Flight Simulator cures flight fear
Woman with paralysing fear of flying to wed boyfriend in Greece after finding 'miracle' cure
Sam Hodgetts (corr), 24, was so afraid of air travel that she refused to marry boyfriend Nicholas Saad, 32, in Greece last year.
She broke out into cold sweats at the mere thought of flying, and suffered a panic attack on her first, and only, flight in 2000.
But now Sam has conquered her fear by mastering the controls - of a Boeing 737.
With the help of a flight simulator, she learned how to take off and navigate, and how to prevent the ''unthinkable'' - a crash landing.
Sam, who considers herself ''well and truly cured'' of her phobia, has finally agreed to an overseas wedding.
And incredibly, she is even considering swapping her job as a beauty therapist for an air stewardess.
Sam, from Croydon, Surrey, said: ''When I realised Nicholas wanted to fly to Greece for our wedding, I was in shock.
''I knew that I couldn't even step foot onto a plane, let alone deal with a four hour flight.
''That was when I knew something had to be done. The moment I sat in the simulator and 'took off', I was hooked. Now I'm pleased to say that I'm well and truly cured, and the wedding is back on.''
Sam's fear of flying began in her late teens when a news bulletin showed the burnt remains of a crashed jumbo.
In 2000, she took her first and only flight from Gatwick Airport to Newcastle, but broke down in tears for the 60-minute duration.
The fear grew into a full-blown phobia and reached its climax last summer, when partner Nicholas proposed in Cornwall.
''I was over the moon about the proposal, but scared stiff about flying,'' she said.
''Nicholas wanted to marry in Greece, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do it. I felt shattered.''
Rather than tie the knot in Britain, Sam ''took a stand'' and decided to confront her fears head on.
She spotted an iPILOT flight simulator at the Westfield Shopping Centre in west London, and decided to give it a go.
The simulator is based on a Boeing 737, complete with glass cockpit, instrument panels and dual controls.
It is so advanced that it can simulate faults like engine failures, and vary the weather conditions and environment.
Sam bought a one-hour 'Fear of Flying' training course and, with the help of a trained pilot sitting alongside, learned the mechanics of flying.
''It was incredible,'' she said. ''I went from being scared of flying to adoring the sensation in under an hour.
''I knew the simulator wouldn't leave the ground, and I knew I was never in danger. After three hours, all I wanted was to sit in a real plane.''
Sam has now completed two hours of pilot training, and is now so comfortable with flying that she is considering a new career as a long-haul stewardness.
She and Nicholas are also planning a romantic wedding for close family and friends on the Greek island of Crete this August.
iPILOT founder and CEO Wolfram Schleuter said: ''We are delighted to have helped Sam overcome her fears and enabling her to marry abroad.
''Over the past year we have helped many people like Sam and we are passionate about giving people the opportunity and enjoyment of piloting a plane.''
iPILOT simulators cost £49 for a 15-minute flight, or £199 for a one-hour training course. More details at www.ipilot.me