The app was created by Alex Gervash, a professional pilot and founder of the Fearless Flying research and treatment center. The app aims to help passengers deal with in-flight stress by guiding them through the experience like a friend would. It even makes predictions about what is happening during the flight, particularly during the moments that cause anxiety, like turbulence.
According to researchers, more than 30 percent of people fear flying, and an additional 10 to 15 percent experience some anxiety or psychological discomfort while flying. Treatment for “aerophobia” is multifaceted. The stronger the anxiety, the higher the number of psychological barriers that must be overcome.
SkyGuru uses two approaches to help people cope with their anxiety. It fills in the blanks for passengers regarding the particular processes and events occurring during their specific flight. It also provides comforting words and moral support, especially during periods when the flight crew is otherwise occupied (at takeoff, landing, and during turbulence). The most important feature is that it provides in-flight commentary in real time. It keeps you abreast of the weather and explains how changes might affect the aircraft, and it prepares you for upcoming turbulence.
The app is initially targeted at the North American, Israeli, and European markets, and it is available in English, Hebrew, and Russian. SkyGuru users have already navigated more than 1,800 flights in over 60 countries around the world.
Users can download SkyGuru for $7 with unlimited flights and upgrades (the price will rise to $20 after September 15). After September 15, SkyGuru will also introduce a free version of the app: Every user will have access to pre-flight information, including a weather briefing and helpful recommendations to follow before you board the aircraft. The app will offer in-flight support for users who purchase one of the available subscription packages: 1 flight ($4), 3 flights ($10), and 10 flights ($17).
This app came to market through a partnership between Taktik Labs and Gervash, who has logged over 1,500 hours as a pilot and has been helping fearful fliers from across the globe for the past eight years.
Over the course of his work with anxious passengers, Gervash realized that regardless of any classes an aerophobe may have taken, what really helps in the moment is having an expert right there to offer support, calm nerves, and explain what is going on during the entire flight process.
“SkyGuru is designed to support any passenger who experiences psychological discomfort while flying,” Gervash said, in a statement. “The app helps them feel like someone is with them on the flight, watching out for them and helping them cope. SkyGuru acts like a pilot that sits next to the user and explains what is happening during the flight and what is expected next.”
SkyGuru is built on algorithms that constantly analyze data on flight circumstances and create forecasts with the help of mathematical models. These are then transformed into straightforward information and advice for the nervous passenger. To get the most accurate forecasts possible, SkyGuru uses information from previous flights and updates its weather predictions using professional aviation data. The app operates in airplane mode in-flight and confirms its forecasts using your phone’s sensors: microphone, gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, and barometer.
SkyGuru developers tested the app’s performance on more than 300 test flights, and the system went through 730 different versions. The creators, Taktik Labs and Gervash, invested $450,000 in the app’s design and development over 16 months.
“The app is a fantastic idea. It gives fearful fliers real-time explanations of what is going on and what they are feeling on the flight at any moment. This helps them feel better, gives them a feeling of [being cared for] and some degree of control,” said Kelly Otte, a pilot and aerophobia specialist at Corendon Dutch Airlines, in a statement.
Of course, the app is not the only way to deal with the fear of flying. Theresa Duringer also had a fear of flying. To cope with it, she designed a game that she can view and play with a Samsung Gear VR mobile headset. Ascension VR, based on a popular card game, is designed to distract her during long flights, and it launched recently on the Steam and Oculus VR app stores.