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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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Alcohol and Pilots

Guilty Because We Say So! 

"Getting a false positive made me live the life of 
Andy Dufrane in Shawshank Redemption... 
I never thought the storm would last so long...”
Captain Mike Danford

There was a time when pilots flew under the influence. But those days are gone, except for the isolated case of indiscretion on a layover that is captured before departure. There is always that isolated case where a pilot cannot avoid drinking and pushes the limit. But those cases are few and far between and not a current issue. Pilots simply do not show up to work under the influence in today's world. 

In response to drinking in the 70's came the HIMS program. HIMS stands for Human Intervention Motivation study, which was conducted in the 1970’s to determine the need for a "specialized alcohol recovery program for professional pilots." However, in the 70's pilots smoked in the cockpit, exercise meant carrying their flight bag, and eating right was a fresh donut with a cold cup of coffee. They played hard. A 50-year-old pilot looked like he was 80. Today, smoking is virtually non-existent, pilots exercise, eat right. and don't drink and fly. We hang out in the gym instead of the bars. 

Due to necessity in 1974 the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) funded the HIMS program.. Grants from the FAA were also awarded to Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) for continuation of the program. The HIMS program subsequently became a profit center.  A profit center that ran out of pilots who needed help, and now they grab all they can. Perhaps the reason they knowingly allow an alcohol test that produces false positives. 

The program itself is important for those who need it. But clearly we are not living in the 1970s. The unfortunate situation is that airline management is now using this program to control pilots. You do not need to be an alcoholic to be in this program. You may have had your first drink in your life, and received a DUI, at the lowest level, and you, too, could be in the program. When in this program you will have to admit you are an alcoholic, versus maybe you simply made a bad judgment call, or you will be terminated. 

Technically, do you have to go into the program? Absolutely not. You could do this on your own. The FAA requires: 
  • Substance abuse assessment
  • 28 day (preferably in-patient) treatment program
  • Establish peer and company sponsorship
  • 3 month intensive out patient follow up (IOP)
  • Heavy involvement in AA
  • Establishment in regular aftercare
  • Psychiatric and neuropsychological evaluations by HIMS-trained addiction specialists (P & P)
The problem is two parts:  ALPA says you have to go, and the lure is that the company will pay for it. 

How does the company control pilots in this program? If you call in fatigued, they could assert you are an alcoholic and must have been drinking. If you call in sick, they could assert it's your drinking that's the problem. If pilots were afraid to report safety before, they certainly won't report safety knowing that it could be the end of their career being accused of drinking when they have not. How is that possible?

The program requires random alcohol tests. 
But all tests are not created equal.

If a pilot joins the "ALPA/Company" program, the pilot signs a contract asserting they will never drink again. However, the contract is worded in such a manner that asserts the pilot will not receive a "positive test" for alcohol or drugs. The problem thereafter is that ALPA and the FAA are allowing airline management to use the Dried Blood Spot PEth (DBS) test that is not FDA approved and has proven to have produced thousands of false positives and as a result destroying lives. 

Pilots are losing their careers because of these false positive tests, when they did not drink. Even when the FAA returns the pilot's license and deems them fit to fly, the airline has the right to terminate the pilot. Worse yet, the alcohol programs these pilots are sent to, are managed and run by airline management. Pilot managers with no experience regarding alcohol and substance abuse treatment, and may be abusers themselves, sit on the board of directors of these facilities. The best way to control the outcome. They listen to the pilot's most intimate secrets during meetings. They use this information as they see fit. Nothing is confidential. 

"All Alcoholics and Addicts are Liars!"
So says manaement. 

Managers, overseeing pilots in the HIMS program, and chief pilots alike, believe that if you are an alcoholic then you are a liar. This may not be a global belief by all managers, but this statement has been voiced to many pilots in the program. It could be argued that these very managers with their limited knowledge and archaic thinking could be a contributing factor to the suicide rate within the program. 

Could you imagine receiving a false positive from a DBS PEth test, but then you take subsequent tests that prove the PEth was false, yet the logic of why management refuses to read the data and look at the facts is because it's of their opinion that "all alcoholics are liars"?  I personally know that statement to be false. I also know a Senior Vice President at an airline that perjured himself in court on multiple accounts, and he was promoted to a CEO. 

Hand Sanitizer Causes False Positives!
So Says Michelle Gable, owner of Choice Labs

Michele Gable, owner of Choice labs has admitted that she obtained a false positive from use of hand sanitizer with a Dried Spot Blood PEth test. She owns the labs that are producing these false positive tests. She also asserted that she and others drank and received a false negative. It's hard to believe that with this knowledge, these tests are even allowed. 

Where is ALPA?

What can be done to help falsely charged pilots? The answer is that ALPA must revamp the program and rewrite the contract to eliminate the "testing positive" language. Either the pilot drank or they did not. If a false positive can be proven false, then that should stand. 

ALPA must prohibit the PEth test. There are many other methods of determining if a pilot drank. The question is why is this still ongoing? 

Among the many plot points in Flight For Discovery is the frightening truth of how Global Air Lines management goes to no length to silence a female pilot, via the HIMS program, to prevent her from connecting with Darby. However, when the HIMS Chairman is about to come forward and tell Darby and her attorney everything, the worst happens. The events are inspired by a true story, where truth is scarier than fiction. 

For now, someone must do something about the PEth test. It's time to say no more. This is a good place to start if you want to learn more: Dried Blood Spot PEth 

Write to your local ALPA representatives, the FAA, your congressmen, and ask them to prohibit the use of the Dry Spot PEth Blood Test. Write to the National President ALPA President, Joe DePete, at and request that he prohibit the PEth test. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King Jr.

"Faith is taking the first step even
when you don't see the whole staircase."

Martin Luther King 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Traveling Those Friendly Skies

When They are Not So Friendly

A couple months ago I was invited to speak on the Ashleigh Banfield show to discuss unruly passengers. A big production in my living room for the filming, followed by delays that cut the show to just minutes. The first guest stated there was "nothing" the FAA could do about unruly passengers. Then the head of the flight attendant union spoke to flight attendant fear, and the question to me was, if I thought that passengers were unruly because the lack of leg room. I thought I had been invited to discuss aviation safety. I was wrong. The show ended quickly and what was not said, should have been. 


The FAA could do something to stop this violence
so says the law!

14 CFR § 121.580 - Prohibits the interference with crewmembers:

"No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part."
The FAA can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $25,000. One incident can result in multiple violations.

What is the FAA doing?

Passengers could lose their TSA PreCheck privilege 
over unruly behavior on flights!  

On December 23, 2021, FAA administrator Steve Dickson decided to take charge and hold people accountable and said, "if you act out of line, you will wait in line." Clearly Mr. Dickson has never stood in one of those lines. Anyone who has would know that if passengers were behaving poorly before, that action would certainly incite far worse behavior. More than that, it's a threat not unlike telling a child if they beat up the kids in the schoolyard, they will have to stand in the long line to get their ice cream cone. The punishment does not fit the crime. 

The question that should be asked is: why isn't the FAA administrator holding those passengers accountable at the risk of crew and passenger safety? Perhaps the FAA should focus more on aviation safety than the profitability of the airlines. 

Exciting news on the horizon! The next novel in the series, Flight For Discovery, is coming soon. Buried within the pages may provide insight as to why the FAA is looking the other way. Truth is scarier fiction.  Buckle up... the best is on its way! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year 2022!

2021 is gladly to be forgotten! 

This was the year that my dad died. The year that my husband had far too many ablations followed by pacemaker surgery, all of which put him into heart failure, where his function is at 35%. My friend was told she has terminal cancer. The year that I realized our society intends on destroying every bit of history with the assumption that this process is politically and socially correct, instead of allowing our children to learn from the past. The year we set precedent to honor criminals. The year we allow anyone to walk into a store and take whatever they want, or destroy another's property without repercussions. 

