Mr Riley, a Virgin Atlantic pilot, is one of a team of people who help would-be passengers overcome their phobia on courses run by Flying Without Fear.
Richard Conway set up the organisation after overcoming the fear of flying himself. "I couldn't even say the word 'aircraft' let alone look at one", he said. "So I did Centre Parks and Cornwall to death. I knew I had to conquer my fear of flying or I would be stuck on this island of ours for ever."
The firm has run its courses for seven years and claims a 95 per cent success rate. It provides ground training, which includes an explanation of the physics of flying and the strange noises an aircraft makes. Then the course-goers take off for a short flight.
On a recent flight from Manchester, Mr Riley was all smiles and calm encouragement as the pilot gave a running commentary. "What's this noise?"
he asked, as another strange noise was heard. "Flaps!", everyone shouted, in unison.