Flexing Your Wings!

This week I learned of a seasoned Captain on jetBlue flight 191 bound to Las Vegas from JFK.  The Captain, during the flight, started making statements which made passengers uneasy.  Once the situation escalated, the First Officer became the Deputy Captain by simply locking the door and taking command of the aircraft.  As a result, the Captain became irate and unruly as the passengers tried to  subdue him.

I know I am not the only one to state that this, but the real-life scenario above seemed to have come straight from the novel, “Flight For Control” by Karlene Petitt.  See What Karlene Has To Say About It!

As much as commercial passengers think that pilots are God, and some pilots think they *are* God, (I personally have seen enough of them), they are… not.  We are all human beings.  We have emotions and breaking points.  We have stresses in our daily lives which keep us from being on course.  I can name personally three events within the past year where I thought I was going to break.  How am I holding myself together?  By being like the wings of a Boeing 777.


Have you seen the stress tests of the Boeing 777 wings on YouTube?  Fascinating.  Those wings go straight up to heaven when you are sitting behind them looking out the passenger’s window.  How can we take our wings and flex them so that the challenges and turbulence of life do not break us?  How do we develop this resistance?  Have we ever thought about the reason why we have these stresses are to make us stronger?  Something to think about..

Pilots represent the insignia that they wear on their uniforms, the wings.  We need a strong (aviation) industry.  We need strong pilots just like the wings of the airplanes shown on the uniforms and soared through the skies.  Pilots and non-pilots alike, let’s flex our wings to resist all of the turbulence in our lives just like the Boeing 777 so that we all can soar to new levels and inspire others to do the same.



Accomplished.  Distinguished.  Successful.  These words come to mind when I think about an individual who I stumbled upon Twitter many months back.  She really needs no introduction however, I have invited her to come up into my flight deck as she has a new hit novel out titled, “Flight For Control”

Dear Readers,
May I introduce you to

Welcome to the flight deck, Karlene!


Karlene, Aviation!  Why?  What was your driving force to say, “I’ll be the pilot!”


When I was 9 years old I was told that I couldn’t become a pilot because I was a girl. The challenge was on. I told everyone that I was going to be a pilot from that point on. I couldn’t back down. When I took that first flight, I thought “Wow, they’re going to pay me to do this?!?”
With those words, she did embark that plane with the non-stop destination to success.  Throughout her love and passion for aviation, she acquired a type-rate on seven different equipment, from the Boeing 727 to the 767, was a Senior First Officer, Check Airman, and Instructor for several different airlines.  She currently operates the Airbus Industrie A330 as a First Officer for a world renowned international carrier.  Karlene also holds master’s degrees in Business and Human Services.  Most importantly, she is a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother to a beautiful family.
Karlene recently opened a new and most important chapter in her life.  One that is not only the most important to her’s, but the lives of others. As we all know as of yesterday’s news in the aviation world, fiction just became reality and the importance has set in like stone.  This event was echoed in the launch operation of her new novel:


Of course, I had to go inside in find out the drive behind the creation of this aviation thriller:


What was your driving motivation behind your blog “Flight to Success” and what lead you to go full throttle with “Flight For Control?”


Flight to Success was something that is my passion. To help people. I love training, teaching and motivating. Helping people is what I love. I know the industry needs to be fixed and we need to take care of our employees… especially our pilots since they are caring for the lives of many. So this book creates awareness of human factors. The next will create awareness of the problem with automation and proficiency. Then the final will be when I get my Ph.D. in Aviation and solve the problem.
Inspiration for the book came from a Union captain who said, “I’d rather see them shutdown that give them anything!” At the same time I was working in the helping side of ALPA and pilots were calling often with serious personal stress. Then I went to a conference and learned that a number of pilots had committed suicide. I have worked with pilots under great deal of stress. I just had finished my Masters in Human Services and counseling. All this combined made me realize that there is a story here, that must be told.


What kind of impact do you hope “Flight For Control” will make on our industry and your readers?


Public: Create awareness of the reality in the industry, and support the crew members.

Pilots: They need to take care of themselves because the industry isn’t. Awareness that anyone can break….as we saw with Jet Blue Captain today.  See Karlene’s Article
Future Pilots: The industry is up to you. Hold strong to your work rules, pay, and regulations. Pilot’s shouldn’t be flying high time to make ends meet… they can’t be their best if they are… so the pay has to be there in the first place.”

Karlene said lastly:

“We don’t want to believe that pilots can breakdown. But they are just human. This is a reality.”
Karlene’s last point really hits home especially for those recently on the jetBlue flight.  Karlene and I realize the importance of long haul flight planning on an international scale.  Getting everyone to the their final destinations quickly and in one piece.  She definitely has set out her flight plan to get everyone and the aviation industry to it’s final destination: SAFETY.  Having connected to Karlene not only online, but through her novel, I wish to add an adjective to the list above in her introduction:




Karlene, thank you for not only breaking the sound barriers of aviation, but also by fulfilling your dream of becoming a pilot, and becoming an asset to our (aviation) industry.  You have given so much motivation to so many individuals out there who are pursuing their dreams.  It was truly an honor to have you on my flight deck and I hope to have the honor of sharing an “Auto-Pilot” session with you sometime on the A330, or perhaps, the 777 someday!

In the words of Karlene,

“Enjoy The Journey!”



