Contract Airline Services


"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, May 7, 2013

What Drew Me to Flying

I'm blogging in formation with six of the greatest aviation bloggers this week, as we all will share our stories at to what drew us to flying. Not only am I the only woman on this blogging in formation team, but I would venture to say my story might be a just a little bit different than most of the guys.


42 years ago I was sitting on my bedroom floor playing the game Careers with my girlfriends. This was a game where we spun the wheel to land on the career of our choice. Yes... we could become a stewardess, librarian, teacher, nurse, or model! A stewardess was the career of the times. And as luck would have it, all my friends landed on the magic spot securing the job of their dreams. Not me. As hard as I spun that wheel I could not fall on the Stewardess spot.




I proclaimed, "I don't care if I can't land on that spot. I don't want to be a Stewardess anyway. I'm going to be the pilot!" 
My friend said, "You can't be a pilot."
"Why not?"
"You're a girl. My Dad's a pilot, and girls can't be pilots."
"Yes they can!"
"No they can't."
"I can!"
"No you can't. You're a girl."


I kicked everyone out of the house, and once they were gone I ran to the kitchen and asked my mom, "Can I be a pilot?"

She said, "I don't care what you do. Get out of the kitchen." She may have said that I could be anything I want to be, as that was the message she had given me and my sisters throughout our lives. But she was making dinner, and a kid under foot was never a good thing. So I ran off and held fast to the mantra, "I am going to be a pilot."

 

I told everyone I was going to be a pilot. My four sisters (I was the middle child) all teased me and said I couldn't do it. But I held fast to the statement that I could be a pilot. The challenge was on.

When I was 13-years-old, I went on my first flight in a Boeing 727. My dad was taking my sisters and I to Disneyland. So I went to the cockpit to tell the pilots I was going to be a pilot. It was at that moment, when I poked my head inside and opened my mouth, that my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach.

I can't be a pilot! There are far too many instruments ... buttons ... knobs.

 

How would I learn what all those switches and knobs did? There was no way I could learn how to fly. I returned to my seat and pouted on the flight to Disneyland. I had spent my entire life telling everyone I was going to be a pilot, and there was no way I could learn how to fly.



As I stood in line for the Dumbo ride a thought crossed my mind. If an elephant could fly with a feather, certainly a girl could fly a plane. Why couldn't I learn to fly? I would take it one day at a time. I returned home with my original intent ... I would become a pilot.


I babysat, mowed lawns, weeded, did odd jobs, and saved birthday and Christmas money. Anything I could do to get money for flight lessons. When I turned 16-years-old I went for an introductory flight and the instructor gave me the plane on the runway, and talked me through a takeoff. As we rotated, and became airborne, I thought... "And they're going to pay me to do this?"  I was hooked.


The next stop... Guidance counselor's office. I said, "I'm going to be a pilot. What do I need to do?" She said, "I don't think girls can be pilots. I know they can't fly in the military, so I'm not sure what to tell you." 

Ugh. So I did the next best thing I could do. I winged it, and each day I did something to continue the pursuit of getting my ratings and one day getting that dream job. 


I have now had "8" dream jobs. Yes, I have loved each and every one of them. It's been all about the journey. And honestly, that's what I value in life~ Experiences.

What drew me to flying? Being told that I couldn't. What made me stick to that goal despite my fear? I told everyone I was going to do it and would not eat crow. What kept me flying? Falling in love with the sky, the plane, the freedom and the responsibility on that very first flight.

 

One of my greatest regrets is not having photos of my early days of flying. My money was spent on flying lessons, and the thought of buying a camera had never occurred to me. But the camera has been clicking ever since. And all the photos on this post are planes that I have flown since my career has started. For more on my career path, click HERE.


Please join my fellow In Formation Bloggers as they share their stories. It's all about the journey and I'm excited to see what got them flying.



This aviation life has been a fun ride.

So tell me why did you start flying, writing, or doing what you do?

Enjoy the journey!
XO Karlene

Update: Cap'n Aux did a little recognizance and found a couple photos from my game careers. This is kind of funny. And this game was so old... it was not a stewardess... but a hostess! Wow.



37 comments:

  1. What an amazing story Karlene! I know your life's work has inspired many and it's really cool to hear how it all started.

    We are all so glad you "stuck to your guns" and didn't let anything get in the way of your dreams.
    Brent

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Brent. I'm glad too. And really looking forward to your story too.

      Delete
  2. Wow! What a great story! I have bookmarked a page when you told us that same story. It's excellent!

