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Lesson 5 of 5

Your Virtual Practice Flight

"I owned the world as I flew over it..."

- Charles A. Lindbergh

Are you prepared to "own the world"?

In this lesson you will take a "virtual" practice flight. On the next page you will have an opportunity to access even more information (overwater flights, flying with kids, etc.), tailored just for the graduates of this course.

"Dear Captain, I took your course about a month ago and it helped immensely. I've flown for many years, fearless, and for some reason this year, anxiety and panic attacks hit me. I was now a person who was totally terrified of flying. I have to take a moment to say thank you. I sent a donation and enjoyed your Bonus Page; there was lots of interesting stuff on there. Well, keep up your wonderful work, keep up your humor (which was probably my most favorite part in reading), and I hope someday to have you as my pilot. :) Take care."

Practice and preparation is the key to accomplishing any endeavor successfully. The thought of your flight may overwhelm you, but if you break it down into manageable steps you will cope much better. Do one thing at a time and do it well, then move on to your next challenge.

Day Before My Flight

Ask yourself why you are flying. It helps if you feel you are in control of this decision. As adults, we are all free to do exactly what we want, we just have to accept the consequences. For example, you are free to skip the flight to your friend's wedding. Your friend is free to understand why you didn't fly, or your friend can get mad at you. Everyone has their choice to make.

I have a feeling your choice is to fly for whatever particular reason. You have probably chosen to fly because it will make life easier on yourself in the long run. Don't worry, this is a good choice. Later, you will most likely be happy that you made this choice.

Just remember, you do not have to take the flight. You are taking the flight because you have chosen to. If you feel someone is forcing you to fly, deal with that before you fly. Nobody likes to be told what to do. You are in control of your life!


Do not rush. Start preparing for your flight early. Make your travel plans and buy your tickets well in advance if possible. Set aside time on the day before your flight to get organized.


Pack a "goody bag". Put some thought into bringing books, audio or music CDs, magazines with scenic photos, games, snacks, etc. Why not bring the best stuff you can think of to make your flight as enjoyable as possible? Wouldn't it help if you looked forward to your time on the plane? Nod yes

Suggested items to carry onto the plane

1. Your "goody bag" of entertaining items.
2. A hard copy of this course.
4. Fear of Flying Audio Course and/or Wing of Discovery book or CDs
5. CD or MP3 Player (iPod) with headphones.

The Night Before

Prepare your body. Forget the alcohol. Get a good night's sleep. Set 2 alarms. Make sure you set the alarms to go off early enough so that you are not rushed in the morning.

Morning of Flight

Remember, you are in control, be deliberate. Dress for success. Wear clothes which make you feel confident. What you wear can make you feel good about yourself. Stay focused on the fact that you have chosen to take the flight, no one is forcing you.

Don't block your upcoming flight out of your mind, go into this with your eyes wide open. Don't surprise yourself at the plane with the reality that you are about to take a flight. With the help of this course you will be the most informed, organized, and prepared passenger on that plane!

Have some breakfast. Don't drink orange juice or coffee on an empty stomach, the acid can upset your stomach. Drink plenty of water, the air in the aircraft cabin is dry. Go easy on the coffee. You don't need the extra stimulant (adrenaline).

Some people try alcohol or drugs such as Xanax to take the edge off. Please use very sparingly and be sure to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. If you do drink, be careful. Just one drink aloft equals about three at sea level, and post flight hangovers can be unpleasant. Besides, alcohol adds to dehydration.

Leaving for the Airport

Driving Leave early enough so that you can drive leisurely to the airport. Allow time to find a parking spot, check your bags, clear the security checkpoint, and check in at the gate one hour before your flight. During your drive to the airport listen to my Fear of Flying Audio CD. Also, practice the "Tense This" and "Belly Breath" exercises, save the "Virtual Vacation" for a time when you don't have to keep your eyes on the road!

At the Airport

Recently, the TSA began screening all checked baggage at all commercial airports across the United States. Several methods are being used to screen checked baggage. The most common methods involve electronic screening, either by an Explosives Detection System (EDS) or an Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) device.

The TSA suggests that you help prevent the need to break your locks by keeping your bags unlocked. In some cases, screeners will have to open your baggage as part of the screening process.

Once at the airport you can use curbside check-in with many full service airlines. This allows you to check your bags and get a boarding pass right at the curb. That means you can go straight to the security checkpoint without having to stop at the ticket counter. You are normally allowed one medium sized carry-on bag and one personal item such as a purse.

Airport Security Checkpoint

Bring a government-issued photo identification card (such as a driver's license) or passport to the airport. Only ticketed passengers will be allowed past the security checkpoint. Be on your best behavior. DO NOT JOKE about bombs, weapons, etc. No one will have a sense of humor about such things, and you could very well find yourself detained by authorities. Sad

All unattended baggage or articles will be reported to authorities. You should expect an increased frequency of hand-held metal detector searches.

All of your baggage will be screened and possibly hand-searched. This inspection may include emptying most or all of the articles in your bag.