N121US: The Fallen Angel

It was the evening of June 17, 1996.  The wedding reception was at Detroit-Wayne County Metro Airport in Romulus, Michigan.  The ceremony took place on a beautiful Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-200 as Northwest and KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines were the masters of ceremony.  The ceremony lasted all night long until the morning as it took 7 hours and 55 minutes to complete.  The celebration took place at Schipol International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Whose wedding was this for?

My marriage to (commercial) aviation..

The previous night I had spent in the living room avoiding not only packing for the trip but also avoiding such movies as “La Bamba” and “Airport” (1970) as they were all plastered on the television that night.  There was a specific scene in the movie “La Bamba” where a recurring dream Ritchie Valens (played by Lou Diamond Phillips) has of a midair collision between two planes that actually occurred directly over Ritchie’s school, in which Ritchie’s best friend was killed by one of the fallen aircraft.  Whenever I thought of that scene it brought me back to when I was eleven years old and my grandfather took my brother Ryan and I to place which as of 52 years ago today was one of the U.S.’s worst aviation catastrophes:

The Perish of Northwest Orient Flight 710
March 17, 1960

N121US: The Fallen Angel

It’s origin was Minneapolis.  It’s destination was Miami.  There was a brief stopover at Chicago-Midway.  The equipment, a Lockheed L-188C Electra with 4 Allison 501-D13 Powerplants, registered N121US, left the stopover at Midway only to loose contact with Indianapolis ARTC Center over Scotland, Indiana maintaining a cruise of FL 180 (18,000 feet.)  Probable cause was the “separation of the right wing due to flutter induced by oscillations of the outboard nacelles. Contributing factors were a reduced stiffness of the structure and the entry of the aircraft into an area of severe clear air turbulence. “  The aircraft went down in the area near the area of Cannelton and Millstone, Indiana near Tell City.  Fifty-seven and six crew were aboard.  There were no survivors.

The Kiwanis Electra Memorial Site at Night. Photo courtesy of David Clendenen.

Northwest Orient 710 wasn’t the only crash of the L-188.  Two had crashed prior to this one.  It makes one wonder..I remember my grandfather telling my brother and I what had happened on the site like it was yesterday.  I was terrified from that moment he finished the story to fly and vowed not to do so.  When I left the wooded area, I saw the beautiful Kiwanis Memorial that was erected by the public.  The spine chilling yet comforting message was strong:

Photo Courtesy of David Clendenen

There was a reason why I went to that site when I was eleven.  There was a reason why my first commercial flight was with Northwest.  The pure irony of it all..  The safety measures which were taken with my first commercial flight on that day took away all of my fears.  Not only that but I was married to aviation on that day.  How can we make this the case for everyone?  Just like the memorial, we need to echo that message and echo it strong.  We do not need any more angels in the skies falling down to keep reiterating the safety message.May the memory of the souls on board this flight be a blessing and a reminder that we should always strive for the goal to make our skies safe.


Who’s In Your Cabin?

One of the amazing things in this world is the way we as human beings connect the dots.  Even though each individual is just that, an individual, we are all so connected in many ways.  Within the past few days, I have been communicating with a Twitter pen-pal, friend, and also a fellow in our vast aviation industry.  We were discussing things we discovered that we have in common and how the world is really connected through special people.

Because of this discussion, I raised a question for all pilots and flight attendants in the commercial aviation spectrum, “Do you know who is in your cabin?”

Maybe there is someone on your flight who is getting married?  Someone who is going to see someone take their first breath as a newborn, or perhaps, (which was my case a couple of months ago, unfortunately), watch someone take their last breaths as a human being?  or is it someone is taking their trip of a lifetime (special needs, terminally ill, etc.)?

There was an event, actually on a flight coming back to JFK that really got me to contemplate and eventually compose this post:

I was boarding a Regional Jet for a major carrier which shall remain nameless after the last time I saw my father alive.  It was the -900 series for Canadair and the gate agent announced that “most carryons” would fit in the overhead compartments.  From my past experiences with this equipment, I haven’t had any issues with my carryons not fitting so I decided to give it a try despite the fact we were a full load going into Kennedy which was no surprise.

After finding my seat, I went to the clear overhead bin to place my carry on in and alas, it would not fit into the bin.  Through my left ear I heard footsteps quickly pace up to me and in a flustered and condescending voice the flight attendant pointed at one of my luggage tags (that was used on a previous flight and not the one I was boarding), and said to me, “Sir, do you see this tag?  This means that you were supposed to leave your luggage at the jet way to be stowed in cargo.  You will have to go through the line, back to the front, and take it back to the jetway to be stored.”  The flight attendant didn’t want to hear my explanation.  The flight attendant only want to let me know how bad of a day they were having.  What they didn’t know was the fact I was having just as terrible of a day as they were..  The end result was me piling through a line of people to get my luggage where it needed to be and a nice detailed (because I am an aviation geek) complaint letter to the airline.

It’s also beyond the cabin, in our daily lives, walking down the street.  What a nice thing it would be to have someone simply smile at you and say, “Hello, Thank you, Have a good day!” or to hold the door open for you.  Where I live, in New York City, it’s a hard thing to come by.  But on the practical level, it’s showing another person that life isn’t cheap and that they are worth the respect no matter what they are going through in life both good and bad.  What a random act of kindness that goes a long way!

My message is, to all pilots, flight attendants, passengers, and to all humanity: You don’t know the person sitting next to you until you assert that first random act of kindness, from that you can build not only yourself but others around you so that everyone can soar to new levels.