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

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

What Can Go Wrong? Go Wrong? Go Wrong...?

Knowledge: The Path to Safety

Many years ago both my captain and I were new to the Airbus A330 and were flying into Shanghai. We were displaced Boeing pilots in an environment where feet was converted into meters and unfortunately nobody spoke English over the radio. The night was late and fatigue tugged at our your eyelids. Dozens of planes freckled the Nav Display (ND), and we could hear pilots talking to ATC but we had no idea of the ongoing clearances. Targets were buzzing around our aircraft like a swarm of bees. 

I was the pilot flying. ATC descended us to 600 meters. A quick check—2000 feet. We were issued an intercept heading that was well inside of the final approach fix, which was 2900 feet. Unbeknownst to me  my captain decided to help me by clearing the PPOS. (Present Position). Timing is everything.

Before I could yell "stop", and quicker than the glide-slope could capture, bells screamed, lights flashed, the autopilot disengaged and my instant thought was— is the missed approach still in the box? During the moment of chaos the glide-slope dropped below us. I had to make a decision. Go around not knowing if we still had a programed missed approach and fly into an environment with too many planes and no knowledge of what they were doing? Or should I try to save the approach in which we were now high?  

What was the safest course of action 
based upon the situation? 

Thankfully all those thoughts happened at once because there was no time to reflect on each concern and project the choices into the future. The green line on my map, that had been pointing to the runway, was also gone.  The only green line remaining was in front of our plane but jetting off to the left. Decision time.

After the autopilot disconnected, I had immediately re-engaged it to assist while I assessed the situation. I knew precisely where I was, made an instant decision, and used vertical speed to fly down and re-capture the glide-slope.

I said, as I confirmed with my instruments, "Course locked on, glide-slope captured, auto-thrust is engage, and our decision altitude is…" It was gone. But I remembered and said, “213 feet.” The captain had reinserted the approach quickly, but not the minimums.

Within seconds runway lights reached out through the fog. There were no automatic call-outs. The captain stated, “Runway in sight," and I glanced at the altimeter—300 feet. I disconnected the autopilot and landed.

Before we ever exited the runway, the captain said, "Why'd it do that?"  

What went wrong with this approach? 

What can we learn from it? Was this an Airbus issue? ATC issue? A lack of understanding issue? Procedural issue? Share your thoughts, and on Monday I'll provide the explanation that I shared with the captain over a cold beer that night.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Monday, September 13, 2021

A330 Training Underway

My Training Schedule has Finally Arrived! 

I was awarded the A330 many months ago and I am finally headed for training, to begin on October 1st! I actually started studying back in May because my original start date was August 1st. Then September. Then one thing lead to another and I have been delayed yet another month. No time is  ever wasted. 

Because most airlines require at-home self-study followed by an electronic evaluation, pilots may not receive as much knowledge as they would from an instructor in a classroom and an aural evaluation. My doctoral research identified that one of the greatest threats to aviation safety is lack of knowledge. Therefore, I've decided to bring to life some of my A330 notes to help all those new-to- Airbus pilots with yet another resource of information to increase knowledge. I want to thank Airbus for providing manuals and photos online, and to all my Airbus friends who share your wisdom and your systems manuals. Today is all about the basics. 

The Brains of the Computerized Airplane:

A330: FMCEG, MCDU, and FCU 

The Flight Management System, FMS, is comprised of 2 FMGEC—Flight Management Guidance Envelope Computers. Inside each of the FMGEC computers are the operating systems that manage our A330. 

FMGEC: Flight Management. Flight Guidance. Flight Envelope Computers.

FM: Flight Management. This is the on-board computerized Dispatcher responsible for flight planning, performance, navigation, and communicating data via the PFDs, NDs, and MCDUs.

FG: Flight Guidance. This is the on-board, computerized pilot responsible for commanding the autopilot, flight directors, and authothrust.

FE: Flight Envelope. This is the on-board, computerized Flight Engineer, responsible for computing the flight envelope, maneuvering speeds, reactive windshear detection, and gross weight and CG computations and warnings.

