CONCORDE: The Supersonic Angel

This post is dedicated to the angel behind the supersonic angel, Barbara Harmer (1953-2011).  Even though your life was short, it soared to many heights at record speeds over many waters.  God bless and may your legacy shine down over every pilot dreaming of success.


Belt Parkway.  Those two words alone are enough to turn someone’s day from good to worst day ever.  It was a hot and humid summer afternoon as I crept, literally, past the Aqueduct Race Track and the hotels near JFK westbound.  Even though I left my apartment on time, I knew very well that I couldn’t have left early enough as what might take ten minutes to reach in any normal town would take forty-five plus minutes extra to reach in New York City.

Sweating bullets and pissed, I was sitting in a literal parking lot not moving anywhere already late for an appointment in Brooklyn.  With the inability to move I stared out into space with the gear in park waiting for car in front of me to move at least five feet.

As I stared out into the hazy sky, it appeared.  a white particle smaller than a snowflake.  Only seconds passed by when it started to take shape in the form of a small, white triangle. 



I thought to myself, “No, it can’t be.”  (Should I start quoting the famous line from “Superman?”) It came sweeping down like an angel from the skies ready to rescue me up from the traffic below and take me to where I needed to be in no time.  Those two words “Belt Parkway” were about to turn my worst day into my best.  I was in shock and disbelief as it rarely took an approach like that.  A 13L Canarsie?  Rarely, as its charts indicated for the most part direct into Kennedy’s 31L/R or sometimes into the 22s or 04s.



As it came closer, it came lower and I was at that point on the highway that when we would intercept it, those four Rolls Royce Olympus SNECMA 593Mk 610 after-burning powerplants could prove deadly to my windshield less alone the windshields of the other people around me.  I said to myself, “To hell with it, it will be worth the 300 bucks just for this one experience.”  Passionate about this aircraft?  I was, am, and will forever be.

My windshield was spared.  The appointment was understanding.  My day: was made.  Thank you, British Airways.

Another supersonic event occurred as I took the “A” train (only outside of New York is it referred to as a “subway”) from Far Rockaway into Brooklyn, the days before I started to drive in NYC.  I was half asleep as it was too early to be up.  My wake-up call came when it felt as if 10 semi trucks were trailing us on the train tracks as we went above and over Jamaica Bay past JFK towards the Queens neighborhood of Howard Beach vibrating the train a bit even though nothing was trailing us.  With my eyes half open, the sound of 10 F-16s came flying over as I thought to myself annoyed, “What the ‘F’ was that?”  Little did I know, I looked out the window of the train and saw Air France 002 rocketing 500 feet above us, afterburners ablaze, trails of black smoke dispersing  into shapes of mist and nothingness from the shapes of tubes.  The shape of its narrow body was like a sword slicing through the air faster than a bullet shooting out of a rifle.  After that visual, I wasn’t so “annoyed” anymore.

My mind that day was flying higher and faster than that airplane would ever see in its short existence.  Je vous remercie, Air France.

Having moved to New York in August of 2000, I didn’t have my first Concorde visual experience as quickly as I had hoped, as the Air France tragedy near Gonesse, France was still too fresh and Concorde was still under investigation to help explain to the families why all 109 souls on board perished that fateful day of July 25, 2000.  Despite the fact 9/11 happened, (which actually made matters, if not excuses, to discontinue the program worse), I was still fortunate enough to have my first visual of a Concorde through British Airways as it rocketed over Rockaway Beach one sunny afternoon in October of 2001.  From then on, whenever I passed the JFK, I made it my business to look at both Terminals 1 and 7 to ensure myself that either one of them were there, even if it was for an overnight stay.  And rest assured, there was.  Every morning, (as I was living in Far Rockaway at the time), I would get my 8am wake up call from Air France and my 9:30 “snooze button” wake-up call from British Airways.  My wake up calls were always loudest when they departed 22R or even a very rare 13R.


Photo courtesy of British Airways


Despite the fact that its departure from service came much more quickly than its induction, it gave many technological features that are used into today’s aircraft such as “fly-by-wire” technology (even though it was analogue in Concorde) using hybrid circuits.  Despite the fact that many have tried to discredit this aeronautical achievement by stating it’s either overrated or a “threat to the Earth’s environment” by “eating up the ozone”, it has been a huge asset to the aviation industry and an outstanding product for both British Airways and Air France and their customers.  (Not to mention eye candy for all aviation enthusiasts, spotters, and photographers.)  Concorde has given to many what others have not, a different perspective.  That day that I was sitting in traffic, I should have been thinking with the glass half full.  It should’ve been a positive experience.  Even though I wasn’t going anywhere, I made the best out of the situation by admiring something, even taking something, which reaches many levels beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, at record speeds, and using it to my advantage.  We should all take a bad or difficult situation and make it soar.  It will be hard work rest assured.  But it’s that dedication, hard work, and commitment (which is a scary word nowadays) that was put into such a project.  A project that was a  cornerstone for many future ones to come.

NCQ: Behind The Scenes

I arrived to see Natan at 3:50 p.m. Monday afternoon and didn’t leave until 2:30 a.m. the next morning.  It’s been a while since I’ve pulled an all niter doing a project like this, however, it was well worth it as we attended the Israel Independence Day Fly-By 2012 event last Sunday.


Thought, planning, mapping came into order as Natan decided that now would be a good time to start his own website.  An event like this could not have been passed up.  A story to be told.  A story of Israel’s and NY’s finest pilots to show NYC and Long Island what Israel means and what it means to be apart of a place in the Middle East that stands for democracy, diplomacy, and equal treatment for all of its citizens.

