May 29, 2013

Help for fearful flyers: A chicken's guide to wingin' it


What's more, just knowing that you're not alone in your worries can be curiously helpful. "A lot of people around you on the plane are really nervous, too," he says. "They're just hiding it in their own ways."

Still, cracking open a laptop during a flight to review a video on coping with jitters might do more to unsettle those seated near you. Luckily, there's more discreet help in the form of the Flight App VALK, available for iPhone, iPad and Android users. For about the price of a venti-size latte at Starbucks, you get a kind of electronic Cliffs Notes to calming yourself down. Accessible in airplane mode, natch. With a flick of my finger, I can review what to expect before and during flight and hear tips on how to relax. "Turbulence," I'm counseled to repeat to myself when experiencing it, "is a matter of comfort and not a safety issue." A panic button summons a virtual shrink to help in moments of acute alarm, though the narrator's faintly British accent reminds me disquietingly of Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs."

"With this, you can have a therapist with you all the time," says VALK Foundation's van Gerwen. Already available in a handful of languages, Flight App will soon help chill out speakers of Chinese.

Next, I check out Julia Cameron's new book, "Safe Journey: Prayers and Comfort for Frightened Flyers and Other Anxious Souls," which offers a more old-school method of coping: prayer. And lots of it. Pleas for everything from help in packing to aid in navigating airport security.

While I admit that even as an agnostic, I've pleaded for calmer air, I'm fairly sure that witnessing a fellow traveler imploring a supernatural being to keep the plane aloft would do little to reassure me.

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