EASTON, Conn. ‒ A retired Easton airline pilot and licensed therapist has combined the two disciplines to create a business that fights fear of flying.
Tom Bunn flew fighter planes in the Air Force and commercial jets for Pan Am. As a therapist, he has developed techniques to treat the fear of flying for his business, SOAR. He said one of every three people has this phobia, and it prevents half of them from flying.
His website, www.fearofflying.com, provides free information to help flight phobics. He also sells video and DVD programs for more severe cases and offers live phone counseling. Videos and DVDs range from $125 to $595.
Bunn said fear of flying results from anxiety. “People have panic attacks, and if they have trouble with them on the ground, they’ll have more trouble on the plane because they have no control. They’re concerned with their emotional and physical safety.”
His program starts by explaining that flying is safe. “There have been no accidents on major airlines in the past 10 years," he said. "They’re much safer. But people still have trouble because they’re not in control.”
Bunn’s program helps people produce oxytocin, a hormone that shuts down the fear system. “We train the mind not to produce stress by feeling a moment in their life when a relationship shut down the fear system,” he said. The moment may be when a woman was breast-feeding or when an individual found a potential lover. “It’s built into our genetics,” Bunn said. “It’s a thought redirection, so the moment a panic attack takes place on a plane they can trigger the hormone.”
Previous fear of flying therapy offered relaxation exercises “that work on the ground but not in flight,” Bunn said. His program focuses on psychotherapy to eliminate the stress associated with fear of flying.
Bunn's patients can also participate in chat rooms on Wednesday evenings from 9 to 11 p.m Eastern time.