THE MESSAGE FOR THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE OF ISRAEL (Please visit HaTikvah on Facebook for more photos of Israeli Independence Day!)

Only the NY Flying Club headed by Robert Keleti and event organizer Alon Pereg could pull such a great day together.  It was a day where the Jewish pilots of NY and abroad bonded together to promote aviation awareness within the community and abroad.

Natan and I brainstormed the ideas, then  he took to the keyboard with his many photos, videos, and other interesting stories to tell of the event.  I personally thought he was going to strangle me a few times as I had to get up for a stretch or to take some water or to go watch the special on the Discovery Channel about the world’s scariest airplane landings.  (I am very greatful for the coffee, also.)  His dedication to the article shined as he was more focused on his writing than seeing the aviation special on the television.  Impressive.

This is how I brainstorm when I blog. Everyone has their idiosyncrasies.. (Photo courtesy of Natan Hoffmann)

For the many times we’ve had to edit, re-edit, re-re-edit, etc, to get all of the quirks untangled out of WordPress, it was well worth the finished product which went live at 1:49 a.m.:

I would like to express my thanks to Natan for having me as a guest participant on this project and for a job well done.  He should have many new successes with his website (which has now been added to the “Connecting Flights” page on the top menu bar.)



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.

“Flight For Control” by Karlene Petitt

It was a warm early fall day and I was hiking with my family in a wooded area and the sense of spookiness came over me.  The location was near the small town of Cannelton, Indiana located on the banks of the Ohio River in Perry County.  The sense of spookiness came as I was told that the grounds we were walking on was the site of the crash of Northwest (Orient) Flight 710, Chicago-Midway bound for Miami.  It was a Lockheed Electra L-188 (N121US) that not only lost control of itself, it lost both wings which sent the fuselage plummeting down.  There were no survivors.  All 57 passengers and 6 crew met their permanent graves instantly in Southern Indiana on March 17, 1960.  On that day of our hike, I had never flown commercially, and after that day, I made the vow to be terrified to do so.  (Ironically my first commercial flight was with Northwest Airlines.)

I would relive this spookiness the year after I moved to New York City in a more en masse and well known event.  I woke up that mid-September morning when I thought I heard a gunshot. I turned on the news and it was done.  Having thought it was yet another movie in the making, turned out to be not only my worst nightmare, but the nightmare of millions of my fellow New Yorkers, less alone U.S.  and international citizens.  My view of the skyline was never and will never be the same again both physically and emotionally.

We all thought to relive this event yet once again, however, Captain Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III, made it a happy ending when he brought the Airbus Industrie A320 (N106US) as a glider into the Hudson River saving all 150 passengers and 5 crew on January 9, 2011 a little over a decade after 9/11.

Then the Air France Airbus A330 crash…  The KLM/Pan Am Tenerife catastrophe…

History tells the tale of so many aviation accidents, innocent lives lost…

Then comes…





Karlene Petitt

Flight For Control Has Arrived to NYC safely via the JFK 13R Canarsie Approach!



Kathryn (“Kat”) Jacobs, an established (with a sense of smarts and an investigator) yet an unestablished individual (as she had an unfinished dream of having a career, family, happiness, etc. all at the same time) who was asked to secretly come back to the N.T.S.B. (National Transportation Safety Board) after a leave to help investigate a series of recent crashes which had occurred to find out exactly how and why they occurred.   Flight safety was her mission. Her husband, Bill, an experienced airline captain, also had an agenda in mind as he was on the verge of being elected President of the Airline Pilot Union.  I thought it was a plain and simple matter why he was against his wife’s return to the N.T.S.B. as he wanted her to be a housewife.  However, the author of this work Karlene Petitt had other things in mind for me.  I struggled, really, to put this novel down to find out the real reason why Bill did not want his wife returning back to work and pursuing that unfinished dream.

What also seemed to be the same goal between Bill and Kathryn Jacobs (improving the conditions of pilots in order to promote and maintain safety) actually came to differ towards the end of the novel.  The way in which the mysteries unfold and the pieces of this thriller come together are a masterpiece par excellence by Petitt.  (I am not going to spoil the end for those who haven’t read it.  You will have to buy and read it.)

Amidst the chaos of the investigations, the secrecy, the lies, the corruption, and downfall of the events, I must say that the binding friendships between Kathryn, Darby, Jackie, and Linda (and their families) added a nice touch of grace to the novel and really set the scene for the meaning of having a support system to survive life’s journey no matter how turbulent it might become.

After having finished the novel for the third time, it is important to me how much our (aviation) industry needs a huge change and now.  Petitt definitely has used her skill as an experienced international airline pilot and talent as an excellent writer in her epic command of the English language that had me in suspense to the point that I had to set bedtime curfews of at least 2:00 a.m.  (Speaking of pilot fatigue..)



My message to you Karlene is this,

     You have just served the most delicious piece of chocolate covered literary cheesecake that I have ever devoured.  I hope the motion picture for this novel is near completion and your second novel is well on its way because I am hungry for more!



Karlene Petitt

is currently an international airline pilot operating the Airbus Industrie A330 for a major international carrier, has thirty-three years of experience in our industry, and holds a type-rating for the Boeing 747-400, 747, 757, 767, 737, and 727.  She has flown for several (international) airlines in the past including Northwest Airlines.  Holding multiple masters degrees, she is also a motivational speaker and giver of wings for anyone with a dream.  Please visit her site “Flight To Success”