The Fear of Flying Clinic is a non-profit support organization founded and operated by experienced aviation industry professionals, as well as top-notch support therapists, who volunteer their time and expertise in classes held several times a year. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, participants come from every corner of California to attend our course, most of which is held at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO)—and all of which offers rare access to life-changing corrective facts about flight mechanics, operational procedures and established safety protocols, as well as empowering cognitive behavioral tools to help you move past the paralysis of fear.
Our mission is to inform you about all aspects of aviation and replace your fears with solid beliefs. We utilize a two-pronged approach: education plus behavioral change.
The Fear of Flying Clinic is about facts and education. Phobia, by definition, is predicated on perceived threat versus actual threat. We work to debunk misinformation about commercial aviation by putting you in direct conversation with knowledgeable aviation experts, providing behind-the-scenes airport facility access, and giving you tailored support with a top behavioral therapist. Every class is a safe space where participants can confide their biggest fears—without shame or worry of ridicule—ask questions related to their specific anxieties, and get an education on the real facts from credentialed insiders with decades of aviation experience. We work to tackle bad information and fear-based assumptions head-on.
The Clinic was co-founded in 1976 in San Mateo, California, by Fran Grant and Jeanne McElhatton, both licensed pilots and passionate fliers. At first, ambitions were modest: Fran wanted to get her husband, a fearful flier, on a plane to Australia—she was willing to travel by ship one way, but not both ways. They assembled a small group of other fearful fliers and got to work. By the completion of this first-ever Clinic, Fran's husband was so comfortable on a plane that he slept straight through the turbulence that used to terrify him. As these encouraging early results continued with each subsequent Clinic, Fran and Jeanne soon realized: not only did the Clinic model work, but FOFC could be a catalyst for change in the lives of countless others.
In the nearly 40 years since its inception, the Fear of Flying Clinic has become the clear and established leader in the field—and steadfastly maintained its status as a non-profit. Our team of aviation experts, therapists, and volunteers do this work in order to change lives. That is our clear and enduring goal.
Our Approach and Why It Works
Education: Our high success rate can be credited to the fundamental understanding that people are not "crazy” for admitting their fears about flying, not "alone" in feeling helpless or panicked in the sky. We appreciate that fear of flying is completely understandable, natural and extremely common—but also that it thrives on misinformation. Most people don’t have much concrete knowledge about the basic principles of aerodynamics, the statistically-vetted safety of commercial air travel, the physics of take-off and landing, or the standard safeguards implemented in inclement weather. That's where the FOFC team steps in. A group of highly skilled and caring aviation expert presenters—commercial pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers—sit down with you to impart first-hand knowledge about their profession and the rigors of aviation safety. As it relates to educating with facts, the Fear of Flying Clinic is essentially a school for surety: the Clinic tackles commercial aviation protocols one-by-one, breaking each down, empowering and demystifying.
Behavioral change: We tailor our approach to our clients' specific struggles and triggers. For some people, their fear of flying has developed slowly and insidiously over time, eventually ballooning into a fear so big, so terrifying, that they feel they can no longer fly at all. Others grapple with persistent, gutting anxiety but fly anyway—panicked, miserable, even self-medicating in an attempt to manage the overwhelming stress of it all. Many others who were once calm and confident fliers find themselves suddenly—after a negative experience in flight, or a triggering life event—newly and irrevocably fearful in the skies. In other words: there are no absolutes or right or wrong scenarios here. Most fearful fliers need help in the form of education, guidance, and a new set of cognitive tools. The Fear of Flying Clinic provides this within a framework of trust and support.
In addition to the wealth of technical information, our classes also become a self-examination of your fears about flying. Our clients' success is a direct result of the application of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tools, combined with evidence-based education.