This is the year that I lost all faith in the FAA and came to realize that the agency is not about safety, but economic gain for the airline(s) they serve, not the passengers they should be protecting. This was the year that I learned that Safety Management Systems (SMS) is nothing but a pie crust regulation... easily made, easily broken... where flexibility means that airlines can work around (violate) federal regulations while the FAA stands by and watches. I won't go into family, judgement, arrogance, politics, handling of the pandemic and the horrific social behavior that has become an acceptable norm. 

All I can say is goodbye and good riddance 2021!

Welcome 2022!

New Years Resolutions:

  1. Find something to laugh about everyday and have fun! 
  2. Get 100 while golfing.
  3. Publish Flight For Discovery (Coming in February)
  4. Finish Flight For Justice (Coming in February 2023)
  5. Finish the plans for the Lake House, find a builder, and start the foundation. 
  6. Pass the LSAT! 
  7. Become Captain on the A330 in Seattle. A bid is coming, and last time my seniority was only 500 numbers away.  This may be my year. 
  8. Pray daily that the law is not "a ass, a idiot" (Dickens, Oliver Twist 277 (1867)) and that all legal issues are resolved with truth, honesty, and justice. 
  9. Eat healthy, exercise daily, and pray the serenity prayer daily:
God, grant me the serenity to accept 
the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

     10. Change the things I can!

This is a lot to accomplish in a year, and I know a doctor who has asserted, "No woman could do that!" But the truth is, we don't have to be perfect and do it all. We simply have to make goals to improve our circumstances and make the effort. If I make 95%, I'm ecstatic. If I make 50%, good for me! Simply because I'm trying. We do not have to lower our standards and behavior because others do. 

For all who have lost loved ones, misplaced your health, lost your home, lost your job, lost your sanity, your friends, your family, or simply have struggled way too hard in 2021, join me in the hope for a better future... a fantastic 2022! 

There is one thing that we can all do together, and that is to make the effort. 

Happy New Year!

May Peace, Love, Health
and Happiness be Yours
Today and Throughout the Year!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Time Of Giving!

 Christmastime Inspires the Gift of Giving! 

Following the success of "Beyond Haiku: Pilots Write Poetry," American Airlines Captain Linda Pauwels expands her literary wings to capture the soaring beauty and adventure captured in the words of 58 female pilots in her new book: "Beyond Haiku: Women Pilots Write Poetry."

Proceeds go toward flight training scholarships! 

I am a poet and didn't know it! In Beyond Haiku Women Pilots Write Poetry are two poems that I authored, and I even donated a little artwork, too. There are also 'surprises' in Women Pilots Write Poetry. Amongst the poems, Captain Linda Pauwels included never-before published poems by Amelia Earhart, with the assistance of Professor Sammie Morris and permission of the Purdue Research Foundation.

Because this is a historic book it was mentioned in a Washington Post article. It was also reviewed in Diario las Americas by journalist Grethel Delgado. You can read the press release here

Women Pilots Write Poetry is available on Amazon just in time for the holiday gift giving season! Please encourage friends and family to post genuine book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. This is very helpful for book sales, and Linda's goal is to donate proceeds towards flight training scholarships.

This is a much overdue post. But time flies while learning a new plane.  I had immediately purchased a book when it was first released with the intent to write a post, and then time got away. I just returned home from my first flight and found a gifted book from Linda in the mail with a note of appreciation. I now have two books. I want to give the one I purchased to someone who could use some light in their life. 

First: go to Amazon and get your copy of Beyond Haiku, Women Pilots Write Poetry. Remember to leave a comment! 


I'm certain we all know someone who would love this book as a gift. Leave a comment below and tell me why you would want to gift this book to a particular person. I'm going to pick the most heartwarming, love-filled story, or perhaps the funniest, and I will gift them my original copy. 

