Astoria comic fights his flight response to air travel

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An Astoria comedian is combatting his fear of flying by spending an entire month aboard a commercial airplane, taking hundreds of flights across the United States and sleeping on the empty craft at night.

Mark Malkoff, a comedian, writer and filmmaker from Astoria, boarded the first flight of his journey Monday, traveling from LaGuardia Airport to Atlanta and then on to San Francisco. Through the end of the month, Malkoff will film his adventures on the Airtran plane and post them on the Web site markonairtran.com.

“I have a genuine fear of flying,” he said. “There’s nothing rational about my fear. But I feel if I trap myself on a plane for a month, then I can conquer it. There’s no turning back.”

The airline has agreed to host Malkoff’s video project for free, which will also include his meals. He said he will attempt to stay on the same plane as much as possible, but may be forced to transfer to connecting flights a few times before the end of the month.

Malkoff’s goal is to ride from six to 12 flights a day, adding up to a total 150 to 200 flights. At night, he will either sleep in the plane’s seats or in an overhead storage bin.

“I have a lot of hand sanitizer,” he said. “I’m not showering for a month, but I want to smell good. I contacted NASA and they gave me some hints on how to stay clean.”

Malkoff’s biggest concern, however, is the potential physical effect of staying seated on flights for 30 days.

“I asked my doctor about this, whether there were any health risks, and he said, ‘No,’” he said. “But I’ll need to stretch and walk around the plane. Maybe I’ll do some push−ups, sit−ups or teach myself yoga. Anything to keep the circulation going.”

Some of his destinations include Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C. His wife, Christine, will join him for the day June 4 to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Airtran has allowed Malkoff to film his daily routine at all times except for each plane’s takeoff and landing.

“They have a sense of humor, obviously,” he said. “I don’t think many other airlines would go for this. I’ll probably be able to fly for life on my frequent flyer miles after this.”

The monthlong trip is not Malkoff’s first Web−based stunt. In 2007, he made a video diary of his visits to all 171 Starbucks chain stores in Manhattan during the course of a single day and last year he filmed his weeklong stay at the Paramus, N.J., IKEA store, which hosted him as his Queens apartment was being fumigated.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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