Karen Anderson used to enjoy hopping on a plane to visit relatives in Florida or to meet up with friends for vacation.

Not anymore.

"I'm terrified of flying," the Blacklick resident said.

Her attitude adjustment was the result of a bad experience several years ago on what started as a routine trip to see her family in the Sunshine State.

The flight arrived during bad weather, forcing the plane to circle the airport.

"We hit an air pocket where it felt like we dropped 10 feet," Anderson recalled. "We probably only dropped a couple of inches. To me, it felt like we were falling out of the sky."

During the 45 minutes of circling, Anderson couldn't shake the dread of another terrifying plunge.

When Anderson learned last year that officials at John Glenn Columbus International Airport were offering a free workshop for people anxious about flying, she signed up.

"Facing Takeoff" will be offered for a third time from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 26 at the airport, in a partnership of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, Nationwide Children's Hospital, the Ohio State University Center for Aviation Studies and Southwest Airlines.

Anderson recommended the program to others who find themselves in her situation.

"It was helpful," she said. "One of the instructors was a pilot who talked about his thousands of hours of flight experience and all the things he's done."

Anderson also found comfort in videos that showed how much an airplane's wings can twist and bend in withstanding the worst kind of turbulence and demonstrated just how many backup systems exist in modern aircraft.

"They did have this one video ... when you do hit turbulence, imagine yourself on a raft in the ocean and hitting those waves, that feeling," Anderson said. "I've used that technique."

The course will teach the mechanics of flights and skills for managing anxiety, and those who attend will tour the airport, including security checkpoints and, if available, an aircraft.

"We're not going to cure anybody," said Mark Mulchaey, manager of customer services at the airport authority. "The goal is to provide basic information: what makes an airplane fly, what are some of the sounds you're going to hear during a flight. I call them a little bit of a higher-level overview of a person's potential journey.

"It's more a kind of tip-of-the-iceberg kind of thing."

The workshop is open to anyone ages 10 and older. Those younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Space is limited in the Aug. 26 workshop to around 15 people.

"Our rule is to make sure the class is intimate enough that everyone gets a high level of service and individual attention," Mulchaey said. "We purposely try to keep the class sizes smaller."

The deadline for registration is Aug. 21. For more information or to register, call the airport authority's customer service coordinator, Barb Varga, at 614-239-4006 or email her at bvarga@columbusairports. com.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1