Retired Air Force Pilot Helps People Overcome Fear of Flying

Capt. Ron Nielson, aka "the plane whisperer," hosts classes to help people get over their anxiety.
6:15 | 07/17/14

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Transcript for Retired Air Force Pilot Helps People Overcome Fear of Flying
For people with the fear of flying, the headline hit home today -- 20 people injured after severe turbulence on a plane carrying 165 passengers. For some, just boarding a plane can be a near-death experience. But tonight we found a man who promises and often delivers relief from those fears. They call him the plane wh whisperer. For many, flying on a plane is a terrifying experience. Oh, my god, you guys, oh, my god. 35 years. But then the mere thought of being trapped in a plane 30,000 feet in the air, pure white knuckle chest thumping I can barely breathe fear like in this documentary "Fear of flying" caught on camera. And that's why these men and women are here. This retired air force pilot is the plane whisperer for those deathly afraid of flying. This is captain Ron Nielsen's class at sky harbor international airport. They have one week to overcome a life of saanxiety and for what if more is a deep fear of plane it's estimated 20% of all flyers have some degree of fear. For this group it's moderate to severe. That's despite knowing the Numbers. Your chances of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 60 million no matter how frequently you fly. But Hollywood has made a profit off of people's fears for a generation. Blockbuster movies like "Flight." For some reason my brain attacks my body. It tells me I'm going to do. Sue is a member of a rock band by night and weekends. This mother of three with an'm bay is fearless in most phases of her life but put her on an airplane -- Sometime I jump up and go to flight attendant and say "I'm scared" scared". So get on and pretend like you own the thing. This is the fourth time she's taken captain Ron's class. Shell face her anxiety head on. They do a walk through aboard a plane they've been reassured won't take off. How about a big cheer for all of us who made it? Information, the captain tells them, is key to overcoming fear. What I find for most people is the first thing they need to do is give themselves permission to be afraid. Easier said than done. In seven days, they'll go from a classroom to a real flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California, and back home. Sue will be taking a different flight, to Las Vegas. No no matter what it takes, I'm going to keep putting myself in that plane and if I embarrass myself, so be it. It's Saturday morning, we're at Phoenix airport, it's the third and final stage. Call it graduation day. But who will pass. I need to accomplish this task. This is something I've put off for a long time. Ross Mcginley's fear of flying kept him from attending his own parents' burial. Why didn't I go? I should have gone, etc., etc. It's painful, this fear. Very painful. Very painful. It's shameful. Shameful why? Everybody seems to do it so effortlessly. He hasn't flown in 35 years. I want to take care of my panic attack. For classmate Jessica it will take a team, her, her husband and her children. She's never flown before. Captain Ron gives them tips, distractions like a book or mun take your mind off of anxiety, and breathe. Go past the food court, grab a drinking straw, get on the airplane and restrict your breathing through the straw. If you can control your breathing for the first two minutes of flight you've got 90% of the battle lick ed. How about over here? Who's going to hold me? Oh, my god. Jessica forgot her straw. Oh, many I god! Oh, my god, oh, my god! She took a pill to take the edge off. Are we okay? Are we good? Are we done? Close the window. What happens when you take that much medication? I didn't take a lot. She only took one. I know but what happens is then you end up inducing anxiety in yourself, okay? Captain Nielsen says no alcohol or drugs unless prescribed by a physician. Self-medication, he says, might only add to your anxiety. It's a crack open. When you focus on anything -- the thing you should be focussing on is you. I know, but I don't want to die. Minutes later, much to our surprise, Jessica is calm. Actually enjoying herself. It wasn't as bad as I thought. I think maybe this is my first time flying so just getting over that hurdle. It's actually beautiful. The landing was as smooth as the flight. Jessica spoke -- or should we say screamed -- for everyone in the class. Everyone but Ross. Although he kept quiet the entire flight, he was horrified. The beginning and the end are -- I'm thinking about driving back. The anxiety overwhelming. He decided to drive back to Phoenix. Alone in a car for six hours with more regrets. More shame. But remember, it's taken sue four classes to get to this point. It wasn't easy, but she made her flight to Vegas. As for the other students -- I'd love to take credit for it but it has nothing to do with me. It's always to do with you guys. Captain Ron rewards them with a certificate. Once again you've cheated death by flying with me. But the real reward is having traveled from fearful to fearless. People who have a fear of doing this kind of stuff, they feel like they don't have control of things but you know what? I think the best part is not having the control. Not having it. Just letting it go. For flying tips straight from the plane whisperer himself, check out answer news.com/"nightline." Next, how "Happy" became

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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