Kevin Pilley offers tips on coping while circling in airspace.

There are only so many times you can look out of a plane and say: "I love the Auckland isthmus!"

And swoon: "Isn't Papakura especially delightful from the air?"

There are only so many times you can try to convince yourself you are not going insane by thinking — but not saying out loud: "Aren't modern-day flight management systems wonderful?"

And: "Aren't I privileged to experience one of the wonders of the world — Flamboro Heights from 3000m?"


Before you sink your teeth into the armrest. Or self-mutilate with a plastic fork. And give the flight attendant the pursed-lipped, red-faced, "What's going on? Why aren't we landing?" fury stare.

"HPA" is a very common condition.

As long as I can remember I've suffered from "Holding Pattern Anxiety".

I'm not scared of flying. I'm not one of those men whose testicles automatically pull up when the undercarriage goes up or comes down.

I just like landing when I'm meant to land. And I like getting home. I don't enjoy being suspended in limbo and disbelief above Auckland.

Or anywhere.

I have had some bad times over Herne Bay. I have told it where to go a few times. It is one of the rings of purgatory. I have known karma almost getting to Christchurch.

Does anyone enjoy holding patterns? I get very het up when I'm stacked up. And an eight-hour flight becomes a nine-hour one. And the co-pilot keeps on saying, "And if you look on your starboard side, you will see Blockhouse Bay."


For the sixth time.

I try not to catastrophise the situation. Or awful-ise things. I try to submit passively to circumstances. I try to relax and resign myself to the will of the air traffic controller. I try not to flip. It's important to rise above holding patterns.

If you're a fellow HPA sufferer, here are some stress-busting tips which may help reduce your anxiety levels.

Accustom your body to feelings of being trapped and persecuted. At home, practise sitting in the same seat for far too long. Maybe sandwiched between silent people who irritate you. Your family will do.

Simulate a holding pattern by staring out of a window and swearing at clouds.

Relax. Take your mind off your predicament. Try in-flight gardening. Plant up that pocket in front of you. Make an attractive display that will give you colour until you have disembarked. I always carry a trowel and a tray of lobelia plugs on long flights.

Indulge in some good old-fashioned schadenfreude. You can carry it on board. Delight in the misery of others.

Look over at the chinless suit with the briefcase full of innovative ideas for market enhancement penetration and other cost-effective solutions to today's ballsed-up business environment. Tease him about missing his connection to Seoul.

Pay attention to your breathing. Good air. Bad air. Your feet. His feet. Her cheap musk.

Stroke an imaginary cat. But ensure it's on your lap.

Access past pleasures. But limit the grunting.

Tap into positive memories. Like the time you arrived early somewhere once. Convert your peanuts into worry beads. Eat your stress away.

Music therapy. If you cannot listen, make your own. Blow across the top of your wine bottle or beer can and compose a time-killing, catchy masterpiece. Refrain from practising drum solos on the baldy in front. Imagine you're a Brownie and begin to love the world again.

Imagine the aircraft cabin as a garden of contemplation in a Tibetan monastery. Be a lama about the situation. This is easy if you've already pulled out all your hair circling Spencerville.

Imagine living in Barrington. With all those noisy planes queuing up over it all the time.
Be stoical. Take your mind off what is. Forget what ought to be. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you. They may have further to go than you.

Hold it in.