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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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

In Memory of AF447

Pilots, once considered Gods carrying metal through the skies, dodging thunderstorms that bloomed in their paths as they chained smoked across the country, are now to be viewed as mere mortals. Today those that smoke are the minority. We have technology that helps us to avoid the worst of the storms. And air travel safer than ever. But the truth is, our pilots have to be better than ever. There are always reminders that we have work to do, and to never quit being our very best. Every once in awhile that perfect storm hits. 


Friday Flyers is dedicated to the good people of the aviation industry—Those pilots who dance in the sky for fun, mechanics, ATC, FAA, flight attendants and airline pilots… past, present and future. To all the leaders of the industry, and the men and women who inspire us to be our best, and dream the dreams to reach for stars… this day is yours. 


Today I am honoring all airline pilots who take their jobs seriously. Who maintain their health, keep their heads in the books, and fly their planes as if their family were their passengers. Because despite the greatest effort we will always be reminded we can do better.

In memory of the lives lost, but never forgotten—May 31, 2009, AF447 fell 38,000 feet from the sky, slamming into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 228 souls on board. Two years later they pulled the black box from the watery grave, and brought with it the answer as to why this happened. But the shocking truth that was pulled from the ocean was nothing we could have expected. 


Speculation, sorrow, confusion and fear emitted from the recordings that were trickled into the media during those early days. I had written a post on that accident that went viral. What happened with that post? I was asked to remove it from my blog and a letter was placed into my file. Nobody wanted to believe the truth. But what transpired from this event was a greater need to understand, and learn from this horrid accident so something like this would never happen again. 


I figured out how to do that. It’s called true in fiction. The events of this story inspired me to write a different sequel for Flight For Control than I had originally outlined. Flight For Safety will be on the market this summer, 2013, as will a non-fiction book Understanding AF447, What really Happened and Why.

The first book I wrote, the other I have had the honor to help edit. And Captain Palmer, the author of Understanding AF447, edited the flying scenes in my novel. Writing is another team event.


Bill Palmer, captain and check airman on the A330, wrote the systems manuals on the A330 for Northwest Airlines, and produced a great deal of training material on the A320. He was also my instructor during my A330 checkout, and has been a lifeline when questions arise with the Airbus. He knows the plane, and I encouraged him to write a book to demystify the details of this tragic event, and he did. It's exceptional.


Understanding AF447, What really Happened and Why, is an amazing story that everyone should read to understand what really happened. Pilots will learn. The public will understand. And hopefully the family members will be able to rest that there is no cover-up, just sorrow for a tragic event.

While Bill’s book, Understanding AF447, What really Happened and Why, will tell us what happened in great detail, Flight For Safety will provoke questions and possible answers as to why this happened. 

With life there is always a cause and effect.
Sometimes it leads to death.

While that letter for writing about AF447 two years ago will remain in my file for another year, Captain Palmer has been give permission to publish his book, and everyone is allowed to discuss this accident. Time heals... or maybe it provides space to understand. Yet I write fiction, with the intrigue of reality that moves my story forward. Answers will be revealed, and lessons learned from an accident that should not have happened. 


We have not forgotten AF447...
and will never forget the lessons learned.

For all of you who have A330 questions, follow Bill Palmer on twitter at @WFPalmer, and check out his blog at Trend Vector. We will both be shouting about the release of our books soon.

Bill has also set up a sign up list for those interested. Click HERE for more information. And remember to read Flight For Control before Flight For Safety is released. This is a story you'll want to start at the beginning.

Enjoy the Journey, 
XO Karlene

26 comments:

  1. Did I read that correctly? Your employer forced you to remove a blog post and took disciplinary action?

    - Brian

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    1. Yes. But it made for good plot points. I believe it was one or two pilots teaching me a lesson. I love my company. They have good values and guidelines... you just can't control all the people all the time. Or can you? The story of why will reveal itself all in fiction, fun and intrigue, in Flight For Safety. Editing today. Coming soon. Please spread the word about Flight For Control. I want everyone to read that first.
      Thanks so much for your comment!

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  2. I'm excited to read the book Karlene. I really enjoyed the first on and couldn't put it down!
    Kathy larsen

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    1. Thank you so much Kathy!! More excitement on this. And am writing the script for the screenplay on the first too!