Boarding Lounge

When you get to the boarding lounge check in at the gate to confirm your seating assignment. If you get the chance take time to look out the window at the planes. This would be a good time to think up some questions for your Captain.

Your flight will board about 30 minutes before departure time. Before boarding take time to sit, relax, and review your Cheatsheet Tools. Then thumb through your magazine with the scenic photos.

Boarding the Plane

When your row number or seating group is called gather your belongings and proceed on board. When you enter the plane mention to the flight attendants that sometimes you get a little nervous about flying and ask if you may visit with the pilots. This is very, very important!

Visiting the Pilots

Many airlines allow you to visit the pilots. The pilots are always happy to have visitors, the flight attendants know this. You might be surprised at how receptive the pilots will be when you enter the cockpit. Being a pilot can be lonely, we spend hours locked in a little closet-sized space. But remember, visits to the cockpit can ONLY be made on the ground and not during taxi or in flight.

A chat with the pilots will show you that they are regular people with families. Ask questions, mention your nervousness, they will understand and reassure you. The pilot's confidence is contagious. Now you have a friend up front who knows and cares about you! Hug

Finding Your Seat

Time to find your seat, store your bags, and get comfortable. If you are sitting next to someone say, "Hi. My name is _______. Does flying ever make you nervous?" Talking to and sharing your fears with someone else can do wonder. Besides, this is an opportunity to meet some very interesting people going to very interesting places! (Just like you!)

Engine Starting

At this point conditioned air is probably being supplied by the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The APU is a standby turbine powered electrical generator which also acts as an air conditioner. When the pilots start the engines they will shut off the flow of cold air for just a minute. This air flow is used to spin the jet engines for starting. Once the engines are started the cabin airflow can now come from all of the running engines.

Departing the Gate

Sometimes your plane will be "pushed back" from the gate. During push back you may hear "clunking" noises from the tractor's tow bar. Other times your plane will do a "powerback" from the gate. During powerbacks the engines are placed in reverse thrust. To put the engines in reverse, special doors redirect the thrust to move the plane backward. You will know when the plane is doing a powerback because you will hear the roar of the engines to provide the necessary thrust.

Taxi for Takeoff

During taxi to the runway please pay attention to the flight attendant safety demonstration.

Airlines have established a conservative policy with regards to the usage of portable electronic devices (cell phones, computers, etc.). Regulations permit the use of specified electronic devices that the airline has determined will not cause interference with aircraft systems. There have been no conclusive studies that prove electronic devices cause problems. However, there is some anecdotal evidence, most reported in older aircraft. With regards to using your gadgets, check with your airline and follow crewmember instructions.

While taxiing for takeoff you may hear noises coming from the hydraulics as the flaps are lowered and your new friends (the pilots) make one more control check.

You may notice the wings bounce a little while taxiing, this is good. You want flexible wings that give a smooth ride and flex, but don't break. There will be a short PA from the pilots and a "ding" to notify the flight attendants to get seated for takeoff.

There are checklists for each phase of flight: Preflight, Starting Engines, Taxi, Takeoff, Climb, Cruise, Descent, Landing, After Landing, Parking, and Post Flight. The pilots methodically complete each item and then double check the other's actions. There are many automatic warning systems to alert the pilots if the aircraft systems aren't configured correctly. For example, the landing gear warning horn will sound if the plane gets too low without the landing gear properly extended.


Once the Takeoff Checklist is complete and the plane is lined up on the runway, the pilots apply power. You will hear a little "roar" as the jet engines spool up.

As you travel down the runway you may feel small bumps, this is from the runway surface and the runway centerline lights. You may also hear or feel a slight vibration from the plane's wheels as they spin up to speed.

The takeoff roll down the runway is normally about 20 seconds. The lightweight interior panels and fascia may rattle and vibrate a little at first. After a few moments the nose of the plane will tilt up and everything gets quieter and smoother as you lift off.
No More Fear - Happy Plane
The plane is happiest in the air, that's where it's meant to be!

Take off is a phase of flight that scares a lot of people. Some of the sensations you may notice is your ears may feel funny because of an air pressure change in the cabin. This happens because the plane’s pressurization system begins to activate during take off. The pressurization system actually makes the climb more comfortable on your ears by gently adjusting the cabin pressure. Once at cruise altitude, the cabin pressure is similar to the air pressure you would experience if you drove to the mountains – about 6 or 7,000 feet.

From a pilot’s prospective, take offs aren't really a big deal. We apply power, steer the plane straight down the runway, and once we reach the proper speed, we tilt the nose of the plane up so the wings can begin generating lift and away we go. Remember that airplanes are meant to fly and actually handle better in the air than on the ground. The plane is happiest in the air, that's where it's meant to be, experiencing the beauty of flight!

Sometimes it may feel like the plane is climbing too steeply. People have asked me if the plane could slide back down or tilt over backwards when the plane climbs so steeply. The answer is no, that won’t happen, never has, never will. The steep angle is normal because it enables us to climb rapidly to smoother and more fuel efficient altitudes. Don't worry about the steep angles, that just means your plane has a lot of excess power. Yippee

During takeoff you may hear a clunk when the plane’s nose tilts up and you lift off. That’s the landing gear shock absorber extending to its limit. The plane is designed to allow for a steep lift off. You may worry the tail will drag on the runway. That is very rare, besides there is something called a “tailskid” which protects it.

