Conquering fear: Retired pilot helps people overcome their flying anxiety

A new survey by travel industry think tank Longwoods International found that the hope of vaccines has more and more people dreaming of vacation: 8 in 10 Americans have travel plans in the next six months.

For those afraid to fly, but are desperate to go somewhere after being cooped up, a retired American Airlines pilot can help with his Fearless Flyer program.

About 40% of people report some sort of fear of flying.

Turbulence, takeoff, and being closed up - those are people's biggest fears when it comes to flying, according to Captain Ron Nielsen.

Nielsen is a licensed counselor as well as a retired pilot with decades of experience. Now, he's helping people conquer their fears by looking to identify people's anxieties. He describes anxiety as a fire alarm.

"When a smoke detector goes off, it doesn't tell you theres a fire, it tells you there's smoke -- it doesn't know the difference between burnt toast or a raging fire," Nielsen said. "Neither does your amygdala, which is the part of your brain that triggers anxiety."

His other big tips: education and building confidence by actually facing your fears. He says there's nothing better than hearing from some of his previous clients when they can finally get on a plane.

"Not a day goes by that I don't get a text or an email... that says, 'Oh Captain Ron, I'm flying thanks to you,' " Nielsen said. "I remind them that they're the ones who showed up. I'm just the one who helped them find within them what it is -- but it is the most rewarding thing i've done in my life."

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