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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, July 22, 2021

Strike Two

The FAA Breaks Another Link in the Safety Chain

On June 26th I shared with you a disheartening post: Safety Chain Broken. The FAA Breaks the Safety Chain.  The FAA has knowledge of and is looking the other way when airlines deadhead pilots out of base and across the country to fly an International trip without the required crew rest. Sometimes these pilots are on duty for well over 30 hours. The FAA knows they are doing this and is condoning the behavior. Strike One. 

Strike Two: The FAA has knowledge of and is allowing airlines to avoid the FAA mandated SMS training. If you work for an airline and don't know what SMS is, you are not alone. The following question and answer is public record from a captain/ check airman of an international airline. 

Question:  "Have you ever discussed SMS with other pilots at (your airline)?" 

Answer: "Well a little bit. Usually when I say SMS they say, What is that? Is that part of the airplane?"


On January 7, 2015, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta described SMS as "an organization-wide approach to mitigating risk in airline operations." Huerta also issued the final regulation that required most U.S. passenger and cargo airlines to implement a safety management system (SMS) as of January 2018. Perhaps if we were able to speak to Mr. Huerta, we could query him on his intent of risk mitigation regarding SMS and the necessity of a reporting culture. Perhaps we could ask him why training became a component of SMS but is now being denied. However, despite numerous attempts to speak to Mr. Huerta and convey concerns or ask him questions, he remains unapproachable. Rumor has it that he rolled out of the FAA's bed and into a cushy Board of Director's position at an international airline. 

Michael Huerta

Prior to explaining how the FAA allows airlines to avoid a specific component of SMS, it becomes important to understand SMS. The four components are identified below:

The foundation of any SMS 
is a positive safety culture

Safety Culture 

A lack of accidents does not indicate safety when an airline has over 25,000 ASAP reports and far too many near catastrophic accidents.  Safety is more than a great marketing strategy. A safe airline will have a strong safety culture.  Safety culture is the essence of how the organization operates and is identified by five critical sub-components to include a reporting culture, a just culture, a flexible culture, an informed culture, and a learning culture. You can read more on Safety Culture here: A Brief Update on Safety Culture.  However, because learning and information are key components of a safety culture, the failure to train or even communicate SMS to the employee group identifies something other than a positive safety culture. 

Airlines are allowed to create their own SMS, but the FAA must approve the program to ensure it meets the requirements under the SMS Advisory Circular: 

Under the Safety Promotion Quadrant airlines are required to train employees on SMS and ensure they are competent. 

Safety Promotion
"A combination of training and communication of safety information to support the implementation and operation of an SMS in an organization."

(5) Part 5 Requirements.

§ 5.91 Competencies and training. The certificate holder must provide training to each individual identified in § 5.23 to ensure the individuals attain and maintain the competencies necessary to perform their duties relevant to the operation and performance of the SMS.

(6) Discussion. "Your organization will need to train its employees."

"By training your employees, you should establish competencies for all employees, commensurate with their duties relevant to the operation and performance of the SMS." 

If an employee does not  know what SMS is,
how can an airline meet compliance? 


Over a month ago I spoke with two FAA investigators at the end of yet another investigation, as they attempted to justify why some airlines are not required to follow the SMS required training. Apparently, if the POI approves something else in its place, then that satisfies the SMS training requirement. Unfortunately an airline, where pilots think SMS is an acronym for part of the airplane, has received approval for their ASAP training in lieu of SMS training. Yet, how pilots are trained for ASAP is another mystery, as I've been told it's a learn by doing process. The investigators assert that airlines are allowed to use whatever training they desire if it's been approved by their POI. 

The POI, Principal Operations Inspector, is an FAA assigned employee working with an airline. One can assume that when an FAA administrator slides so easily into lucrative Board of Directors position after exiting the FAA or airline executives are placed into high-level FAA positions, that prior negotiations may have taken place. Why else would the FAA overlook airline violations?

ASAP versus Reporting Culture. 

While an ASAP can be included in an airline's SMS, ASAP is not an SMS. Even if pilots were trained how to fill out the ASAP form, this would not comply with the SMS Advisory Circular. If a child is taught how to extend the flaps on an aircraft, this does not mean that she understands aerodynamics or has the knowledge to fly the aircraft. The intent of the training portion of this regulation is to educate pilots to understand SMS and how it applies to their operations to mitigate risk and improve safety.  

SMS enables employees to identify problems beyond their own errors, but also to mitigate risk within their environment. If an employee has a safety concern, for example their company is deadheading pilots across the country without required crew rest or management is telling pilots to not call in fatigued because fatigue is the other "F word" the employee should know where and how to report that event and be able to do so without retaliation. Nobody should be deemed crazy because they report safety concerns. SMS says so. Therefore, by not training employees on the required components of SMS, airlines keep them in fear and no reporting is done. Simply because a pilot files an ASAP report because they misheard a frequency change, does not mean that the organization is promoting safety if the employee has no knowledge of what an SMS entails. 

To learn the distinct difference between a Reporting Culture required in an SMS versus ASAP please visit the post: Reporting Culture, A Key Element of Safety Culture. 

FAA Flawed Thinking

The decision to approve an airline to use their ASAP training program in lieu of SMS training, because the POI says it's similar to SMS, is nothing short of airline management being given a pilots license by the POI because they learned how to fly a kite. Pilots need to be trained to earn that license. SMS is no different.

I will leave you with this final thought. If SMS is a risk mitigation tool, and the FAA knows that airlines are creating loopholes and placing pilots on duty for longer than 30 hours without required crew rest, and they do nothing, could it not be argued that the FAA is not complying with their very own SMS program that was designed to mitigate risk? Perhaps the FAA was not trained on SMS, because they were approved to take a basket weaving class instead because of the similarity. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Good The Bad The Ugly

When Your Mechanic Cares Too Much

Bryan Wheelz

I would like to introduce you to Bryan Wheelz, someone who cares about safety of our traveling public from a maintenance perspective, and he is sharing his passion to improve aviation safety. He told me that his parents taught him "right from wrong. Good and bad. Ethics, integrity and having a morale compass. (Integrity)," and to "always do the right things for the right reasons".  Bryan cares about what he does. He cares about doing the right job for the right reason. I'm thankful to have people like Bryan in our industry, setting standards and someone who is not afraid to speak out. 

Bryan created a Podcast: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.  You won't believe what you hear on this Podcast. It's definitely uncensored. And for all you mechanics who need a support system, this is the place for you! Safety Culture touches every aspect of aviation and could determine the outcome of your flight. Thank you Bryan! 

Please meet Bryan Wheelz: 

In aviation, safety should never take a 'back seat' or be any less of a priority. As it pertains to aviation, safety IS the priority.

The flying public places trust in aircraft crews and aircraft mechanics to preform to the highest of standards and professionalism yet in the past 14 years as an aircraft mechanic, I have seen safety take the 'back seat' over and over again. Why is this?

One commonality: 
cost savings/ profit. (Money.)

Argue it all you want but as airlines and aviation maintenance companies expand and grow larger cost cutting on: labor, benefits, salaries, training, parts, tooling, equipment and maintenance continues. All because of greed, competition, complacency and the "all mighty dollar".

I see it happen every day; leadership pressuring crews to go faster, fly longer and squeeze every second of time they can to permit more flights so that the company can generate more revenue.

Mechanics are equally pressured to go faster, work longer and 'put the blinders on' when performing maintenance on aircraft. And what happens when the 'Barney Fifes'' or the "Dudley-do-rights'" speak up? The leadership forces those people out one way or another. They do this by colluding with human resources and other like-minded managers to create the envious, 'paper trail'- and thats all human resources needs legally. Then POOF. "Your Gone jack!"

I have worked on the largest and most complex aircraft in the world. I've been a mechanic, GENFAM instructor, supervisor and a manager in nearly every facet of aviation maintenance and while in these roles I have enacted positive change to the culture and the environment and yes, I have made enemies along the way.

The relatively young, inexperienced, and feeble-minded supervisors and managers that are now the majority of those companies leadership, are threatened by people like myself. People who are confident, experienced and posses the knowledge and skill set to make positive changes to the culture, the work environment and ultimately safety.