Under normal operations the two FMGECs work together. Data entered into either MCDU (Multipurpose Control Display Unit) is shared with the other computer. While they work together, just like other glass planes, there is a master. The selection of the A/P or A/T (first on) will determine which FMGEC becomes that master. If one FMGEC has a problem, the other can handle the operation. However, the pilot must switch control on the Switching Panel. There is no automatic switching of an FMGEC computer. 

In the example below, the number 2 FMGEC failed and the pilot selected both on 1, and now the First Officers MCDU interacts with the number one FMGE

The Big Picture

MCDU: Pronounced the McDoo, is your Multipurpose Control Display Unit, which is called a CDU (control display unit) on the Boeing. The long-range goal is to get to the destination, and this computerized airplane can do that itself, with a little help from the pilot. By programming the MCDU, the pilot can set the plane for success to takeoff, climb, manage speed, level off, descend, and fly an arrival to an auto-landing at destination. Flying the plane in this automated manner is all about utilizing Managed Guidance—where the operation is fully automated and the computer is directing the aircraft. Remember, you still have to manage the mass and plan for configuration changes.

(Airbus) MCDU is a CDU (Boeing)

FCU: The Flight Control Unit is nothing more than Boeing’s MCP (mode control panel). This is where the pilot intervenes to deviate from their original programmed plan. ATC requests you slow, turn to a heading, or gives you an unexpected level off, this is how you'll manage the flight. Or, if the pilot just wants to fly the plane. When we intervene, we use Selected Guidance—where the pilots is commanding the aircraft. 

(Airbus) FCU is a MCP (Boeing)

Normal operations you want to fly the plane with a combination of both managed and selected. Many pilots rely on the managed guidance. Smart pilots take control and disengage the autopilot to maintain proficiency with their flying skills. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering 911

Ensure that it will Never Happen Again

911: The Day Aviation Changed

Twenty years ago today I was working my second job in Dallas, training Sun Country pilots at American Airlines Training facility. Today I am in Seattle studying A330 systems. My training finally begins October 1st. But I cannot start the day without a prayer for those who lost loved ones during these horrific attacks.  

Twenty years ago was the "day" that changed aviation. That day altered our freedoms. And each year we memorialize the lives lost. We cannot bring them back, but we can ensure that terrorism by aircraft will never occur again. 

Never Again! 

After 911 became a reality we figured out how to keep the terrorists out of the flight deck with heightened security, barrier doors, and operational procedures. But how will we keep them out of the ground-based warehouses, or prevent minimum wage employees from being bought off, or prevent them from hacking into automated systems? 

Imagine if we allow automation to operate our commercial airliners instead of pilots. If we remove pilots from airline operations, every plane in the sky will provide an opportunity for terrorists to take control and fly those aircraft into buildings. We will live this horrific experience again on an unprecedented level. We need pilots on the aircraft to ensure that doesn't happen. 

I pray the public will not allow FAA administrators, aligned with profit centers created by airline management and promised lucrative positions upon retirement, to create legislation allowing pilots to be removed from the aircraft they fly. Not even on the freight operators. Those aircraft will have the same impact. 

Today we have a corporate induced pilot shortage because of the decision to allow thousands of pilots early retirements. Was this decision due to mismanagement and shortsightedness? Or was this simply long-range strategic planning because the current FAA administrator is in place to ensure legislation to remove pilots, and a shortage was the first step? 

The first pilot shortage was due to the FAA's 1500 hour flight time requirement, which was aligned with an anticipated fully operational NEXT GEN industry. However NEXT GEN was behind schedule due to security, so automation was unable to take over at that time. Pilots remained. The second pilot shortage is due to airlines using the pandemic to provide early retirements. What happens next? It's not a conspiracy if it's really happening. 

Please, do not allow another 911 event to occur. If we lose our pilots you can be assured that hacking into our aircraft systems will be the next level of terrorism.  

As long as we don't give up, always strive to be better today than we were yesterday, and work toward improvement we can create a positive change.  This change will lead to a better world. But the change of removing pilots is not a positive step. Do not blindly follow those leaders to a path of destruction. 

Today, take a moment to remember. Then, in honor of all those we lost, do not allow the next level of terrorism to take over. 

Take steps to ensure this won't happen again. 
Do not remove pilots. 
They are your last line of defense. 

Enjoy the journey
XO Karlene

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Pilot Fatigue

What Can You Do?

