Contract Airline Services


"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.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Sexual Harassment

In The Airline Industry



Dr. Tony Kern wrote an article in the Skies Magazine addressing Sexual Harassment and the impact on safety in the airline industry, in response to the FAA's report "Breaking Barriers for Women in Aviation." Dr. Kern want's to shout to the world that something is very wrong, and he could not be more right.


Numbers Speak Louder than Words


This is not just a line pilot issue, but many of these numbers involve management and union representatives. The very people who should be setting a positive example. Imagine a line check airman pounding on a female pilot's door at 1 a.m. trying to get her to go out and drink with him on a layover during her captain upgrade training. When she doesn't go out with him he gives her a negative write-up with no recourse. What about a regional director who is talking to a chief pilot and check airman, discussing how a female pilot's pants fit and uses the term cameltoes. He's still a director. Think about the female captain who has her phone taken by a union representative, and he takes pictures of himself and posts them on her facebook page via her phone. She doesn't say anything because, "What good would it do anyway?" Then there is a female pilot who is touched and harassed, and when she turns the union representative down and walks away he throws something at her, she turns and it hits her in the eye, sending her to the emergency room? She doesn't do anything and asserts, "He was just messing around." Fear of retaliation and being labeled is real.



The extent of sexual harassment today is not just about off-color jokes or dirty pictures in the cockpit that we experienced years ago. It wasn't long ago that I listened to a phone recording from a captain to a flight attendant who was working to become a pilot. The message her captain left was that she "would make a better flight attendant than a pilot, and the only reason a woman should be in the cockpit is to give a pilot a blowjob." Airline management took no action when this was reported.


What makes a captain, a regional director, a chief pilot, a training captain, or union representative think they can behave this way? Perhaps it goes back to the culture of the airline. If a married airline VP gets his assistant pregnant and nothing happens to him despite senior management knowing, or a CEO who sleeps with flight attendants, and gets one (or more) pregnant, which becomes the talk of airline, this type of behavior sets the example for all others. The numbers in the FAA report don't lie.

I highly recommend you read Dr. Kern's article:


Enjoy the Journey
XO Karlene





Monday, May 30, 2022

Solutions to Mental Health

By Improving the Cultural Environment

Last week in the post: Mental Health and Culture, I presented the negative impact and power that corporate culture has on the mental health of a pilot, and how a toxic work environment can negatively impact any employee.  Today I want to share how airlines could improve the mental health of pilots, and the entire workgroup overnight, if they were truly concerned. 



With all the rhetoric about concern for pilots' mental health, I suggest there are some easy steps that could be taken to improve the mental health and associated performance of our pilots. 

1). Sign the pilot contract and remove uncertainty. There is absolutely no reason that airline pilots should wait 4-5 years, or longer, to get a contract to improve working conditions. The stress of this uncertainty is impacting the mental health of all your pilots, and contractual requirements are necessary to reduce fatigue. 

2). Airline management should honor Federal Regulations and stop extending flight crews to ungodly hours on duty via corporate "workarounds" despite the FAA's approval. Placing pilots on duty over 24 hours may be deemed a workaround, but that practice is in violation of any SMS. This practice is causing excessive fatigue and is a safety concern. 

3). Staff the airline properly to enable employee downtime. Granted, airline management allowed early retirement of far too many pilots to rid itself of the most expensive pilots, despite being allotted government money as a result of Covid. But two wrongs don't make a right. Fix your mistakes, don't cover them up with pilot pushing. 

4). Pay all pilots adequately versus paying some double time to incentivize pilots to fly fatigued. This statement circles back to point 1: Sign your contract. 

5). Management should be held to higher standards than those they lead. Hypocrisy angers most people, and the double standards of ethics and compliance sets the bar for other employees very low.

6). Scrap the doctor note requirement (that is easily obtained) and treat your employees with respect. Every U.S. pilot is required to sign a release asserting that they are fit to fly prior to departure. Unfortunately, some airline management has determined that these professionals cannot make that determination prior to arriving to the airport. Perhaps we should have a doctor sign the release at each departure certifying pilots are fit to fly, if pilots cannot be trusted to know their health. 

7). Allow pilots to use their allotted sick leave for mental health days without question. If a pilot were to have an argument with their spouse that has put them on edge, is dealing with a troubled teen, a crying baby, or just wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, that pilot should be able to use his or her allotted sick days for a mental health day. Those who know they should not be in a plane will act accordingly and call in sick anyway. If required, they will find a doctor to write them a note. No doctor will ever force a pilot to fly. My question is, why is the company forcing pilots to lie so the pilot can ensure a safe operation

8). Management should practice what they preach. Nothing sickens people more than observing behavior that contradicts the marketing mantra that is known to be false. 

9). Stop paying doctors to falsely assert pilots are alcoholics or mentally unfit because they report safety concerns. Meaning, stop retaliating and just solve the problem instead of killing the messenger. 

