Terrified fliers confront fears in Phoenix airport class

Wed Apr 8, 2015 5:26am EDT
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By Daniel Wallis

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Heidi Cattey first became scared of flying when she saw news reports of hijackers seizing planes in the 1980s.

A decade later, she mistook vapor in the cabin of a flight in Texas for smoke from a fire, flipped out and hasn't flown since.

"I just started screaming," Cattey said, blushing at the memory of scaring the other passengers.

Last month's Germanwings disaster, in which the co-pilot is believed to have crashed the plane on purpose, killing 150 people, did not help matters.

But Cattey has a special reason to conquer her fears: In two months she needs to pick up the 6-year-old twins she and her husband have adopted, all the way over in Kenya.

The owner of a Christian day care center in Mesa, Arizona, Cattey was one of about 30 people attending a regular "fear of flying" class last Saturday evening in a conference room at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport.

With the others, she folded and flew paper planes to learn about aerodynamics – and to break the ice.

Then they discussed how aircraft and crews work, and how brains process information and respond to anxiety. Most attendees took the chance to quiz three veteran pilots about anything else that came to mind.   Continued...

Lynzi Jessen, 10, prepares to launch a paper airplane during Captain Ron Nielsen's "Fearless Flying" class at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona April 4, 2015.  REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec