BARBARA HARMER

Barbara Harmer (1953-2011)

 

 

PHOTO BY ADAM BUTLER/PA: Barbara Harmer, at age 39, the first woman civil supersonic pilot flew into the record books operating a British Airways Concorde.

 

It was March of 1993.  Ready to take on a new challenge, a young, dignified woman stood before a thriving airline ready to make history.  True, she did leave school early, however, one must never judge a book by its cover.  She was ready to rise to the challenge and head on: to be the world’s first female pilot for the SST Concorde.

One must take a look into the history of Barbara Harmer to learn what a remarkable individual she was.  It was to my unpleasant surprise to learn two weeks ago just that she had succumbed to cancer at fifty-seven.  Even though it is a very young age, one must take a look at all of her accomplishments.  By doing so, it will not take much to assess how much of an impact she has made in the commercial aviation industry.

Born on 14 September 1953 in Loughton, Essex, she grew up in Bognor Regis, a seaside resort on the south coast of the United Kingdom.  She attended a convent school until the age of 15 until she took it upon herself to explore the possibility of becoming a hairdresser.  Other things came to mind for her as she applied for an air traffic controller position at London’s Gatwick Airport.

During her time as a controller for London-Gatwick, she decided to pursue other schooling with the intentions of obtaining a law degree.  Amongst her studies were Geography, Law, and Politics.  With all of this on her plate, she also decided to start taking flight lessons at Goodwood Flight School in Westhampnett, West Sussex.  It was May of 1982 when Harmer obtained her commercial pilot’s license.  Having submitted over one hundred applications, she found her first home with Genair, a small transport airline out of Humberside Airport in Kirmington.

Her breakthrough in the industry came in March of 1984 when British Caledonian asked her to join their team flying BAC 1-11s and then transferring over to the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 long-haul.  Everything changed when British Caledonian merged with British Airways to which she became one of the 60 female pilots out of  the 3,000 male/female total post merger.  It was 1987 when she was asked to join the Concorde program by undergoing an intense six month conversion course.  She would be the first female pilot operating Concorde under commercial service as a First Officer.  (The first female Concorde test pilot was French aviatrix Jacqueline Auriol.)

On 25 March 1993, Harmer made her debut across the Atlantic from London’s Heathrow to New York’s John F. Kennedy.  Harmer was the first of the two commercial female Concorde pilots as French aviatrix Béatrice Vialle, came aboard with Air France as a First Officer in 2001.  Harmer had served as a Concorde pilot for ten years before it’s final flight; Vialle made thrity-five trips before Air France withdrawaled their fleet from service in May of 2003.

After the Concorde chapter closed, Harmer took on a new role: a Boeing Triple Seven Captain.  She flew long-haul operations until taking a voluntary redundancy from the airline in 2009.

What is most amazing about her: She had so much more to offer our world besides taking to the skies.  She was a yacht-master who had taken to the waters and competed in many competitions winning several of them.  She also was heavily involved in gardening creating a beautiful Mediterranean garden outside her home in Felpham, West Sussex.

Lastly and sadly, she was scheduled to compete in a trans-Atlantic yacht event in 2013, however, she passed away from cancer at St. Wilfrid’s Hospice Facility on 20 February 2011.

For those who knew her, I envy you because you had this special person in your life: as a family member, co-worker, friend, etc.  The more I research this amazing aviatrix the more I am amazed.  She has climbed so many levels in such a short period of time and at record speeds.  She took her love of air and sea and molded it into such a creation that is a reflection of the committed service she provided to her airline and the aircraft that she flew – so uncanny, so surreal, in so many outstanding ways.

I normally wouldn’t include someone who is deceased into the “Pilots On Deck” section, however, Barbara is an exception.  Why?  Because no matter which aircraft, flight deck, or cabin we enter, Barbara’s legacy will be there joining us to climb higher and higher with us setting record speeds no matter what our dreams and aspirations are.