There will always be pilots with multiple issues outside the workplace that they are trying to deal with. The FAA wants those pilots to come forward if they need help. Everyone, management included, advises us to seek help before it's too late. The problem is, if all a pilot needs is some time to deal with issues at home, to exercise, sleep and get physically and mentally healthy, then wouldn't the first step be to take some time off? Why wouldn't that first step be to use their sick leave to get some much needed rest? If a pilot has sick-leave available, why is that pilot prohibited from using that time until he pushes himself to sickness or mentally breaks? 

10). The FAA should mandate that any pilot who needs time off should be allowed to use company allotted sick leave without question. 

“Take your time healing, as long as you want. 
Nobody else knows what you’ve been through. 
How could they know how long it will take to heal you?” 
— Abertoli


Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene



Friday, May 27, 2022

Mental Health and Culture

Of An Airline


We are approaching the end of Mental Health Awareness month, and with the recent China Eastern Flight MU5735 crash, due to pilot suicide, pilots' mental health continues to be a topic of conversation. However, I believe we should pause for a moment, and shift the focus of this conversation away from the effect and focus on the cause of stress.

There is no justification for harming another person, but every person has a breaking point. Some people are more resilient than others, but that can change overnight if the person works within a toxic environment. Perhaps the industry and the FAA should look at the airline environment. 

I listened to Dr. Susan Northrup on the FAA Podcast on mental health today.  The FAA ensures us that it's okay to speak out if you are a pilot who has a problem you cannot deal with, without risk to your certification. She discusses the resources available for coping. Then a pilot assistant member, Ellen, encouraged pilots to talk early and talk often to help eliminate the stress. I would recommend listening to the Podcast and download it. Listen to it because there is good advice, and download it in the event your company management decides to retaliate and claims you're unfit to fly. 

My concerns with the FAA's assertions are with the group of FAA approved AME's who are on the "list" to be purchased by airlines for giving false and disqualifying diagnosis. I was recently told by an FAA HIMS AME that "Doctors can be bought" and he asserted "this is a dirty business". Therefore, when an airline can assert a pilot is overly concerned for safety and thinks a manager is out to get her, therefore she must be like the Germanwings pilot, then can pull her from duty with an assertion of mental health, and then subsequently pay a HIMS psychiatrist $74,000 to give her a diagnosis that "permanently" removes her from flight, how safe is the pilot who seeks help?

My friend recently visited a mental health care professional because of her toxic working environment in what she said "is a very low-stress job". Her comment to me was, "Could you imagine if we faced this in a high-stress job?" Yes, I could, as flying airplanes is a high-stress career. The therapist said that most of us have Teflon skins that can shield anything, but when there are cracks in the Teflon, the snakes get it and can destroy you. A pilot later reminded me that excessive heat also destroys Teflon. How much heat is being applied to pilots?


After the Germanwings crash the FAA and associated task-force groups were formed to determine what could be done to assess the mental health of pilots. But the Germanwings pilot had been through a swinging door of a psychiatric ward for many years and his inadequate performance was well documented. That potential event was not a surprise. That accident was not the typical result of a stressed pilot and could have been stopped. That crash was the result of a broken human and authorities looking the other way. 

As a benefit to US Airlines' bottom line, former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta did not require airline pilots to take neuropsychological tests during each physical, saving airlines millions. Huerta asserted that psychological tests are ineffective because they reveal a pilot’s mental health for only a moment in time without providing insight into whether the pilot will suffer problems later. The Germanwings pilot could have been identified as a problem at any point in time by reading his files, not by one of those tests. 

Unfortunately, the FAA is still requiring the neuropsychological testing for pilot return due to mental health related issues, despite Huerta's assertion. Those tests are completely unrelated to mental health but are directly related to cognitive ability. Those tests are nothing but brain games that are difficult for anyone to pass without preparation. There is training available, and the tests can also be found on line. Even the Germanwings pilot could have been trained to pass those tests, but that would not have made him a better pilot and would not have solved his mental health issues. The results would have been the same.  

Corporate Responsibility and Causation

It's illegal for employees to be forced to work in a toxic environment, so says OSHA. There are laws protecting employees from unsafe environments. Where are the laws to protect pilots from working in a negative safety culture? The FAA has made Safety Management Systems (SMS) a federal regulation that requires a positive safety culture. Yet the FAA is looking the other way and allowing retaliation in the workplace, and "workarounds" of duty time regulations placing pilots on duty for up to 25 hours, of which is a violation of SMS. 

Hundreds of pilots across the nation are picketing and fighting for contracts addressing fatigue and work rules. I find it ironic that airline management and the FAA are touting mental health awareness, when one of the primary killers of sound mental health is fatigue. Pilots can handle most anything when they are rested, but push them to an excessive level of fatigue and their skills decline---memory, performance, and coping.


Nobody performs well when fatigued. Performance decreases, tempers raise, mistakes occur, and coping skills lower. A simple view of the ASAP program and the thousands of errors made daily are a result of something. Fatigue? Poor training? Distraction? Work environment is everything to mental health. My friend who was talking to her mental health professional was doing so because of the behavior of a director in her department. What about airline management behavior?

