Quickly dawned the day of my flight - I was terrified. Walking into the departure lounge past security felt like I was entering a different world. In what seemed like no time at all I was on the plane, a Boeing 767-300ER listening intently to the safety instructions, and then the doors were locked.
Panic was all over my face as my wife held my hand tightly, SHWOOOSH we were up OHHHHH S---. The next thing I can remember we were at 6500 ft and the seat belt sign had gone off. I remember thinking to myself "well there is nothing I can do now, "I am in it for the long haul" excuse the pun!
The day of the flight...
The following video is an actual take off from Manchester to Orlando shot in 2000. Aircraft is a Boeing 767-300ER
The flight across was great, and seemed to take no time at all. The first 4 hours are really boring though as you are flying over the Atlantic Ocean so there is NOTHING to see. As you make your way down the Eastern Coast of the U.S.A though you really can start to make out different cities like Boston and New York.
About an hour before arriving in Florida, the plane becomes a hive of activity as everyone including the cabin crew serve the last drinks of the flight and prepare for landing.
The following video is an actual landing into Orlando Sanford from Manchester in 2004. Aircraft is an Airbus A330-200
As we were coming in to land, I said to my wife "I am not going to like this part am I"
, Nope came the reply, and then the plane dropped sharply 3 times ------ then the reassuring voice of a stewardess came over the tannoy and said this was normal.
I was down and in Florida, all the fear and emotions were quickly replaced with euphoria, I was there and was going to enjoy myself. I felt like getting off the plane and doing a "Pope" by kissing the ground.
The flight back home...
After my two enjoyable weeks in the Sunshine State, it was time to come home, and again I was terrified, but with a new resignation that if I was to get back home there was only one way, I was going to do it. Little did I know what was in store for me. No sooner had we got up in the air, the turbulence started, this was the first time that I had encountered real turbulence. I won't go into all the UP'S and DOWN'S but suffice to say it was horrendous, 7½ hours of a complete nightmare. When we landed, I wanted to kill the pilot as I could not understand why he did not fly above, below or around it. I vowed never to fly again.
Sometime later I decide to reflect on my first aviation experience and to research what turbulence actually was. What I could not get out of my mind was the fact that the plane never really seemed to be in danger and that was rather comforting. I got a book on turbulence and read it front to back and it gave me a better understanding of how a pilot deals with it. Although I was living a nightmare, a pilot's life is confronted with turbulence very often. This led me to the conclusion that they would not fly if they did not think it was safe.
I have now flown many, many more times and better understand my fear of flying. It's not the thought of dying that bothers me, it's the fact that I am not in control of my own destiny, I suppose I am a bit of a control freak. I still don't like flying but I really enjoy it when I am up there. I have even flown really small planes that only seat 59 people and have propellers. I have also piloted a 72-year-old Waco Bi-Plane even though it was for a very short time.
I still to this day have my ritual of visiting the The Airport Hotel at Manchester Airport (ANORAK) and have seen some incidents there, but it has still not deterred me from flying again.
I have a saying that I keep saying to myself: - "If I want to keep holidaying in Florida I have to fly", there is no afterthought, the idea of not visiting Florida frightens me more than flying itself.
Contact your airline and find out what they will do to help you. All the airlines that I have flown with are more than happy to assist in any way they can.