Home » Fear of flying: Training at the airport in Düsseldorf – Rhineland – News

Fear of flying: Training at the airport in Düsseldorf – Rhineland – News

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Fear of flying: Training at the airport in Düsseldorf – Rhineland – News

Excited murmurs can be heard. At the beginning, participants receive a large envelope with documents and their boarding pass. Because even if it’s a training session today – you’ll still be flying and that needs to be practiced too. To do this, the participants will board a real plane that has been chartered especially for this purpose.

Learn to understand reasons for fear

Dr. André Wannemüller is a psychological psychotherapist at the University of Bochum and leads the training. “Thank you for having the courage to be here,” he greets the participants. “I imagine you were constantly checking the weather forecast.” Nervous laughter gives him approval.

The psychotherapist explains what fear is and why it exists. It protects us in situations where there is a threat. Physical reactions such as heart palpitations or sweating are also completely normal and not dangerous in healthy people.

Data is collected

The participants all have to fill out a short questionnaire for the first time that day. They also have to provide the first of five saliva samples. This is used to measure cortisol levels in order to accurately determine the participants’ stress levels. The data will later be evaluated at the University of Bochum in order to research anxiety disorders in more detail.

Panic when getting in

And then we head towards the terminal. The participants get together in groups of five and are each assigned a therapist who will look after them for the next few hours and also during the flight. Mark Neuper is not yet sure whether he will get on the plane today. He attended training a year ago and couldn’t bring himself to join in. But he also wants to finally face his fear.

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Shortly before starting, many people became aware of the seriousness of the situation: some of the participants cried, others masked their fear. When you arrive on the plane, everyone is greeted by a stewardess. If you want, you can take a look at the cockpit. Christian Pittelkau seizes the opportunity and asks the pilot questions about how the plane works.

Shortly before the doors close, a few participants decide not to fly. The others remain seated. A stewardess explains that the flight route today will lead from Düsseldorf to Heligoland and back and gives the safety introduction: life jackets under the seat, oxygen mask comes from above in an emergency. Everything, like a normal flight.

After the start, most people are more relaxed

Then the machine takes off. The takeoff is difficult for most people – because in this phase of the flight it is relatively loud and it shakes. Many participants cry, the therapists calm their patients. And as soon as the seat belt signs no longer light up and the start is officially over, the mood becomes noticeably more relaxed.

“That feeling when taking off scared me to some extent, but then it turned into euphoria to finally be in the air,” says Christian Pittelkau. “This is a milestone for me, I’m very proud.” He made it and can enjoy the rest of the flight. When the plane is over the North Sea, after a short announcement the landing flaps are extended and retracted. This is to show everyone on board what this sounds like and that this noise is completely normal.

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Facts and sharing with others help

More and more passengers are daring to stand up. They swap places so that everyone sits on the aisle and at the window. Even looking out the window is a challenge for some.

What helps them overcome their fear varies – they talk about that afterwards. For some it was the feeling that everyone else on the plane was also struggling with the same problems and no one had to be ashamed when the tears came. For others it was the conversation with pilot Elena Reuter, who explained everything about turbulence or lightning strikes. “She said that the crew also wanted to land safely again. Sounds simple, but that made it clear to me that everyone takes the safety checks really seriously,” says one participant.

Mark Neuper has also faced his fears and is happy to finally be sitting on a plane – for the first time in his life. “You think a lot in advance about what could happen. But I did it and I’m really proud.”

After landing, everyone on the plane claps: But not just for the pilot and the crew, as usual, but above all for themselves. In a row, two participants high-five each other, others hug each other. They all faced their fears.

WDR will also report on this topic on television on March 4th, 2024: WDR Lokalzeit off Düsseldorf19:30 o’clock.

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