This needs to be done through educating about the risks of 'cutting corners' and the importance of integrity under strong-arming pressure! The more people you can reach through education the better.

But it extends beyond that; educating young leadership before they fall into the trap of the 'good' ole' boy' club where they become consumed and manipulated by toxic mentalities that have become the norm and essentially promote an unsafe industry!

If history has shown us anything; Human Factors and the 'dirty dozen' play a huge role in the industries incidents and accidents. Many of these instances could have been avoided had people been made aware, educated and communicated to each other. Poor communication has played its part in the lack of safety. The unwillingness of leadership to both accept and promote an atmosphere where its encouraged to speak up and be heard has resulted in employees being quiet for fear of retaliation. Remember, I've been 'on the other side' and know that to be absolutely true!

I've seen, with my own eyes the 'behind the scene' antics that occur in aviation maintenance management. So I know just how much emphasis is not put into creating a safe, efficient, and integral culture.

The foundational premise of my podcast, "The Good the Bad and the Ugly: The Aviation Maintenance Industry- Raw and unscripted" is not only a source of personal 'venting' but a source for the unaware to be educated and for those who work within the aviation maintenance industry; to have a 'voice'. A person who is not afraid nor intimidated.

It's a humorous but raw and uncensored podcast that exposes the reality of what aircraft mechanics deal with daily and what actually goes on in the industry behind the scenes.

I have expanded it somewhat beyond the 'nitty-gritty' to include answering aviation maintenance related questions, discuss serious aviation industry 'happenings' and discuss aircraft technical information. Though the foundational premise of my podcast remains the same, "Make Aviation Great Again!" Promoting safety through education based on mine and others knoweledge and experiences.

My podcast streams on 12 platforms. The main podcast channel can be found at:

You can also search by name of my podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, IheartRadio, tunein, Listennotes, Stitcher, Breaker, Castbox, Pocket casts, RadioPublic and spotify!

Your can reach me at: 

I leave you with this:
"Never compromise your integrity. 
And always do the right things 
for the right reasons"

~Bryan 'Wheelz'

Enjoy the Journey
XO Karlene 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Navigating MSP

Pilots Helping Kids with Special Needs

Captain Andrea Ratfield

My friend Andrea Ratfield is a mother of two, a pilot, and a volunteer. If she's not flying planes, she is doing mission work in Haiti, working on her Masters in Seminary, and caring for her kids, one of which has autism. Andrea understands the many challenges of a significant special needs child, especially one traveling, and gives her time to the community for those in need. 

On July 10th, Andrea will be one of three volunteers who will be giving a tour of the Minneapolis Airport to families with autistic children. Not only will they tour the airport, but she will take then on the airplane for the full travel experience, helping families learn how to travel with a special needs child.

If you would like to learn more about Navigating MSP or check out the dates for upcoming events, and even register, please click on the link: Navigating MSP

For more information on the program check out: 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Saturday, June 26, 2021


The FAA Breaks the Safety Chain

For over a generation I have supported the aviation industry. I have hosted flying events and promoted aviation groups. I've made every effort to improve aviation safety to ensure all pilots are properly trained to prevent an accident. I do not believe we should simply blame the pilot. My focus has been to ensure passengers receive safe travel. I even earned a PhD from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to solve aviation safety concerns: pilot error and lack of manual flight. 

Thanks to over 7000 concerned pilots I was able to address the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) concerns regarding pilot error. I validated and defended my research, published my dissertation and wrote a book on the research:  Normalization of Deviance

The FAA, OIG, and NTSB know what is causing accidents and incidents. A lack of understanding due to training as a result of a negative safety culture, impacted by fatigue. Now we the have data to support those assertions. During my doctoral presentation I was asked what I thought the FAA would do when they learned of these results.  A couple weeks ago I received that answer: Absolutely Nothing!

The Greatest Threat to Aviation Safety
Is the Act of Looking the Other Way

I thought I faced Goliath in my fight for safety, but the truth is there may be no way to beat Goliath when the FAA is protecting the beast. Today is yet another broken link in the safety chain, because of the FAA's complicit behavior. 

