Last weekend Bob and Susan McIlroy of Charlotte planned a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Bob flew. Susan drove.
"Just talking about flying gets me nauseated," Susan says. "Every time we take a trip I'm on the phone to Amtrak or the bus station - any way to avoid flying."About 25 million Americans - one in six - share Susan McIlroy's terror. But this spring, 50 people will have a crack at beating their flying phobia through a USAir course to be offered in Charlotte for the first time.
The Arlington, Va.-based airline, which launched its programs for fearful fliers 15 years ago, has added Charlotte, USAir's largest hub following its merger with Piedmont Airlines, to the list of cities where the course will be offered regularly.
The seven-session course, which will meet Tuesdays at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport beginning May 22, treats fliers through stress management and aviation education. Carol Stauffer, a clinical social worker, and Frank Petee, a 40-year USAir pilot, lead the course.
Students spend four sessions on a plane on the ground to become more comfortable. The course includes a bolt down the runway to help fliers cope with the sensation of takeoffs and landings, often the hardest part of flying for those who fear it. Finally, fliers take a graduation flight to use what they've learned.
As flying becomes more critical to doing business, fearful fliers face greater pressures. Most don't cope correctly with their phobia, psychologists say.