travel possibilities.

So here are my best techniques to engage the entire process, to understand all aspects of your flight and most importantly, to give flyers an inside view of what’s going on in the cockpit and what they need to do on board and especially, leading up to a flight, so they can better understand their flight, what’s happening and when, and why.

As the title states, this book is by “A Pilot,” me, and I claim no broad authority other than my decades as an airline captain and thousands of hours aloft dealing with all the elements of air travel, including fearful flyers. I’m not the “ace of the base” hotshot pilot, and I don’t care to be. I’ve always worked hard to be a thorough, careful, skilled and competent journeyman aviator. That perspective can help you, too.

Welcome aboard, and let’s get started. -CM



  Acknowledgments I
1 The Big Picture 1
2 It’s All About You 5
3 Who’s Flying Your Jet 11
4 Your Amazing Aircraft 18
5 Scary Stuff 24
6 Get Up Offa That Thing 33
7 Flight Day: Your Pilots 46
8 Flight Day: You 57
9 What to Expect 69
10 Going Forward 88
  1. The big picture

Fearful? Don’t feel like The Lone Ranger: everyone at some point has a degree of anxiety about flight, which is natural. Even among aviation professionals at all levels, a healthy respect for the reality of flight is the bedrock of safety and common sense. Anxiety is simply a natural offshoot of that very human urge for self-preservation.

When as an Air Force pilot I studied Flight Safety and Accident Investigation at the USC School of Flight Safety, they constantly referred to the “2 mile per hour man,” because that’s our DNA. Flying at 500 miles an hour is unnatural, and our physiology and psychology is engineered to avoid movement beyond our design envelope.

Anxiety naturally goes with the unknown territory, which flight is at some point for all flyers. When I reached the syllabus phase in USAF Flight School that called for the instructor pilot to induce a flat spin from over twenty-five thousand feet basically straight down to ten thousand feet, I was “concerned” to say the least, because that maneuver for me was an unknown: I’d never twirled like a record on a turntable vertically four miles straight down.

Add to that the syllabus requirement that I should, upon reaching ten thousand feet, be capable (according to the lesson objectives) of applying the complex, multi-step recovery procedure to break out of the flat spin I’d memorized. The feeling that comes to mind is what I was told by a space shuttle astronaut about launch: “Everyone aboard was either scared shitless or lying.”

So when the big moment arrived, when the instructor pilot asked, “Are you ready,” I nodded, keeping faith in my belief that if everyone else could perform this maneuver, so could I. Add to that my 22-year-old self’s latent hubris (I honestly believed I’d rather die than fail to win Air Force pilot wings) and I pushed myself beyond the boundary of fear—which isn’t to say I didn’t have it. I sure did.

Once the spin commenced, the effect was, honestly, much ado about nothing: the sensation was as if the world was spinning around us and we were perfectly still. I could see the altimeter unwind as we plummeted, I noted the compass card rotating like a merry-go-round. But I was fine, the jet was fine, and I knew right then and there that the apprehension about this extreme flight maneuver is actually worse than the maneuver itself in real life.

Of course, I’m sure I screwed up the recovery, at least my first time—I said I wasn’t the ace of the base—but the more important lesson was about the psychological effects of anticipation versus reality. A few folks were unable to see that crucial perspective and either resigned or were washed out.

Psychology is only half of the self-preservation urge that has to be dealt with to function effectively when challenging the unknown. We all discovered that physiology was an even more formidable barrier: the body’s sense of balance does not do well adapting to aerobatics. A handful of my classmates were gifted by nature with an individual equilibrium that seemed impervious to loops, rolls and high G-force maneuvers. I was not among them.

Mustaches disappeared around the Flight Room because food began to appear post-flight in tiny pieces embedded during the awkward demands of flying a jet while vomiting. Breakfast choices were modified to consider not only how the food would taste going down, but also coming back up (orange juice burned, as I recall) in flight. It was miserable. Making you fly even while barfing was part of the syllabus: if you can’t hack it, you’ll never solo—so fly, or quit; your choice. Several more quit.

But believing I’d rather be dead than wash out, I wasn’t going to let nausea stand in the way of my silver wings. The Flight Surgeon prescribed for those of us suffering air sickness a combination of Dramamine for the nausea and Dexadrine to counteract the drowsiness side effect of the Dramamine.

That helped a lot. But the big revelation, as with the psychological barriers, was simple: adaptation. After a while, my system adapted to high-G loads and aerobatic maneuvers. I no longer needed the Dramamine, although those of us who had the Dexadrine kept taking the prescription and were wide-awake for predawn flights, while the other guys were drag-assed tired. But the playing field eventually levelled once again when our prescriptions ran out and the “Witch Doctor,” as we called the Flight Surgeon, refused to issue refills (I did ask).

But the point is, everyone must brave some level of anxiety, some fear, some psychological and even physiological barriers if they’re to adapt and succeed at any unknown precipice. You’ve done that already in your life thus far and I promise you, this fear of flying challenge will yield in the same way to determination, knowledge (then it’s not the unknown), fortitude, encouragement from others and finally—adaptation. You will succeed. You will move onward, and upward, literally. You may have toast crumbs in your mustache at first (shave it off, regrow it later), and you may not accomplish the perfect recovery on the first spin. But eventually, you will.

In subsequent chapters I’ll highlight for you an insider view of what goes on before, during and after a flight so that we can reduce the “unknown” part of your fear. We’ll also look at strategies to prepare for both the psychological and physiological challenges that flying can present to you. It’s a proven fact that the more you know, the less the “unknown” will affect you.

Read on, reflect, and let’s learn together how to chip away at your very natural, normal fear of flying.

Quick Reference Summary

  • Fear of flying is natural, normal, and manageable.
  • As humans, we’re designed with both psychological and physiological defenses geared towards self-preservation, which is good.
  • Aviators at all levels experience anxiety about flying, but learn to manage both risks and stress.
  • Adaptation is key to feeling at home in the sky, and that just takes perseverance and when available, the proper pharmaceuticals.
  • Orange juice burns when coming back up.

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