How many links need to break before
the safety chain is irreparable? 

Duty Time Limitation Violations: 

Two FAA inspectors contacted me a couple weeks ago to advise me that their investigation for an airline's duty time violation was complete. They spent the better part of two hours attempting to justify their rationale as to why they were not filing a violation. These inspectors stated that airlines have figured out a "loophole" to the duty time regulations but stopping them was not in their "purview". One inspector even told me that, "All businesses find loopholes," as if that was an excuse. 

The Loophole to Safety: 

Pilots Commute to Work. This means we live where we want and commute to our base. Pilots take it upon themselves to get the rest they need before they fly. They sign the release stating they are fit for duty.  Commuting is not considered duty time because the airline cannot be responsible if a pilot commutes across town or across the country. Airlines schedule flights out of the pilot's base, and pilots get themselves to their base. If a pilot is scheduled out of another base, then the company deadheads the pilot from their base to that other base.

A Deadhead (DH) is when the company sends a pilot to another airport or base to begin their trip. Airlines who DH pilots pay them for the deadhead, provide positive space, and a hotel. This deadhead is scheduled with the required crew rest prior to their operating flight. Historically, airlines did not give positive space to commuting pilots, until Covid.

The COVID Justification.  Due to Covid, many airlines were giving positive space to commuting pilots due to limited seating. But airline management never does anything simply for the pilots' benefit, and there were underlying reasons. 

FAA's Positive Space Interpretation: This Covid related positive space travel has blurred the lines of a DH versus a commute in the eyes of the FAA.  A company is required to positive space a deadheading pilot, but since they now also provide positive space to commuting pilots, the FAA is using this as another pretext to enable airlines to violate duty times.

DH versus Commute Rest Requirements: When a pilot is deadheading, they are on duty and must be scheduled required crew rest. When a pilot is commuting, they are not required scheduled crew rest. However, the FAA inspectors told me that if a pilot "volunteers" for the trip, which would normally be a DH because it's out of base, that the pilot has waived all crew rest requirements, because a volunteer makes it no longer a deadhead but now a commute.  

The investigators explained that there is no definition for "commuting" in the FARs. Therefore, the investigators' commuting assertions are subjective opinions to the benefit of the airlines to enable them to avoid scheduling federally regulated required crew rest. 

PAID to Waive Crew Rest: Why are pilots waiving crew rest? Because the airlines are paying these pilots double time to fly the trip. I believe this negotiation could be construed as bribery in a court of law based on the following definition:

"Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty." 

Airlines are unduly influencing the pilots who hold a public duty to provide safe transportation to their passengers. Where is the FAA's public duty? Colgan Air is a perfect example of what happens when pilots are fatigued. 

Where is ALPA? ALPA has the duty to represent the pilot with safety as the top priority. Many contracts provide a stipulation for pilots to deviate deadhead. Meaning, they do not have to fly into the assigned base from their base, they can fly from home. This enables the pilot to go direct from home to those out of base assignments. However, those trips are on the schedule and a hotel is provided. It's a win win for all. The pilot is paid for the assigned deadhead leg regardless of whether they deviate or not, and the pilot gets a place to sleep prior to their flight.  

Of note, these high paying "voluntary" trips could also be scheduled in a similar manner. The pilot could fly the day prior and use the hotel for crew rest if they chose, or they could deviate per their contract. Instead, airlines, with full support of the FAA and ALPA, are scheduling the same day DH across the country to fly international trips, placing pilots on duty for 20-30 hours or more. 

The FAA has determined that volunteering turns a deadhead into a commute and no longer subject to the associated crew rest. Airlines do not want to pay an extra day of double pay and a hotel. My assertion is that if a pilot is placed on the schedule to operate a flight, whether they volunteered or were assigned they have been scheduled. When pilots bid are they not volunteering to fly certain trips? Of course they are.

Unfortunately, ALPA is condoning this workaround at the sacrifice of safety, and at the expense of the pilot who would receive both extra pay and a hotel to ensure rest. The question is why? 

Where is The FAA?