Cheers to you, Captain Barbara!

(Please visit The Memorial Ride to find out more how Barbara was an inspiration to her loved ones and to donate to St. Wilfrid’s Hospice Facility.)

NATAN HOFFMANN

It was a clear night and Long Island never looked so beautiful outlined with the street lights beaming from below at 2,000 feet.  Having just passed the Northport stacks we were headed just over the (Long Island) sound for a bit and the moon’s reflections hit the cool waters like magic.  Our flight instructor, a former Israeli Air Force pilot and aviator par excellence, beckoned me for the sun shield to cover up the deck window.  From then on, it was all instruments for someone who was sitting to the left of our instructor, who I’ve had the honor of sharing the virtual flight deck with as both a Captain (777/A380) and a First Officer (747/757) for the past year when we weren’t in N34HD, our flagship sailing the real-life skies.

His precision, exact.  Checking instruments, making mental calculations, it seemed like clockwork even though I knew there was a lot involved for him in those critical moments airborne.

Our instructor quickly had me store the sun shield in the back compartment so that this distinguished aviator, could do his first ILS approach into Long Island’s Islip-MacArthur Airport.    What was once non-visible became visible and he nailed the ILS spot-on for runway 24.  Upon touchdown our instructor and I beamed with pride at what he had accomplished at 20 years old.

This is one of many stories that amazes me about someone who I am not only proud to call a colleague, a fellow pilot, but also one of my best friends.

It is my honor to welcome into the flight deck,

Natan Hoffmann!

Welcome to the flight deck, Natan!

Jeremy:

Why airplanes?

Natan:

I  can recall myself in my grandmother’s backyard looking up into the sky at these noisy “flying things” as they passed over. My grandma would tell me its an airplane? But I was only 3 years old and I wouldn’t know what an airplane was until I grew older. When I was in second grade, I would borrow airplane books from the school library. I read them lots of times and studied every detail in all the books. By the time I was in 5th grade, I knew a large majority of airlines and aircraft by heart, and instead of paying attention in class, I would draw on paper many aircraft with the airlines logos on them. A year later, I went to middle school and met my teacher Jacob Kranz, an Orthodox Jew like myself, who happened to be a private pilot!

Jeremy:

It’s amazing the connection you made with Orthodox Judaism and being a pilot.  I personally didn’t know that Orthodox Jewish pilots existed until we met.  Little did I know that I had one (that would be you) hiding out in my back yard.  Literally!  Later on, we discovered a network of Orthodox Jewish pilots throughout the world.  It has been amazing to have such a close connection to one another.  Speaking of close connections, where are you at with family?

Natan:

I am the eldest of 6 children. I am a twin, not identical though. After my twin comes 3 boys and 1 girl. She is the youngest of us all.

Jeremy:

Tell us about your, or should I say, “our” furry friend?  Why would he also make a good pilot?

Natan:

Haha! You want me to talk about Coco? Well, Ok! Coco is my family’s pet Pomeranian dog. He is very adorable and human like. Sometimes, he becomes “bi-polar”, because he lives with a family of 9 people all together, and we can become very loud. Coco’s favorite sport is tennis and soccer, and sometimes football. Coco enjoys sleeping on a bed with his older brother Natan! (wink)  If Coco were human, I’m sure he would become a pilot because he is intelligent, fast moving, and loves taking car rides to the airport.

