Flight simulator helps conquer fear of flying

Avatar for James CarelessBy James Careless | April 24, 2015

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 49 seconds.

uFly is seeing a steady stream of fearful fliers booking its B777 simulator, and putting their fears to rest. ufly Photo
According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, six and a half per cent of the general population is so afraid of flying that their fear qualifies as a phobia, and 40 per cent of people report feeling some degree of anxiety about taking a flight. 
Claudio Teixiera has developed a unique therapy to combat this fear. Tiexiera owns and operates a Boeing 777-200 LR flight simulator as part of uFly, a rent-to-use flight simulation company located near Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont. Fearful fliers are invited to enter the simulator, alongside an experienced pilot, to see for themselves how safe and controlled airline travel is. 
“People who are afraid of flying usually have no idea what takes place in the cockpit,” said Teixiera. “Putting them in the cockpit alongside a trained pilot lets them experience just how safe and organized modern air travel is. Once they see the process in action, including the various safety systems, and understand what the noises that occur during flight actually mean, their fear subsides.” 
uFly’s “Fear of Flying Course” starts with the customer being questioned about their specific fears, so that the pilot can have a sense of what issues need to be dealt with. In the second session, the pilot/instructor teaches the customers about the mechanics of flying and how turbulence, lightning and other frightening scenarios are dealt with. In the third session, the customer flies the B777 simulator alongside the pilot/instructor, learns to cope with abnormal flying conditions, and sees firsthand how safe modern aircraft actually are.
The “Fear of Flying Course” is the latest addition to the company’s package of simulation programs. A one-hour “Student Pilot Package” gives customers the chance to experience takeoffs and landings at the world’s most challenging airports. Those who are computer simulation enthusiasts or “virtual pilots,” can even connect to their favourite approaches in the B777 simulator via the Internet, with the pilot instructor providing tips and guidance. 
uFly’s two hour sim package adds a cross-country element to the B777 simulation experience. The three hour packages offer in-depth pilot briefings and the chance to fly flights to challenging airports such as St. Maarten’s beachfront runway, Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak airport (this author will never forget standing outside on Kai Tak’s tarmac as a B747 approached in a seemingly too-close tight bank turn), and Innsbruck in the windswept Swiss Alps. The four-hour sim package can expand the above missions, or have the customer plan their own.
Claudio Teixiera and partner Gabriel Da Silva opened uFly in October 2013. Texiera founded uFly after having a substandard experience in another company’s publicly-accessible simulator.
“I’ve been a virtual pilot for 20 years,” he says. Teixiera’s wife was fed up with his extensive flight simulator library and equipment taking up space at home, so he describes uFly as a “profit-oriented business/hobby.” 
Although Teixiera won’t say if uFly is making money or not, the fact that his company is adding a Boeing 737 NG simulator to complement the B777 sim speaks volumes.
Meanwhile, uFly is seeing a steady stream of fearful fliers booking its B777 simulator, and putting their fears to rest. Some feel reassured after they see what actually happens on the flight deck. Others relax after learning that the reason the cabin’s air conditioners cutout during engine startup is not because the aircraft is broken, but simply due to the engines requiring all available power at that time.
“There’s nothing like seeing what happens in the cockpit to help people conquer their fears,” says Claudio Teixiera. “Getting them into our B777 simulator helps people do just that.”

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