In 2016 there were similar duty time violations. Because the airline chose to kill the messenger, the FAA became involved due to an AIR21 investigation. I subsequently wrote a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn the results of that investigation. The airline had received a Violation of Order. Now, four years later, the same airline is doing the same thing, as are all the airlines... so says the FAA investigators. This should be of deep concern to everyone. The FAA knows of many acts of pilots falling asleep, and fatigue induced errors, compliments of the thousands of ASAP reports they receive daily. But the fixes are simply not there. 

I read an excellent book, Pulling Wings from Butterflies, by Captain Simkins who was terminated for not willing to fly fatigued. I hear far too often that pilots fear calling in fatigued. Therefore, I filed a report on the FAA safety hotline. The 2016 investigation was complete within a month finding a Violation of Order. The current investigation took the agency five months and they determined there was no violation for the exact same situation.

Why Then? Why Not Now?

My final question regarding this issue was: "If there was a violation for this exact issue in 2016, with the same airline, then please tell me... why then, why not now? What is the difference?"

The investigator's response, after a pregnant pause:

"I'm not sure if I should tell you this, 
but that file is missing." 

The investigators know there was a violation, but there is no file. One of the investigators appeared genuinely concerned for that missing file and he stated it would go in his report. Where is the file? Perhaps in the current FAA administrator's desk. Regardless, I suspect his fingerprints are all over that missing file.

There is one difference between the FAA in
 2016 and 2021: The FAA Administrator

It appears that with the current FAA Administrator, decisions are being made to allow airlines to violate regulations. Today's post is just the first of this nature and more will be forthcoming, because I don't know what else to do.  

Politics and Aviation Safety do not mix. The day Captain Dickson was selected as the FAA administrator was a huge hit to Aviation Safety. Multiple violations, that I know of, are being swept under the rug. How many more are there?  It takes just one event to cause an accident. 

I am bringing this to the public's attention because I am deeply troubled that the FAA is looking the other way, and I realize that I cannot do anything to fix it. I can only create awareness. But why should we wait until an accident occurs to hold the FAA accountable? Didn't we learn lessons from the MAX issue? Apparently not. This is the body that is supposed to serve and protect, and they are looking the other way. 

With all this said, there may be hope on the horizon. I still have faith there are people of integrity with ethics, and intelligence that could make a difference. 

Please join me in congratulating one of those aviators for his much deserved position. Captain Sullenberger is now the Aviation Ambassador. Personally I believe Captain Sullenberger should be the FAA administrator. We can only hope that becomes a reality sooner than later.  Aviation needs an FAA administrator that places public safety first and honors the purpose and intent of federal regulations. 

Enjoy the journey!
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Embrace Your Superpower!

Be Proud of Your Differences! 

One of my favorite things to do just before bed is to snuggle into a hot bath with a cup of tea, sometimes with my friend Jack D. and a splash of melatonin, and read a good book. This morning my husband noticed last night's book at the side of my tub and said, with rather large smile, "I see you're upping your reading level."

As a matter of fact I did "up" my reading level, because I learned something new. I learned all about the magical world of Synesthesia. People politely smile when I say that I can smell the snow or feel the happiness of bright colors.  This doesn't come close to an amazing Synesthete. 

We don't all experience life in the same manner. For most of us, we smell flowers. Yet, can you taste a word? Can you smell a color? There are people who sense things differently. There are over 80 different types of Synesthesia. 

One of the most wonderful people I know, my dear friend Christy Gurley, learned she is a Synesthete. She is talented, creative, energetic and just a delight to be around. And I'm not surprised she has a superpower. 

After reading her fabulous children's book Sereya's Superpower, I thought about how many children  believe they are different for any number of reasons and think that's a bad thing.  But in fact, they just have a super power they never realized they had. If you know any child who feels they  are different for any reason, this is the book for them. For all of you big people who are different, you might want to read this book as well. 

It's those who are different who 
will change the world!

Christy not only wrote a book, but she is an artist too! 
If you want to get a copy of 
Sereya's Superpower and check out Christy's art, 
Visit her at 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Happy Memorial Day

This Ground you Stand upon
With all it's freedoms
Was brought to you by a Soldier

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Success Takes Time

Believe You Can 
And You Will! 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: 
It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

Remember to Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene