Frameworker at 30,000 feet

Frameworker days give our people the opportunity to do something different that challenges them or to do something worthwhile for others (or sometimes both)...

Darren used the opportunity to face his fear of flying head on.

I’ve never liked flying, and over the years this dislike has turned into real fear. Each time I fly, my nervousness and anxiety increase. I'm not a frequent flyer; I’ll normally fly twice a year – to head off for a break and then back home to reality. But every time I book a flight it’s the same. I get a sinking feeling that gets worse every day until it’s time to take off. All kinds of scenarios and panic run through my head on the day I’m set to fly – they only leave when I finally land and are replaced with the biggest feeling of relief. This cycle repeats itself until the return flight touches down.

Fear is a difficult emotion to understand. At one end of the spectrum we need it – we'd end up in some dodgy situations if we weren’t afraid of anything. The issue is when fear becomes completely irrational and your mind begins to run away with itself. I know my fear of flying makes no sense. People have tried to convince me it’s pointless worrying about it, they've bombarded me with stats about how safe it is – I've even read books on the physics of aviation so I can understand how three million people worldwide can fly safely every day. But I just can’t change my perception of flying. Being 30,000 feet in the air trapped in a 75-tonne aluminium tube just feels unnatural to me.

Challenging myself

When Sheri introduced Frameworker days I knew that it was time to tackle my fear of flying as we were told to challenge ourselves. But I was apprehensive. I looked up the easyJet "Fearless Flyer" course:

"Part one: We will deal with any misconceptions that you may have about flying and give you proven techniques to be able to delete those old mind patterns that you have running in your head."

Sounds good.

"Part two: You will go on what we call an Experience Flight."

Not so good!

Nevertheless, last month I embarked on the two-day course, having spent the best part of a year convincing myself to do it.

Confidence through education

R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" bellowed out over the speakers in the conference room of the dingy Chiltern Hotel as I went to take my seat among 100 other nervous flyers. My initial thought was: what on earth have I got myself into? But in fairness, once motivational speaker Lawrence Leyton took to the stage, my doubts quickly dissipated and the next three hours were really insightful. The evening covered all sorts, from tasks to help you rewire how you think and calming techniques to an experienced Captain giving an insight into the technical side of aviation and answering all the misconceived questions we had about flying. I couldn’t relate to everything in the initial talk – the factual side was more beneficial than Lawrence's techniques – but I'm sure everybody got something different out of it. Up next was the dreaded “Experience Flight”

Fight or flight

The flight was scheduled to take off on the Saturday evening, which was frustrating – it left too much time for my mind to fill with worry. It felt like time was standing still; on one hand my mind was battling to remember Lawrence's techniques from the day before and on the other it was fighting the irrational thoughts that this flight wasn’t going to go well.

Surprisingly, when it came to take off I found myself slightly (and I mean slightly) calmer than normal. There was something comforting about being surrounded by people who were as nervous as myself. People signed up to the course to tackle different types of aviation fear. The guy that sat next to me had never even flown before, simply based on his fear of the unknown.

For the half an hour I spent in the air (we flew over Ipswich and back if you’re wondering – Norfolk looks lovely from 30,000 feet), there was a sense of camaraderie among the passengers, as if we were accomplishing something together. And having a Captain in the cabin narrating every part of the flight, describing every sound and movement the plane made, was worth the entrance fee alone. When we landed I didn't feel that big sense of relief, but I rather hope that this experience might have actually made me less anxious about flying. As the plane pulled up to its gate the crew played Heather Smalls "Proud" over the speaker system – it seemed fitting that the course ended as cheesily as it started.

Just to be clear: I'm not now saying I love flying and that this course has turned the fear completely on its head. I don't believe I'll ever be able to say I “like” flying and that I won't get nervous, but that isn't what I went on the course for. I went to be able to regain a control of my anxiety and eliminate the irrational thoughts I had about flying – and from that aspect I hope this course helped. I'm flying to Milan in September and normally I'd be worrying daily by now that in 10 weeks time I'll be 30,000 feet in the air. So far I’ve not had that worried feeling, just an excitement about experiencing the Grand Prix at one of the oldest and most famous tracks on the Formula 1 circuit. But I guess we'll have to see what happens on the day – fingers crossed.

The conference and flight were filmed by the BBC and we were told parts will be shown on a popular BBC show in the autumn – I'm hoping for the One Show. Good job I had my game face on.

A safety card from a plane.

Hear more from Sheri about Frameworker days.

Darren has left The Frameworks.


  • Frameworker days
  • Air travel
  • Fear