During my doctoral research I had numerous people ask me why I did not include fatigue in my study. My response was: 

Fatigue is a Stand Alone Study 

I assured those pilots there would be a fatigue driven study, and here it is. My friend and Cohort, Heidi Kim, from Embry Riddle is doing just that! 

Heidi Kim 

Heidi is a Doctoral Candidate at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the Ph.D. in Aviation Program. Her passion for human factors drove her to the Ph.D. program, and her dissertation took her in the direction of airline pilot fatigue. Prior to studying at Embry-Riddle, Heidi earned her undergraduate degree at the University of North Dakota.  "Go Fighting Sioux!" 

She is currently a Texan with a Wisconsinite heart, living in the DFW area. Heidi is not only a flight instructor (CFI/CFII/MEI), she is also a regulatory affairs investigator in Tech Ops for a major airline. Her husband is also a pilot, but for a different major airline than hers.  

Heidi and her husband, Alex, enjoy flying general aviation aircraft, traveling, and spending time with their fluffy Golden Retriever. Of course he is named Rudder. I had a Saint Bernard named Chief Pilot, because he laid around all day drooling and would do anything if you gave him a bone. 

When I asked Heidi why a fatigue study, she responded: 
Fatigue is a common occurrence in daily life. While it typically presents as a minor occurrence, to a pilot fatigue can be a deadly combination. 

Heidi needs your help

Heidi is working to finish her Ph.D. in Aviation through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and she needs your help. Her research seeks to determine a prediction model for airline pilot perceived fatigue. While pilot fatigue is a worldwide problem for freight carriers and passengers alike, the scope of her research is limited to U.S. based passenger airlines.

Pilots will remain anonymous - no names will be collected. You may quit at any time. There will be no risk involved in your participation, and your reward will be the positive impact that this research can have on the aviation community. Heidi said the approximate time to complete the study was 20 minutes, but it only took me 10 minutes. 

If you are a US based pilot flying for a passenger carrier, please take a few minutes to take her study by clicking on the following link: 

Thank you for your help!!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Happy Labor Day 2021!


Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Hate Crimes and Aviation

Do They Deserve to be Terminated?

My goal is to attend Law School and pass the bar prior to my retirement in May 2027 so I can legally help those in need. With that said, I find the law interesting, often unbalanced, and I have become intimately aware of the many ways airline management attempt to get rid of employees. The following case appears to be one of those unjustified terminations. 

Three women were terminated in June for "hate-related behavior." The question is... was this justified?

You be the judge...
Was the language due to hate?


Envoy Air Terminates African-American and 
Two Pacific Islanders 
for reference to Jackie Chan Movie

In a letter to Envoy Air management dated August 25, 2021, New York attorney Lee Seham takes the carrier to task for terminating three employees for referring to the themselves as "slaves" and quoting a line from the Jackie Chan movie Rush Hour as a means of explaining that the reference was not intended to the offend others. The three employees - Losaolima Fonokalafi, Faye Tuala, and Asefash Asfaha - each have over twenty (20) year of seniority. They are, respectively, immigrants from Tonga, Samoa, and Eritrea (Africa) and were employed by Envoy as Inventory Control Specialists. 

Envoy found cause to terminate Ms. Fonokalafi because, in response to a comment by an aircraft mechanic that she was working too hard, she agreed that she and her co-worker's worked like "slaves." 

The following week, a white co-worker confronted Ms. Fonokalafi about her comment and asserted that "Black lives matter." Ms. Asfaha - an African-American born in Eritrea - came to her colleague's defense by explaining that Ms. Fonokalafi was from Tonga and had a different life experience from her white accuser. Ms. Asfaha compared her colleague to the innocent Chinese police detective in a hit movie who inadvertently made an offensive remark in a bar patronized exclusively African-Americans, and appealed to Ms. Tuala for help in recalling the movie and the scene. Ms. Tuala supplied the movie name and relevant quote to assist Ms. Asfaha in explaining Ms. Fonokalafi's innocence. 

Envoy terminated Ms. Fonokalafi and Ms. Tuala for allegedly making an improper "slave" reference and  because they "quoted movie lines" that were offensive. Envoy terminated Ms. Asfaha for she allegedly quoting the same movie lines. 