    Answer to the question:
    Because once you have the spirit, you just do it. You know what I mean! Jet-fuel is our blood.


    Cheers,
    Alex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Alex, I do know what you mean. You have jet fuel in your blood and the scent feeds your soul. Thanks for your comment!

      Delete
  3. As I told everyone, when you profiled me for your Friday pilot series, I decided to become a pilot when I was five, during the NASA Mercury or Gemini flights. I learned astronauts didn't fly often, and I wanted to fly every day. My Mom says my first car trip was to nearby Heathrow (London) Airport, and that as a baby I would sit outside watching the airliners lined up to land.

    Due to eyesight and limited opportunities in the UK, I didn't become a professional pilot. Once relocated to the US, I started lessons and earned my private, then instruments, commercial, and finally CFI licenses. Now I teach on weekends and evenings, and own my own Bonanza. Not quite how I imagined it as a 5 year old, but I got there. In a couple of weeks I'm planning to fly from Dallas to Las Vegas - in my own plane! Woopee!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your trip sounds wonderful, as is your life. Everything turns out like it should... and you may have been given a gift. Also I just realized that I never get a message when your posts come up...

      Will you create a link to follow by email? I have so many, that's how I know when a post goes live. By the end of the day... the day is gone.

      For everyone else... Check out D.B.'s great blog!

      http://dbcooper-theblog.blogspot.com/

      Delete
    2. Thanks Karlene - I think I have made that addition - please go to my blog and add your email, and you should (if I did did it right) get updates. I only add entries "as the spirit moves" (or when one of the Muses kick me in the butt), which can be rather irregularly :)

      Delete
  4. Wonderful story. I'm sure it'll inspire other young girls now and in the future! Glad you've had such an awesome, enjoyable career too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Steve. I try to. And always tell everyone... don't ever let them tell you that you can't!

      Delete
  5. Outstanding story. I enjoy reading how other pilots were inspired by aviation and how they made their dreams come true. Happy landings Karlene, you are an inspiration to many.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yes...and this week we get to read all about the rest of the team. Thank you so much for the comment.

      Delete
  6. Fantastic story, Karlene! By your leave I'm going to link it to my upcoming Mother's Day post--all about flying mommies! It's also strikingly similar to some elements of Holly's story in my novel, which I'll be posting for Mom's Day special as well...but first,

    BLOGGING IN FORMATION!

    Thanks for sharing --you're definitely an inspiration to those that are told they "can't!"
    Eric

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Eric. Yes... for all those Mom's out there... a special shout and a happy day. Holly... the truth in fiction for sure.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. Thank you Mark! Life is all about the adventure. Sometimes a struggle...but always good.

      Delete
  8. Enjoyed your story Karlene. Hard to believe there was a time not long ago when people were told they couldn't be a pilot because of their gender.

    If you still have that game you played as a kid, you should take a picture of the pointer on the magic square. Except cross out "stewardess" and write in "pilot". It'd make a great header graphic! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be awesome. I don't have that story... I think it went out with the trash when I went off to school. But, they have a new game. The only difference is the new jobs are computer technician, Doctor...etc. More advanced with the times. That seriously would have been awesome.

      Delete
  9. Karlene: great story! It makes me happy to think you weren't discouraged, and sad to think how many girls were (and still probably are) to this day.

    I have one female Private Pilot student right now, but know several who have expressed an interest in learning. Just need to convince them to get started!

    Kudos, and what a great way to begin the BLOGGING IN FORMATION series!

    Tailwinds,
    Andrew

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Andrew. Please feel free to give those female potential students my email. If they have any questions, I would be more than happy to talk to them. Also... encourage them to visit a 99 club, too. The support there is amazing.

      Thanks so much for your comment! And looking forward to your story too!

      Delete
  10. I'll answer the "So tell me why did you start flying, writing, or doing what you do?" question. I'm a software engineer, and a private pilot. I got started on both because it interested me. Then it turns out, I have a knack for it. Okay, maybe my knack for flying can be questionable as shown by this toungue-in-cheek video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVAX8PdNuBA.


    My first ever commercial flight was flying to the Philippines. At 12 years old I was flying as unaccompanied minor from the Philippines back to LAX to visit my parents. During a stop-over in KHNL I asked the stewardess if I can see the cockpit. The flight engineer (yes, 747's had those at that time) gave me a tour of the cockpit. He offered for me to try out his seat but I was too shy to take the offer.

    My first exposure to computers was in 1st grade. Boy, my classmates thought we were so smart entering X-Y coordinates to "draw" using this graphic software.