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  3. Keep on the good work, the good thing is everybody has got the right to own opinions. For me the point will love to understand on AF447 is why nose up input after stall warning? It's among the earliest lesson one should learn at very early stages of training.Makes me #Wonder

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    1. Deogratius, I have been editing Bill's book, and I can tell you that will understand all when done. One of the key points you'll watch for is when the stall warning called out ... Stall Stall Stall (sounding like Stohl) that the pilot monitoring would comment, "what's that?"

      Then they thought there was a high speed warning, and at one point the PF tried to extend the speedbrakes. I do not believe the pilot flying knew he was stalling. Why not? This too you will learn.

      Thanks for the comment.

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    2. Can't wait...I need to learn more and more bout aviation, Pilots always learn!

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    3. Yes we do. We must always remember that too. Every day I learn something new. It's a great way to live.

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  4. Wow, intense stuff, Karlene.

    As you know, I too got "spanked" by the "powers that be" over a video I did that went viral. It was totally innocuous, but 1 complaint and the Corporate suits insisted I pull it. Very frustrating when yellow belly politics get in the way of truth--even when it's just for fun!

    Looking forward to both books this summer. Great post!

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    1. Thank you Eric. I did know that. I think when people react to something, without thinking it through and looking at intent... that's the easiest course of action. Pull it. I know your heart and writing is in line with mine... improve safety, motivate, encourage future aviators and keep the love of flying alive. It's all good. You keep up the great work. Love your posts!!!

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  5. Thanks so much Karlene for posting this. It's so comforting to know that many of the pilots that fly on our flights take the work so seriously and treat passengers like family.

    AF447 was such a tragedy and easily could have been avoided. So sad to read about that event. I watched a show about it on TV and found it incredible how long it lasted before the pilots realized what was happening.

    Thanks for this post!
    -Swayne

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    1. Thank you for your comment Swayne. I know that you will not be one of those pilots that takes anything for granted. Your passion and professionalism toward your career is well noted. You will go far and I would feel more than comfortable having my family on your plane one day. Looking forward to it.

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  6. Thanks for the mention, Karlene. I'm working hard at getting my book ready for publication.

    Courtesy of the ALPA Air Safety folks, I'm incorporating new information about how long a pilot has to establish control when an "automation exception" occurs. This could be due to an internal issue like a pitot/static failure (e.g., AF447) or external issues like traffic or an unexpected ATC directive. Amazingly that value is only 7.6 seconds.

    I'll explain the "safe harbor" concept where a pilot has to know a safe pitch and power setting to go to that will establish level flight at a reasonable airspeed. From the safe harbor point, troubleshooting or a more appropriate flight path can be established.

    We'll also learn that it's not just those brought up depending on the flight director that are at risk. Even pilots with long histories of flying manually on "round dials" loose those skills over time.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Bill. I'm looking forward to hearing about the Safe Harbor concept. And that automation exception. This is what happens... the book will grow.
      Anytime complacency sets in with automation, skills degrade. One of the best things we can do is be rested and prepared. With excessive fatigue, people startle, they don't think clearly, they feel greater stress and can't remember their crewmembers names. Keep up the great work! I have your number. And SATCOM on my plane...something happens, you're my call. :)

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  7. Great post Karlene! What you state about the profession is something we don't hear enough. I can't wait to see your book.

    Brent

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    1. Thank you Brent! I can't wait for you to read it too. Both of them. :)

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  8. I made a mistake when not traveled commeu husband on June 1, 2009, today, I feel the bitter of days to remember the choice I made, they are four years of waiting the flight that has not yet arrived, somewhere he is I hope they still come back, I'll still find.
    Even with all the suffering that this company air france caused me, I'll still find a lot of nostalgia ... I feel right now, I hate air france! Carlos Braga

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    1. Carlos, I am so sorry for your loss. Hope is a powerful thing, and when it's gone it leaves a huge hole in your heart and soul. Nothing I can say will take your pain and anger away... I can only hope and pray that with the ensuing years your pain will lesson.

