Alex Gervash always dreamed of being a pilot.
“When I was a twenty-year-old boy, instead of going to school, I went to the airport and sat there for hours, just looking at the aeroplanes landing and taking off,” he told INSIDER.
Not everyone shares Gervash’s enthusiasm. About one in three people suffer from aerophobia, the fear of flying, and an additional 10 to 15% of people experience some level anxiety or psychological discomfort during air travel.
To help ease these fears, Gervash and Tatik Labs developed SkyGuru, an app that guides passengers through flights with aviation data and explanations in real time.
Gervash grew up in Moscow and moved to Israel when he was 16, where he studied psychology. He didn’t pursue it, opting instead to obtain his pilot’s licence. He then combined the two fields by creating Fearless Flying — classes to help nervous flyers. After 22 years as a pilot and eight years of teaching courses, he saw that there was still a need for constant in-flight reassurance.
“When you have very high levels of stress hormones, you cannot think, you cannot recall anything you’ve learned,” he said. “What is necessary in that case is just a lot of support, a lot of knowledge, and a lot of assurance that everything is good, and everything is as expected.”
The app uses a phone’s built-in sensors — the microphone, gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, and barmoter, to name a few — to analyse and explain what is happening during a flight, from turbulence to noises during takeoff and landing.
Gervash faced “a lot of technological issues and challenges” while developing SkyGuru, which operates in aeroplane mode without the internet or a GPS signal by using algorithms and mathematical models. What he thought would take three months to complete instead took a year and a half. But 300 test flights later, he said the reviews have been mostly positive.
“We help people to love aviation and to learn to control themselves, rather than to try to control the aircraft,” he said. “Modern aviation is a beautiful system.”
SkyGuru is available on iOS in English, Hebrew, and Russian for $6.99 (the price will go up to $19.99 after September 15th). There are also subscription packages for one flight ($3.99), three flights ($9.99), or 10 flights ($16.99).
When asked if he ever was afraid of flying himself, he chuckled.
“Oh no,” he said, “I’m afraid not to fly!”
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