But also send me an email ( with Women Pilot Poetry as the subject, so I'll have your contact information if you win. 

Happy Holidays! 
And Enjoy the Journey
XOX Karlene 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Happy Veteran's Day

Take A Moment To Thank A Veteran 

When you see someone in a uniform, 

Someone who serves us all, 

Doing military duty, 

Answering their country’s call, 

Take a moment to thank them 

For protecting what you hold dear; 

Tell them you are proud of them; 

Make it very clear. 

Just tap them on the shoulder, 

Give a smile, and say, 

"Thanks for what you’re doing 

To keep us safe in the USA!"
 By Joanna Fuch

Saturday, November 6, 2021

AIRBUS A330: Understanding the Technology

A Higher Level of Understanding 
Improves Operational Performance

High Energy Approaches

The A330 has a very sleek wing and it's difficult to descend and slow down at the same time. Therefore, some carriers create techniques for high energy arrivals that keep the plane at altitude while it slows and then descend. The problem with this method is this technique is created in a cookbook fashion, and to work they require a sequence of steps to begin at a specific point in time, height, distance, weight, and environmental conditions. This works in a simulator but is unrealistic in real life. ATC often keeps us up high on arrival and the moment we might need this procedure ATC requires us to descend. Which makes this "stay at altitude to slow before we descend" not practical. 

Another other option is to go down and then slow down. Very effective, but you also need the experience to know how quickly this plane slows, and that too is dependent upon wind and weight, as well as ATC's ensuing speed requirements. 

Regardless, both options depend upon high situational awareness. In my opinion, the cookbook stay at altitude and slow approach is unrealistic because chances of being in the exact condition that was trained in the simulator, and ATC allowing you to stay at altitude longer than they want is highly unlikely. The descend and then slow is a great option, but not in every situation. Below is a real life it's going to happen scenario. Will you know how to manage the mass to accomplish the goal safely?

Manage the Mass

The airplane can descend and slow down if you understand the technology. The following is a technique based on systems knowledge and how to manage the mass when ATC is bringing you in on an arrival, and then decides to turn you on a short base for a visual and you become unexpectedly high. This is a far more likely situation in real life, and the need to understand how to get the plane down and slow down quickly is essential. 

  • Dial in the FAF altitude on the FCU, and pull for Open Descent. The thrust goes to idle, and the plane starts down. 
  • Select speed and dial in 170 knots. This is a speed that we can configure to flaps 3.
  • While selecting the speed, call "gear down" and pull for full speedbrakes. Both of which create drag. 
  • Select flaps on schedule as you slow: 240 flaps 1, 196 flaps 2, 170 flaps 3. 
  • When stable and on profile, press for managed speed and call "flaps full landing check." 

Understanding the Automation

The speed tape displays an amber hook (blue arrow below) which identifies VLS. VLS is the lowest selectable speed for the autopilot and autothrust. Autothrust won't allow you fly below the hook, even if you select a speed lower than VLS. Therefore, during a high energy descent if you get into the hook your thrust will increase. When high, this added power prohibits your goal. Situational awareness as to what your plane is doing is essential at all times.

Speedbrakes increase drag and will help you to descend and slow, but you must have the knowledge that thrust will increase if you get into the hook. If you're aware of this, then you'll know that you may need to come out of speedbrakes temporarily, if the hook raises due to your current configuration, as it continually adjusts. Understanding the technology will help you manage the mass for those non-standard situations. 

To learn more, I found a great Airbus Article on speed management: 

Training Update! 

I am finished with the simulator portion of training and now the goal is to retain what I learned, for when I get to fly the plane. It looks like I will be flying within the next 30 days! I can hardly wait. 

If you ever find yourself in the predicament of not flying and need retention, take the time to visualize a flight each day. It works! This will keep operations fresh in your mind. Thinking about your flight is excellent practice, and your brain does not know the difference.

Enjoy the Journey! 
XO Karlene