I have been shooting aerial photography for nearly 20 years so it is hard to believe I once had a pathological fear of flying. When my wife Gay suggested we take a holiday I would spend the next 6 months worrying about the flight. When I was on holiday I would spend the 2 weeks worrying about the return flight. During a flight I would watch the stewards for any sign of panic as they would obviously know if there was a mechanical problem. When I wasn't observing the stewards I would keep a close eye on the wings to make sure they weren't coming loose. I always kept my shoes on even during long haul flights because if we crashed and I survived I would be able to walk from the wreckage and trek across the jungle to safety. Totally absurd I know but when you have a phobia it is completely irrational and there is nothing anyone can say or do to help.
Luckily this fear was never bad enough to prevent me actually getting on a plane but it was still an incredible ordeal for me. My fear peaked during a flight from Thailand when I suffered a collapsed lung and nearly died. The Romanian stewards were particularly useless, one shrugged her shoulders when Gay asked for help and another gave me a headache tablet as I gasped for air. I now have one-third of a lung permanently deflated but it hasn't prevented me from flying.
The unexpected turning point for my phobia was when I turned professional in 2000 and I had requests for aerial photographs. I didn't want to fly in a helicopter but I really didn’t want to turn down work either. At the same time I had the opportunity to shoot weddings in Majorca and I had never flown alone before. I chose to have a go and I soon began flying regularly and with it my fear gradually subsided. Eventually it disappeared altogether and I now love it. Strange to think I often fly with the helicopter door off or I open it mid flight and sit side on with my legs hanging out which is a great laugh.