Jeremy:

After having spent personal time with Coco, I must say that he is one of a kind.  I would also agree that he would make a better pilot than most because he’s always alert, intelligent, quick to react, concerned about safety, and always protects the ones he loves.  A definite match for Natan and his family.  Thinking about what it takes to become a pilot, I had to dig deeper and find out what gave Natan the full throttle to take off on his journey through the skies:

Natan:

Simple, I was born to fly! I knew all along I wanted to do it, it was just a matter of time to connect all the dots of aviation that I had encountered. When I was in middle school, my teacher who is a private pilot took me flying for my very first time in a small aircraft, a Piper Warrior III. I was then convinced that I wanted to become a pilot. I had already fallen in love with aviation, but after the experience of “hands on” flying, I was 100% sure that I would follow my dreams and set goal of becoming an Airline Pilot, to which I am still working on accomplishing to this very day. I currently have had experience in flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and Multi-engine. I can proudly say that no matter what obstacles I may encounter (and believe me, I have encountered many), that I will always be motivated and prepared to take to the skies, and always be happy with myself in making a commitment to becoming an Airline pilot.

Jeremy:

A very long haul journey to where you are today indeed, Natan.  I am rest assured that The Control Tower from Above has cleared you to final descent, make vectors to final, and before you know it you will be touching down to success.  Speaking of success, who helped pave the way or inspire you to landing success?

Natan in the office of a Del,..err Northwest Boeing 744.

Natan and myself during a pre-brief before entering the 744 deck to Tel Aviv from JFK. He was our Captain that night. I followed suit as the Captain on the return leg as we were scheduled on the 777. Both were great missions.

Natan:

Wilbur and Orville Wright for making flight possible. Ilan Ramon and the entire crew of the Columbia Space Shuttle, who’s life’s were perished upon re-entry, Women of Aviation for staying strong and fighting for their rights, Robert Keleti for being the best Flight Instructor one could ever ask for and for being there for me when needed, My parents, Roy and Lori Hoffmann for telling me to never give up and for all the love they give to me. Thank you. My grandmothers who both are survivors of the Holocaust. Thank you both for coming to fly with me! To all the people who follow their dreams and become an example for one another, and finally to God for giving me life and always helping me move in the right direction!

Jeremy:

Excellent choices!  Each and everyone of the above possesses something special because of how they have shaped you to who you are today.  Women are essential to the existence of aviation.  All one has to do is to take a look at how they shaped our industry.  We need more female pilots.  We are blessed to have advocates out there through individuals, organizations, and conferences.

I have no doubt that your family has a great deal involved as I have had the personal honor of knowing your family through my many visits and I am forever grateful for the many times I have been over to visit with everyone.  (Even if it was only to watch NCIS.)

I also agree about Robert, what can I say about our instructor?  I am speechless.  His knowledge never ceases to amaze me and every time we fly with him, there is a special feeling that is inexplicable.  He knows what he is doing and he knows how to cater to our personal needs as students to mold us into excellent pilots.

Natan working on flight plans with our instructor Robert.

Natan flying our flagship N34HD into the sunset.

 

Jeremy:

Dreams are very important in a person’s life.  It gives a sense of direction.  What are your thoughts?

 

Natan:

People’s dreams are very much like a flightplan. We all have a set destination. But unfortunately, we sometimes deviate from that flightplan and divert. In the end, you are left with two choices, to continue on and complete the flightplan, or to create a new flightplan.

 

 

Natan giving the term “WINGFLEX” a whole new meaning through meditation. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy’s Flight Deck)

 

 

Speaking of dreams, Natan, like my first guest Karlene, is also a giver.  Natan has given me the ability to see what it means to take a dream and turn it into reality.  I had been fighting for years due to personal circumstances to enter flight school.  I don’t know how he did it, but he gave me a huge kick in the ass to start my career as a pilot.  I am forever grateful for him being such an inspiration and support throughout the time we’ve known each other.  I am pretty rest assured that I will not only continue to share the virtual deck with him as both 777/A380 Captain and a 744 First Officer, but we will be sharing the deck together when we have our ATPL working for a major international carrier.

 

“jery”

KARLENE PETITT

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
KARLENE PETITT

Welcome to the flight deck, Karlene!

Jeremy: 

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

Karlene:

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:

FLIGHT FOR CONTROL

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

Jeremy:

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

Karlene:

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.

Jeremy:

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

Karlene:

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:

Giving.

 

 

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!”

jeremy