If you are sitting near the wings you may hear some whirring and bumping noises from the hydraulics and the thump of the landing gear retracting. If you are near the front of the plane you may hear the thump of the nose gear retracting. During the gear retraction the gear doors open and close adding to the sounds you will hear.

Shortly after takeoff you may feel a sinking sensation, that happens when the flaps are retracted, allowing the plane to accelerate. You may also hear the engines throttle back, sometimes ATC asks us to level off because traffic is above us. Once clear we will add power and continue climbing.

You may also notice the plane "banking" or turning shortly after takeoff. That's normal, we're just following ATC instructions or turning toward our destination.

During takeoff see if you can enjoy the feel of acceleration. These jet airliners have lots of power and can really move! That's good, imagine if your car could merge onto the freeway with power like that!

Some people worry that an engine might quit. Engine failures are extremely rare, but as with everything else, the pilots are prepared. Engine failures are practiced routinely in training. The engine failure training drills are so demanding that if an engine really does fail it is easy to just circle around and land again.

The FAA mandates that even with an engine out on the takeoff run the plane must still be able to lift off, clear all obstacles by a wide margin, and comfortably return for landing. Each takeoff is planned so that if an engine fails the pilots can either have plenty of room to stop, or continue to takeoff safely.

Next you might hear another "ding" or short PA notifying the flight attendants it is safe to leave their seats. You stay put though, until the Seatbelt Sign is turned off. Shortly after takeoff is a good time for sightseeing.

Climb out

Here's a little suggestion - If you are a little sleepy after takeoff, now is a great time to snooze. With the airplane tilted upward in the climb your seat will feel like a recliner. Yawn

You might hear another "ding" when passing 10,000 feet, this alerts the flight attendants that the cockpit "sterile" period is over. The FAA requires the pilots to remain focused during takeoff and landings.


Now it is finally time to relax and entertain yourself. Your flight can be quite enjoyable if you do it right. If you don't feel like sleeping you have lots of stuff to do. Snack, read, listen to music, look at pictures, chat with your seat-mate, and watch an in-flight movie. At some time you might want to stretch your legs and visit the lavatory.

When looking out the window, you will notice that there really isn't any sensation of height, the ground looks flat and artificial. If, at anytime, you wonder what you are flying over, or have any other questions or concerns ask a flight attendant. If they can't answer your question they can relay your questions up to the pilots.

If you're kids are along have them draw pictures for the pilots. We love getting drawings from kids as they get off the plane.

It is normal to be concerned about turbulence, many people are. Try setting a cup of water on your tray table in front of you. Watch the water, chances are it won't spill. Often your senses are heightened and it really isn't as bumpy as you think. Drinks rarely spill in flight. Do the same thing in your car you'll most likely get wet!

I know that it is difficult, but if you encounter turbulence please don't worry. Even strong turbulence is harmless. For the most part flying is very smooth, after all, you are riding on air!

Here's another tip that many passengers are not aware of. - A haze layer in the sky with little "puffy" clouds can show you where the smooth air is. After takeoff it may be a little bumpy due to hot air rising from the sun warming the ground. This type of turbulence is normally mild, but soon after takeoff you will be above this haze layer the air will smooth out.

Turbulence is not dangerous unless you don't keep your seatbelt fastened. In very rare cases passengers or flight attendants have bounced off the ceilings during extreme turbulence and have gotten hurt. I have been flying for a long time and have never seen this happen. To be safe, just keep your seatbelt fastened while you are in your seat.


About 30 minutes from landing the plane will start it's descent. You should like this part, because now you're almost at your destination. Soon the seatbelt sign will be turned on again.

You may feel some pressure build in your ears as the air gets thicker. To relieve air pressure buildup in your ears you can yawn or swallow. You can also plug your nose, close your mouth, and blow gently. This will make a little popping sound in your ears, but it feels good.


During approach for landing the pilots will need to slow down to fit into the traffic flow. To do this they may extend the speed brakes, the large panels on the top of the wings. These panels block airflow over the wing causing drag. You may feel a slight buffeting or vibration while slowing down.

More noises to expect would be the whine of the flaps extending and a few minutes before touchdown the thump of the landing gear going down. Once the landing gear extends you will hear more sounds of air rushing by.

If a landing is discontinued for reasons such as conflicting traffic, weather, or runway obstacles, it is called an aborted landing (also called rejected landing, missed approach, or go around).

An aborted landing can upset passengers who don’t understand what is happening. Aborted landings are rare, but you should know that the crew is doing the right thing for safety. When pilots abort a landing they will add power, start climbing, and retract the landing gear and flaps. Depending on the reason for the aborted landing, they will return for another approach, hold, or divert to a nearby airport. Pilots are well trained for these events and you shouldn’t be concerned.

The pilot's checklist is complete, "cleared for landing!"

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