(FOX 11) - When it comes to phobias, the fear of flying is a big one. Twenty-million Americans are terrified of being locked in a plane at 35,000 feet, unable to get out.
It's a paralyzing fear that forces people to stay grounded even when they'd like to enjoy long distance travel.
"It just feels like suffocating, being in this tube, being 35,000 feet in the air and not being able to come out," says Sosi Parsegian.
For the last 15 years, Sosi has refused to fly anywhere despite her family's insistence. Her husband Armen says, "I tried many different ways to convince my wife to fly but the answer was always, no, no, no!"
Knowing her refusal to fly was unfair to her family, Sosi signed up for a 'Fearless Flight ' class at Air Hollywood in Pacoima.
It's the largest aviation film studio. It looks just like an airport. There's a terminal and a plane with a simulator. Talaat Captan, the owner of the facility figured it would be a great location for people to get over their fear of flying. "The people who are afraid of flying, have no access to an airplane because they're terrified to go in there. So, that's why it's a really good idea for them to come here and acclimate themselves into sitting on an airplane," says Captan.
The class is taught by Ron Neilsen, a retired airline pilot who happens to have a masters in counseling. He says, "Fear of flying is the perception of a life threatening situation combined with feelings of helplessness which is also the definition for trauma."
During class, Nielsen gets passengers to identify the triggers that lead to anxiety. He says many people begin to panic on the jetway and as they continue to walk into a plane, an irrational fear takes over.
"That's that one that says I'm afraid of my own fear. I'm afraid that I won't be able to handle my emotions and that's kind of separate thing to being worried about the plane crashing," says Nielsen. But somehow during a three-hour class, Nielsen manages to get his students to head over to Burbank airport, get on a real plane and finally say goodbye to their fear of flying.
Sosi, videotaped herself on the plane showing a big smile and saying, "Ok, we're doing it! We haven't taken off, but we're going to!"
Nielsen says nothing in his life has been this rewarding. He sums it up like this, "Courage is when you confront your fears and you don't have to, that's courage. You get on an airplane and you go fly, that's courage!"