      This incident with the airspeed has happened on many planes, even on the Boeing, and we never expected a pilot could not handle the plane. Nobody knew. That was the surprise. We cannot undo what happened, but we can change how we proceed in the future so something like this never happens again. We are doing just that.

      Hate is an emotion that eats us up. I hope that too will lessen for you, for your health. Your loved one would want that. And perhaps it will lessen with the positive actions of our airlines and the industry going forward. Using this accident as a lesson learned.

      Know one thing, you are not alone. You are not forgotten. Nothing is disappearing in that ocean floor, or with time. We are using this incident to save lives in the future. That won't help you in your pain, but I hope it will bring some comfort knowing their passing was not for in vain.

      This next generation of pilots who are entering their careers in automated planes without the experience of hand flying as their senior counterparts had, has awakened a new challenge. They see this now. We are working toward a solution.

      Please find the joy of each day. Know you are here for a reason. Your choice kept you alive, as hard as that is. Use your life for a good reason, as it was not your time to depart this earth.

      Thank you for your comment, and I am sending you a huge hug across the ocean. I am so sorry for the loss of your loved one.

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  9. Carlos,

    When I say that I know your pain, I mean it. I lost my fiancee Susanne on TWA Flight 800 in 1996--the Boeing 747 that blew up on its way to Paris. For ten years I suffered from survivor's guilt before I began dealing with it through creative writing. You might be interested in listening to the free audiobook I eventually created that revolves around survivor's guilt.

    Pushing Leaves Towards the Sun is a novel, so it is fiction by definition, but two characters Billy and Lindy struggle with the death of their best friend in opposite ways. Original songs are part of the story, and you might especially appreciate "Can't Say Goodbye" and "From a Long Way Away" that are songs about grief that I wrote specifically for the novel, then they were brought to life by some amazing musicians. You can download Pushing Leaves Towards the Sun for free from iTunes in the podcast section. Just put the title in the search box of the iTunes Store then click 'Subscribe Free' once you have found it. I wrote it, and then recorded it with my current fiancee (it took me 16 years following Susanne's death to feel ready to prose to another woman--Alison) and I'm giving it away for free with the giant hope of helping others through their deep losses.

    I have a webpage that tells you more, including a 30-second promotional video that you can watch, as well as listen to all 12 songs.

    http://marklberry.com/pushingleaves/

    I have spent the last three years writing a memoir about my real life experience dealing with losing Susanne on TWA Flight 800. Many chapters have been published in Airways magazine. The memoir's first chapter will be in the upcoming August issue (on the shelves at retailers in July). The bottom line is that you are not alone. Anger is a normal reaction to extreme loss, and unfortunately it will be a long phase of your emotional recovery. You will find some level of happiness again. The world would not be better off if you were on that Air France flight too. After losing Susanne, I had to go back and fly for the same airline she spent her final moments. I was a TWA pilot and she was on my airline as a full fare passenger. We all have our own crisis to face in life. I wish you strength to work though yours as best as anyone can hope.

    Take care, Mark L Berry

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    1. Mark, Thank you so very much. I hope that your memoir is published in full one day. It will help so many.

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  10. So exciting that both books are coming out soon! I can't wait to read Flight for Success. :)) This is such an important and powerful issue. (p.s. just got off an A330 a couple of hours ago from Edinburgh to London. Nice smooth flight AND a woman in the left seat up front!!)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by on your world travels! Yay... female A330 captain! Yes... coming soon. You'll have work when you return. :) Have a great trip Linda!

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    2. Looking fwd to the work! OMG, am I jet lagged already? I just reread what I wrote up there--I meant FLIGHT FOR SAFETY !!!
      Thanks for wishes, and here's hoping there's another great woman piloting us across the pond.

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    3. No Problem... Flight To Success is a book in Progress too. All good. Oh... I know jet lag. Home from Europe and off to Asia. A new meaning to the F-word, Fatigue.

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  11. Karlene I really enjoyed this post, and I will be picking up your books to read as well. Condolences to the person who lost their loved one on the flight. I pray things heal with time.

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    1. Justin, Thank you very much. Some things we cannot undo.. but we can understand why. There were so many people who lost their loved ones. I too pray time will heal. Thanks!!

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