Monday, 19 November 2012


Will Kuilder, pictured above is a Dutch / Canadian airline captain who a number of years ago cured my fear of flying.

Wim and his beautiful partner Sharon were in Northern Ireland for a summer working for a Canadian airline which had a summer contract to fly UK holiday makers to various holiday destinations. While in Northern Ireland Wim and Sharon decided to get married and granted me the privilege of being their wedding celebrant. They were married at the TEMPLE OF THE WINDS overlooking Strangford Lough, County Down in Northern Ireland which was built in 1785


Afterwards they had their wedding reception at a friends house in Holywood, County Down.

On the day of the wedding I had confessed to Wim that I was afraid of flying and with a twinkle in his eye he said: "Maybe I can help you with that one".

A few weeks later Wim invited me to join him at Belfast International Airport at 8.30 in the morning. He was taking a lovely new AIRBUS plane to Reus in Spain - empty - and flying back to Belfast with a full plane load of Northern Ireland holiday makers. 

On the morning of the flight I joined Captaim Wim as he conducted the pre flight external check of the airplane and then I joined him and his co-pilot in the cockpit for the outward and return flights to Spain. It was an exhilirating experience and during my six hour presence in the cockpit I came to fully understand how wonderful and safe that flying really is. 

My fear of flying was focused on my fear of turbulence. A colleague of Wim's pointed out to me something I never knew and really took away my fear of turbulence. He explained: "The wings of an airplane can bend 12 feet in either direction before they break. When you look out and see the wings shivering 2 or 3 inches just think of a birds wing flapping calmly in the air". 

After the return flight and that knowledge about wings my fears of flying evaporated completely. This year I did two 12 hour return flights from London to Capetown without a worry in the world.  

Nowadays, since 9/11 Wim would not have been able to bring me flying with him the way he did then. But many airlines conduct courses in simulators for passengers with a fear of flying. I would encourage anyone with a fear of flying to do such a course.

Its like everything else in life - we generally fear the things we don't understand. The one face to get rid of a fear is to face it down.

My friendship with Wim and Sharon has grown over the years and we meet when we can in spite of having the Atlantic ocean between us.

Wim is a very experience pilot. He started off his career flying in the Durch Airforce. Then he moved to the Canadian Airforce. For a while he flew Canadian Government jets and has a vast experience in flying commercial planes. His son Tom is also an airline captain. 

I will always be grateful to Wim for taking away my irrational fear of flying. Thank you Wim :-)

Bishop Pat Buckley

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