Confession time! I used to be a nervous flyer.
Despite growing up in a family that nurtured hobbyist and professional pilots — I have fond memories of flights in a little Cessna my uncle and grandfather shared — one bad experience was enough to spook me for years.
A terrifyingly turbulent flight between Toronto and Chicago at age 20 left me so shaken I started having anxiety attacks every time I boarded a plane. A big piece of my recovery was learning from family members about how airplanes and air traffic work.
But what if you’re an anxious passenger without a connection to the industry? Who can you talk to?
A new service lets you call up a pro pilot and get answers straight from an expert. Fittingly, it’s called Dial A Pilot.
A pilot named Kyle, who has flown for a major airline for more than a decade, came up with the idea after frequent chats with his sister-in-law about her flight fears.
“She would always call me before her flights,” Kyle told Travel and Leisure. “And we would talk about the turbulence. We talked about airplanes and the best times of day to fly. We talked about what the noises were.”
A conversation with a fellow pilot set the service in motion, as Kyle soon realized he wasn’t the only pilot helping family members out in this way.
Here’s how Dial a Pilot works: For $50, you can schedule a 15-minute call with a real pilot and unload your fears. Simply provide your contact information and schedule a time. The pilot will answer whatever questions you have about flying, from the physics of flight to on-the-ground protocols. Kyle says the most common calls involve turbulence and engine failure.
The pilot on the line can also discuss conditions along your individual route, system-wide delays, different plane models and specific fears you may have.
You can also check the company’s TikTok for quick answers to common questions. Here’s one about the definition of “stall”:
Like one of my coping methods back in the day (listening to air traffic control on the airline’s free radio system), talking to a pilot demonstrates that these folks are knowledgeable professionals who take their jobs seriously. They don’t want an accident any more than you do.
It’s also reassuring to chat with someone who experiences flight as a routine task, ordinary as a trip to the grocery store.
Take it from me, a former fraidy-flyer: The more you know about flight, the less frightening it is. Learn about those mysterious bumps and weird noises and you’ll soon be cleared for takeoff.