    These first experiences sparked a passion in me that continues on to this day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keith, this is awesome and shows so much the power of exposing children to the possibilities of life. Those are the powerful memories that point us in a direction of passion. Thank you so much for sharing your story!!

      Delete
  11. Did you ever went back and tease those girls that you are a pilot now?

    Haha, you are a legend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, the girl who told me I couldn't ... Her Dad was a Western pilot and ended up retiring at Delta. He went with the merger. And... her brother is a pilot at American, and she is a housewife. Then, one of the other girls ended up being a Flight Attendant for Northwest (now retired), and her husband is now a pilot with Delta. And the other girl... she went into business for herself, but has a daughter who wants to be a flight attendant for Alaska. So... we all held true to our beliefs from that day.

      Delete
    2. Holy aviation family! But congratulations to all of them making their dreams come true!

      Delete
    3. Yes... it's great when everyone makes their dreams come true!

      Delete
  12. Thanks so much for sharing what drew you to flying. I loved hearing about the story with your friends. Sometimes doubt can create the greatest motivation!

    Just read the comment above... that's crazy to hear about how all of your friends stuck to that game and all became involved in aviation! I love hearing that!

    Hope all has been going well for you this week, have a great one!
    -Swayne Martin http://martinsaviation.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They say we know who we are when we're five years old... or something like that. It is strange, but shows the power of a belief, or dream, or idea at an early age.
      Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  13. Karlene, Every time I log into your world, I am always reminded of that day. The day that changed my life forever. The day that flying came into my life. The first time I was on an airplane. The NWA Boeing 747 bound for Amsterdam. How nervous I was yet when I arrived in Amsterdam, all I wanted was to do it over again. And guess what?

    I did.

    KLM bounced us off the connect flight to MAD due to equipment failure and we were forced to take Iberia instead and an added leg. AMS-BCN-MAD. Two extra flights after the 7hr55m trip over and KLM paid me $300 in guilders to fly that extra leg.. YES: to fly more!

    I also didn't think to have a camera at that time of NWA068 BUT, but someone was on that flight and took a priceless video of me sitting inside that NW747-200 that changed my life. When I eventually come to Seattle I will bring it with me.

    Even though I looked like a total '90s nerd with my huge glasses, the smile on my face was priceless sunshine.

    Thank you once again for allowing us to re-open our stories and re-kindle our passions to an even greater degree.

    J

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeremy, I love how NWA sparked your love of flight. And to get paid to fly more? What a deal is that. Today I suspect most would complain. They forget the joy of the journey. Thank you so much for the comment. And I'm looking forward to seeing the video of the fabulous nerd with the huge smile. Thank you so much for you comment!

      Delete
  14. That is an awesome story that we should all be inspired by. It is amazing how some people allow others telling them no to bring them down, and others use it to motivate them to great success.

    We must never allow others to prevent us from pursuing our dreams just because they don't have the courage to follow their own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Dave! I agree with you. But the real point is, we are all in charge of our lives. Basically...writing our own stories. And just like the antagonist in story tries to knock the hero down... so do those in our world. But we have to remember two things. 1. We are the hero of our own stories called life. 2. We are writing our own story.
      Be strong and live strong. And hope everyone finds their courage. Thank you so much for the comment!!!

      Delete
  15. You obviously need to find something to occupy your spare time. I just read your "About" page, and now I need to go take a nap.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha Ha. Nap? Oh.. that sounds like a GREAT idea. lol

      Delete
  16. Thanks for sharing this motivational story of flights. It sounds great . I love flying stories because it inspire myself.


    Thanks,
    Mark Duin
    Motivational Speaker

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Mark! And.... keep motivating people. We need more of that.

      Delete
  17. So that's what you mean when I tell you a story of my friend about 'not telling others about our goal'. You did tell everyone what you really one. I agree with that. It's like an affirmation to our mindset. It's a positive thing that we can do to motivate ourselves. After all, we are the one that going through the journey, be it alone or with others.

    Thanks for this post. Now I know, people around us usually doubt and tell us we cannot do it, I experienced the same all the time :(
    But deep inside, I know I can so I will do it, I'm going to succeed.

    P/S : btw, sorry bout the joystick things. Its really awkward for me now to talk to you, to be honest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes...that is what I meant. Don't let them tell you otherwise. And... not to worry about the joystick! Everything happened at once and It all got overwhelming. I intended on writing... but got so busy. I will hand deliver or send to a personal address. :)

      Delete

Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!