Face your fears of flying, with Devon pilot Andy Wilkins

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 February 2015

Emily Kaye piloting the 737-800 simulator with Capt Andy Wilkins on the life changing course.

Emily Kaye piloting the 737-800 simulator with Capt Andy Wilkins on the life changing course.


Experienced airline pilot Captain Andy Wilkins is helping aviophobics confront their fears

In the passenger cabinIn the passenger cabin

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to get over your fear of flying, then one Devon enterprise could help, as it is working hard to make sure aviophobics have exactly the help they need.

Located in the middle of Devon’s beautiful countryside and seconds off the A38 road at Chudleigh sits a state-of-the-art virtual aviation centre, built by Captain Andy Wilkins following a 30-year career as a professional airline pilot.

In addition to launching the careers of would-be pilots and offering corporate packages and gift experiences for those wishing to experience the sensation of flying a Boeing 737-800 jet airplane, the Virtual Jet Centre has its sights set on tackling a serious issue affecting nearly one in six people – fear of flying. The course format has been developed to provide maximum effect within the timeframe of three hours. The session starts with Captain Andy setting the client at ease, followed by a one-hour confidential chat, really investigating the in-depth reasons causing the fear.

Then it’s on to a first visit to the Virtual Jet Centre’s cabin section, to try and get the candidate to feel slightly tense. After a short break, the person goes into the flight simulator to fly the aircraft themselves.Captain Andy explains: “This is the ground-breaking part, as we are not aware of any other course that offers this facility. The whole point of this is to empower and really give the person a feeling and understanding of how an aircraft works. This involves moving all the devices that cause anxiety and seeing all the devices working as they should. About half way through the course, you can normally see the person really start to enjoy the experience.”

The second stage of the course involves discussing coping mechanisms, which are put into practice in the cabin section, this time using the many sound effects to give as true-to-life experience as possible. The session is rounded off with a summary of how the person is feeling, and a well-deserved hot beverage.

Captain Andy says: “It is very fulfilling and gratifying to be able to help people to empower themselves in this way.

“If you or someone you know has a fear of flying, do get in touch with me at 
andy@virtualjetcentre.co.uk as I would love to be able to help you too.”

Virtual Jet Centre: 01626 852119; 
Quick Facts

It is thought that as many as 1 in 5 people may have some degree of fear.

Many famous people have (or had) a fear of flying. Here are just a few: footballer Dennis Bergkamp, boxer Mohammed Ali, singers Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin and former US president Ronald Reagan.

It’s important to remember air travel is by far the safest form of travel. Plane crashes are extremely rare. In fact, Arnold Barnett, a statistics professor at M.I.T., says a person could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before dying in a plane crash.

The medical evidence suggests the best way of overcoming a fear of flying is to face it.

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