Mr. Seham's August 25 letter provided Envoy with precedent from the National Labor Relations Board  hold an employee has a right under federal labor law to articulate complaints concerning her working conditions using such language. He also argued: 

Every race has been enslaved and has enslaved others. Our republic's first international conflict was in response to African pirates who had enslaved over a million European and white American sailors. In the English language, the term "working like a slave" is a common idiomatic expression meaning nothing more than the individual is working hard for a paltry compensation. 

Seham further argued that terminating life-long employees for a reference to a popular movie that grossed over $245 million worldwide could not be justified, particularly when the purpose of the reference was not to offend, but to promote understanding. Moreover, the only African-American present at the time was Ms. Asfaha, whom Envoy terminated. 

On August 30, Envoy responded to Mr. Seham that it was "working on collecting data for this case..." 


After reading the press-release, it appears that the hate related behavior could be owned by Envoy management for an unreasonable termination of three employees. Could these three women have been terminated because of a white woman's hate towards them? Perhaps the white woman doesn't like hardworking women of other cultures, is angry at Black Lives Matter, and she simply used this event to have these senior women removed. These women could have been targeted because of their culture and their ethnicity. If Enjoy management is gathering data in August regarding a June termination perhaps they jumped the gun. 

Nothing is black and white and interpretation and common sense must prevail. The Airbus A350 manual refers the computer systems as the "master" and the "slave". To put this into perspective, imagine an African American pilot who is forced to read that language in his manual, is required to take a test and respond in that same language, and yet he could be terminated because he comments to a coworker that he he's working like a slave.  The airline is exempt from the language in the manual. Airbus is exempt from the language in the manual. But employees are terminated for the same language. 

I wish these women the best of luck in their case. I know that they have an excellent attorney representing them. Lee Seham cares about people, about justice, is an expert in the law, and I've witnessed him take on multimillion dollar law firm and win. If you need help saving your career, start by contacting Seham, Seham, Meltz and Peterson and ask for Lee. 

Read the termination letter at: eTurboNews

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Friday, August 13, 2021


"The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings."
Albert Schweitzer

News Flash!

"August 13, 2021 — Today, The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) is proud to announce that it has filed for union representation with the National Mediation Board (NMB) on behalf of the Aircraft Maintenance Controllers at JetBlue." Read more here

Jet Blue is on the way to a safer operation 
now that their mechanics have joined AMFA!

Last month I had the honor to speak at the AMFA National Convention in Nevada, and then again at local meeting in Seattle, this month. The topic: Safety Management Systems. What impressed me most about AMFA is their unity and focus on safety. When a mechanic reports an aircraft discrepancy and the company requests they look the other way or face job action, AMFA stands to the mechanic's defense. 

Bret Oestreich, National Director and 
Will Abbott Region II Director

A positive Safety Culture is a group effort and necessitates a reporting culture free of retaliation. Safety Culture begins with leadership that encourages employees to report discrepancies in order to keep the operation safe. Time and again, we see management falling short on their ultimate obligation of safety when profit becomes the top priority. When this happens, the union must step in and enforce the regulations and protect the employee. AMFA does just that.  

AMFA understands the protections of the Air 21 statute, in which no employee can be retaliated against for reporting safety, and they financially back the mechanics in their legal defense. This makes the legal battle an even playing field, where an airline can't terminate an employee and expect them to finance a defense on their own. When employees know they are protected, they will be more apt to not fear standing up to a manager who is coercing them into pencil whipping a logbook. 

"Safety Begins with the Quality of Maintenance 
on the Ground" 

Unions are a necessity when safety is the goal. Without protected employees, you don't know what pressures have been placed upon the individual to put an un-airworthy aircraft into the sky.  Mechanics have been told, "your job or your license, you decide." But nobody should have to make such a choice. 

In response to the many lawsuits of illegal actions taken against unionized employees, think of the silence at carriers where the employees are not protected. Safety Management Systems (SMS) makes reporting a legal obligation. If anyone is retaliated against for reporting safety concerns, or writing up a maintenance issue, and you don't have a union protecting you, contact Lee Seham at: Seham, Seham, Meltz & Petersen

To learn more about AMFA and learn how to help your airline join the AMFA team, visit their website at: AMFA.  

Congratulations Jet Blue!
The skies have just become that much safer. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene