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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A330 and Honest Fiction

As I edit Flight For Safety, I am reminded how much we can learn from honest fiction. Honest Fiction? Sounds like an oxymoron. But there is more truth that you know, and we can learn from it. 

Long-term memories are made when emotion is involved. When we see the action verses hearing or seeing the words, we remember. I am willing to bet that all of you can remember a highly emotional situation, no matter what it was, that you were involved in.  Imagine if you could read a a fun story and learn something that will stay with you forever. Perhaps save your life, and those of your passengers. My goal is to take you into the story so you feel the emotion.


For those of you who know me, I have spent 22 years instructing on many different Boeing aircraft. Now I am on the Airbus A330, and I'm writing fiction. What do you think is going to happen in Flight For Safey? You just can't take the teacher out of the pilot once it has been ingrained. 

I am taking you into the flight deck of another world and you will learn many things the easy and fun way. After much research and a huge thanks to the assistance of my technical editor, Bill Palmer (the pilot who wrote the systems manuals and help to put the A330 into service at Northwest Airlines),  every detail will be accurate. The story will take you to the next level of understanding, and a greater level of fear.

Not a pilot? Who cares. Flight For Control pulled everyone into the story for one heck of a ride. With powerful characters, strong women, an important message, and a little sex... what's not to love? 

Teaser Alert

Rain streamed up the windshield. Darby had never seen such a thing. The outside air temperature was -50C and the total air temperature was -21C. Was it possible to get liquid water at these temps?
            “Beep. Beep. Beep. Ding. Ding. Ding.” The master warning and master caution lights flashed, and the airplane cried warning. The autopilot and autothrust had both disconnected.
            Their airspeed indicators rolled back to 65 knots. The flight directors disappeared. A roar like machine gun fire attacking the plane, vibrated in the flight deck. Messages displayed rapidly across the ECAM—Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor, and were being replaced by others faster than she could see what they were.
             “Jesus fucking Christ!” Keith yelled. One hand grabbed for the thrust and his other grabbed the stick. 
            “Don’t do anything!” Darby yelled over the noise. “Let the plane fly.”        
            “Stall! Stall! Stall!” The plane cried.
          “We’re not stalling,” Darby yelled. “Look at our ground speed," She said pressing the data button on the MCDU and then selecting GPS data. “Here ya go…We’ve got a ground speed of 486 knots.” 
            “Ding.” The plane warned them that the autothrust was disconnected, and would continue to scream every five seconds until they acknowledged it. But if they left the thrust levers alone the power would remain in the last setting. If it were good enough before, it was good enough now—and one less thing to worry about.
            Darby looked back at her PFD. Their pitch was supposed to be at 3 degrees for level flight. 
They were at 10 degrees and increasing! What the hell?
            “Stop climbing,” Darby yelled. The A330 could pitch up to 10 to 12 degrees very rapidly 
without much effort. 
            “Don’t climb. Bring the pitch down to three degrees.”
            “But I let go of the stick.” Keith yelled. “It shouldn’t be climbing.”
            “It's going where you told it to go,” Darby shouted, as she pushed the stick forward. “We have to put it on 3 degree line.” 
            “DUAL INPUT!” a synthetic voice blared over the speakers. Keith was back on the controls—they were both flying the plane. She focused on the goal of level flight, and her hand hovered over the stick.  Once stable, she removed it, but kept a watchful eye on the pitch attitude. 
             Unlike the Boeing, the A330 trimmed to relieve elevator pressure for whatever pitch attitude the pilot wanted without the pilot's help. When Keith had let go of the stick, the stick had moved to neutral but the nose stayed pointed up because he had put it there. 
            This was the first plane Darby had flown that the pilots did not trim. It took an effort to pull a Boeing into a stall with cruise power and not touching the trim. Not the Airbus, because it trimmed itself. The A330 was smart. But not smart enough to out think a pilot who screwed up when the plane was in Alternate Law. 
             “Shit. What the hell is this?” Keith said, breathing rapidly. Almost hyperventilating.
            “You’re in Alternate law. Just fly what you’ve got.” But he had a death grip on the stick and worked it hard. “Just little pressures to keep her level. You’re not whacking off, just flying a plane.” 
            “What about our power? I…I think the autothrust is off.” The plane bounced and rocked.
            “Don’t rock the wings, you’re inducing instability,” she said. “Your autothrust is off. Don’t worry.” 

Today I'm in Atlanta doing a recency. Tomorrow we'll talk about Positive Dynamic Stability and answer the questions below.

Test your A330 (and story) knowledge:
  1. Why did they get a stall warning if they weren't stalling?
  2. Why did the plane stay pointed up if Keith put the controls back to Neutral?
  3. Why is it easier to stall an Airbus while in Alternate Law, than a Boeing?
  4. Why is it easier to stall a Boeing than a Airbus in Normal Law? 
  5. Why did Darby say put the plane on the 3 degree line?
  6. What was that ding, and how can they make it stop?
  7. Why didn't Keith have to worry about the autothrust being off?
  8. Is Darby a Captain or First Officer?

Enjoy the Journey!  Remember to get your copy of Flight For Control so you'll be ready for the continuation of the drama...

Please take a moment to LIKE my Facebook page and see what is in store for 2025! 
XO Karlene 
NOTE: Bill Palmer: A330 Check Airman who wrote the systems manuals for the A330. He has a book coming soon that you won't want to miss. Until then follow him on Facebook: And Twitter @WFPalmer  Whenever I have a technical question... he's my go to guy, and yours too.   


  1. Hoooo! I can't wait for the book to come out!
    Okay, to the questions that I don't know the answers but I'll give it a try:
    1- They got the stall warning because the aircraft use as a reference the Indicated Airspeed, which needs the pitot tube to offer data. The pitot tube (and/or the static port) got frozen because of the water molecules of high altitudes (I forgot the name), but they are extremely dangerous and turns to ice when in contact with a solid surface. They weren't stalling, she came to this conclusion because she trusted on the ground speed indicator data offered by the GPS.

    2- The aircraft trims to relieve elevator pressure for no matter pitch attitude the pilot wanted without a pilot's help. I think this answer is in the teaser, so I copied and pasted, plus it makes sense. There are clear examples in daily circumstances that justifies this reaction.

    3- I don't know. I have thoughts, but they are confused.

    4- I don't know. I have thoughts, but they are confused.

    5- If they weren't stalling, they were climbing, and if they continued to climb, they would stall because the ground speed would obviously decrease and the engines would not generate enough thrust due to low air pressure (high altitude - cruising altitude). It is possible to discover they were at around 36.000ft due to the high altitude water molecules that can only be found in unstable areas at very high altitudes. Darby had to bring down to 3 degrees because she obviously need to level off and continue to fly.

    6- The "Ding" is a warning indicating the autothrust have been disconnected. They need to acknowledge by pressing the autothrust button or changing the power setting on the thrust levers.

    7- Because their "N1" was set to maintain their speed and they didn't have to increase or decrease power to backup their speed. Actually, the ground speed indicator changed its indications because of the pitch was altered for a while... It decreased, but the thrust levers remained in the last setting, so I will go for the "N1" cofig. Just guessing. lol

    8- Darby is a Captain. You can clearly see she has 4 stripes in this teaser. Keith was the FO and was depending on Darby's decisions. Probably he was training. But on Flight For Control, there is chapter that says Darby is a CA.

    I love Darby, she is great! And my responses are only thoughts.

    Karlene, I love this post! Another great one!

    1. Alex, thanks for the great comment and your answers (thoughts)... totally awesome. One will surprise you! You will see more of Darby very soon!

  2. Liked your page! Exciting excerpt, sounds like a challenging simulation!

    1. The really scary thing... is this is what really happens in the plane when the pitot tube gets clogged. The plane is super stable, but the pilot can easily make unstable by stick movement.

  3. hi Karlene..
    Now I really want and need to read this book. I loved reading Flight For Control, a very interesting story, imagine things like that really happening in real life.
    Iam not a pilot nor an airline person, but since to met Karlene I am following the airline industry and what is happening in it with great interest.
    You simply got to love Darby, she is really one of the best, dedicated to being a pilot.
    So I can't answer your questions, I simply don't know the answers.
    But I am sure reading the book, I will find out about why those things happened on that flightdeck at that time.
    Keep on editing Karlene and get it printed.. Quickly!


    1. Hi An, Thank you so much!!! I am working hard to edit. I'm thinking a couple 10 hour flights to and from Amsterdam is exactly what I need! :)
      I really appreciate your support, and it's fun to go into a world we don't know.

  4. This is awesome Karlene! I wish I had the knowledge to answer the questions but for where I am now, I have no idea haha! Hopefully one day!

    Totally makes me want to read this book!
    Swayne Martin

    1. Thank you Swayne. So... tomorrow we'll get some answers. And, soon the entire story. It's all about having fun with the words and life. We'll have a great job for you to come to soon! Thanks for the comment.

  5. Wow, what a great teaser! And, all, I can testify to its detailed authenticity!

    I honestly don't know where you find the time to do all the posts you do...AND write a novel! I struggle to get 1 post a week as I work on my 3rd novel, lol!

    And, I'll politely ask again...CAN I HAVE DARBY'S PHONE NUMBER?!!! ;-)

    1. Lol. Can we say 0300?

      Thank you Capnaux... your girlfriend would get really upset with me if I gave you Darby's phone number!
      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Im looking forward in finding all of the answers to the above...

    Sometimes I think the airbus' smartness is a plus but when it comes to situation like this, all those small principles like alternate law...etc can overwhelm the pilots. Especially its usually impossible to stall the Airbus in a normal situation with the alpha protection (is that what they call it?).

    I also saw comments on the Air France crash. A few days ago, an Air France Airbus did a go around when the alpha protection activated during approach, some viewer said those pilots are a joke since they should know when they are stalling and how to recover from it, but in reality, from what I have heard, airlines aren't required to train the stall recovery on airbuses due to their protection system... And even if they did, given the sudden warnings of multiple instruments and other environments they were in, they must have been really confused.

    1. Martin, so much is changing because of this. Is it enough? I don't know. I think the biggest problem is when we don't look into the future and see what might happen.

      Sometimes we can't see it. Sometimes we can see it and we don't do anything because we gamble on the law of average nothing will happen.... only because if we do something, the expense will be horrendous.

      Until then, all we can do is be proactive within our selves. Thank you so much for your comment!

  7. Oh one of the most recent incident. Great job by the pilots

    1. Thank you for sharing this Martin! And... a good example for next week's post.

  8. What a wonderful post and teaser. Thanks Karlene! The *only* difference in our opinions your first book, FFC, is the comment, "...a little sex..." I'm not a prude, I welcome a woman's view, recognize that women take a bit more time and care... but let's increase our Mach number during those parts . And heck yes, I'm looking forward to FFS.
    Sooo, when will you activate the button for advance sales? I'll never make it, but I'll try to be the first in line. Lastly, in today's publishing world readers often have options: Hard-bound, 'Trade' soft, and several e-book formats. Over a few years, I've shifted much of my reading to the "E" formats as a cost saving measure. For a Karlene Petitt book? Heck No! I'll gladly pony up the bucks for the real thing. So... When do pre-publication sales begin?
    Lastly, I must repeat an earlier thought: Were it not for a long series of poorly managed airlines, you would be a senior check captain and author of procedures manuals today. You have the gifts and the ability, yet have to ride along as needed, probably spending more time in the 'stimulator,' that driving real airplanes. You've filled that void with family, a busy blog, a new kitchen and a couple of great books. Rather impressive, I'd say! And for other readers: Read this wonderful woman's books! They ARE worth you time. XoXo, -C.

    1. Thank you so much for the nice comment. This means a great deal. And I appreciate it, very much! I suspect that everything happens for a reason and now I am sent down a different path. When all three books are complete, and I'm writing the "truth behind the fiction" this may be the way to create change... for the better.

      I haven't put up a pre-sale button because I want to get it in the shoot first. I will when I'm really close!

      Ah... the sex part. Did you know that the female readers really like that stuff? I'm amazed at the response from various people. A bit of compromise will be in order here.

      Thanks again for your comment!!!


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