I’ve had a mild fear of flying most of my life. To help deal with my anxiety on flights, I’ve used cognitive behavioral therapy to rationalize my thoughts and performed various breathing techniques to help relax my body during flight.

Part of my fear of flying has stemmed from simply being out of control. On a commercial plane, your role is to just sit there, the flight itself is nearly completely out of your control. As a person with a very active mind, this isn’t completely comfortable.

The second part of my fear has been from a lack of technical understanding about how planes work and how pilots operate. I didn’t really understand what went into a plane flight. I didn’t understand what redundancies were in place. I didn’t understand what information was known or unknown to the pilots. I didn’t know how much training and retraining a pilot went through.

Over the past year I have inadventantly reduced a lot of my fear of flight through learning more about what it is like to be a pilot using Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I was drawn to MSFS2020 because of it’s incredible graphics and support for VR. Little did I know how much I would learn about controlled flight as a result.

Some things that made a huge impact on me were: reading though and performing the pre-flight checklists, sitting in the cockpit of a 737 MAX and seeing the incredible amount of data and support systems available to a pilot, and learning about pilot radio communications.

I started with very small planes, and slowly worked my way up to quite complex flights. I even attempted to virtually track a flight my wife was taking in real time to get a sense of what it would be like to fly an actual commercial flight.

Now when I am on an actual flight and I see the flaps open up when landing I know what their purpose is. When the pilot holds an altitude after takeoff I know they are waiting on clearance from the next tower to ascend to their cruising altitude. When I hear the cabin communication sound, I have a sense of why the pilots would want to alert the cabin.

Playing MSFS2020 has taught me a lot about flight. So much of my fear of flying was because I assumed the worst about what I didn’t understand. Having more understanding and knowledge about flight really helps reduce my anxiety while in the air. It’s also just a really fun game.