Learning To Deal With Reasonable Risk

17/09/2016 - Captain Bunn
Learning To Deal With Reasonable Risk

Others who work with flight anxiety base their work on telling people how safe it is. Then, when there are accidents, the clients are set back, maybe permanently.

For many belief in absolute safety doesn’t work at all. Actually, it should not work. you and I both know that planes SOMETIME crash. Problem is, how are they to know it isn’t going to be our plane. We don’t. So what do we do about that? What we try to do is take that little bit of what Tom Wolfe called in his book on astronauts and test pilots ‘The Right Stuff’ (the ability to deal with risk, and manage emotions, even if the Space Shuttle or experimental airplane appears to be about to kill you – not in imagination – but for real) and grow it enough for you to be able to deal with the very small risk that the plane you are on is going to be the one that crashes.

When I put together the DVD course, I made sure it would help anyone and everyone be able to fly. Soon we found that most people did fine with just ‘The Control of Anxiety.’ So, I stopped recommending that people buy the whole course. I didn’t want people to spend money unnecessarily.

But people who have not mastered ‘The Psychology of Flight Anxiety’ do miss out on something that can bring great personal growth: the APNR, or ‘Abstract Point of No Return’.

When I flew the F-100 in the Air Force, my training group was the first group to go through training and no one got killed. There were thirteen of us; 18 months later, there were nine of us left. Every time I walked out the one of the thirty or so F-100s sitting on the ramp, I knew some of them were bombs with the fuse already lit, and I had no way to know if the one I was assigned for that day was one of those.

So you decide. Either you are going to do it, or you are not. And when you make the commitment to do it, you make the commitment knowing it could kill you, and you are going to do it anyway. When that commitment is made irrevocably, anxiety drops away. We call this the APNR, the ‘Abstract Point of No Return’. When the door closes, you are past the point of no return, but not necessarily as the ‘author’ of the experience. You may be there as a ‘victim’. There is a total difference between being past the point of no return as a victim versus as the author (the person who intentionally causes this to be).

The APRN is not for everyone. Not everyone has enough ‘self’ to do that. But we teach it in ‘The Psychology of Flight Anxiety’.

For me, the real challenge is experiencing it as it is. There is a chance the plane will kill you. It is a small chance. Even if you stay home, you are no safer, and may well be less safe because every time you drive 5.4 miles, you have run the same risk as taking an airline flight.

So, for me to choose one or the other is to choose to bullshit people. I want the people I work with to have – at least a chance – of gaining a bit of maturity, and a bit of ‘The Right Stuff.’

Image Credit:  Sira Anamwong –