Imagine an airline manager terminating a pilot who was dealing with his divorce, on medical leave, on medication, and he pass traveled and was fired for policy violation. "He forgot to get permission." Yet a director is proven to have retaliated against a pilot for reporting safety and yet nothing happens to him. These situations create an unjust environment and produce a negative safety culture. 

When airlines utilize programs like HIMS to control pilots and assert that everyone in the program is an alcoholic, even if they were forced there for their first-ever glass of wine and got pulled over for a taillight or they would be fired, or were raped. But the pilot's objection to the assertion is identified as "alcoholics behavior". The abuse and hardship in the HIMS program has caused numerous pilots to commit suicide, but is being swept under the rug. These pilots are not killing themselves in a plane, but their lives should matter. The reason they are pulling the trigger should be investigated. When the program is the problem, it should be fixed. 

What if airline management retaliates against employees for bringing forth safety concerns, and because management has the power and unlimited stockholder funds they get away with it. What would that do to the mental health of a pilot? I read yesterday, "We should never underestimate how psychologically weakening and damaging it is to be forced to treat as true something that is not true."  This applies to those being accused of being alcoholics as well.

How far can airline management push pilots until they break? That breaking point is a moving target for each pilot and differs between individuals.  What pushed that extremely senior first officer on China Eastern Flight MU5735, who should have been flying as a captain, to crash his plane? 

If airline management and the FAA alike are interested in improving mental health, I believe the focus should be on changing the environment, versus hunting those who have had their teflon cracked due to the work environment.

Sign contracts, honor federal regulations regarding duty time limitations, lead by example, respect your flight crews, and stop working them like pack mules. When a person continually beats a dog with a stick and the dog bites him, whose fault is it?

The current world environment due to Covid, compliance, fear of the unknown, lack of security, finances, family worries, lockdowns, etc., has created an environment ripe for mental health concerns. Mix that with the high stress job of a pilot. Add a huge dose of a toxic environment due to negative safety culture, knowledge that pilots are not protected by regulations because the FAA is allowing airlines to "workaround" regulations and tell me what we should expect as a result? Pilots are human.  

I do not support or believe any agency should force medication on a pilot to "find his or her way back to the flight deck" if the reason the pilot is having issues is the result of a negative safety culture. Fix the environment. Don't drug the pilot who reports safety concerns and then is frustrated by the lack of FAA oversight and management's violation of corporate policy and federal regulations and may not manage that frustration well because they are excessively fatigued due to those corporate violations. What coping skills are needed in this situation?  Look the other way, or be drugged so you no longer care about passenger safety? Perhaps we should fix the culture.

If the FAA seriously wants to improve mental health, and I believe they do, then Safety Culture and SMS at all airlines should be enforced. AMEs who are known to be purchased should be removed. I know a doctor who knows who these doctors are. Will the FAA start their investigation at his door? Time will tell. 

Return Monday to see what we can do to improve mental health. 

Enjoy the Journey!
Karlene  
PhD, MHS, MBA

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Gambling With Your Life

 A Sickness in the Aviation Industry 



There are good gamblers and there are bad gamblers. The distinction between the two is knowing when to walk away from the table.

When a person is not dealt the desired cards or the dice aren't rolling his way, a good gambler has the mental capacity to accept his losses and walk away from the table. Whereas a bad gambler goes on tilt. The bad gambler thinks if he doubles down he will eventually win. He believes that time is on his side. Until he loses everything.

Knowing odds, understanding statistics, and having the ability to make educated decisions can help while playing cards. However, the ego driven individual who cannot handle losing, despite what it will cost him, and begins betting on the river with nothing in his hand, the odds are against him. 

What happens when these high-level poker games are real life and passengers' lives are at stake?

Airline Management and Gambling

When airline managers begin gambling with passenger safety and someone calls them on it, and these managers stay in the game despite having nothing in their hand, they are destined for failure. When management loses, and the ego takes over and compels them to try and win at any cost, ignoring the high risk behavior, this identifies a sickness not unlike that of the gambler who is unable to walk away from the table. Unfortunately these managers are gambling with peoples lives. 

When the embarrassment of that loss becomes too great, and these managers decide to permanently remove the player from the game who called them out for risking passengers lives, instead of solving the problem, this compulsive behavior identifies a sickness. When these managers want that person gone at any expense, and are willing to pay any amount to stay in a game that they cannot win, simply to remove the player permanently, raises this behavior to the level of a psychosis. 

Unfortunately these managers hold the worst possible hand during the game of getting even. Yet, they stay in the game. This game is now live for others to watch. The cameras are rolling and these managers have to redeem their integrity. They have to prove they can win despite not having anything in their hand. They have to get rid of that player who won, to prove they were correct and restore their manhood.


The problem is, when these ego driven managers have placed themselves in this position they are not making logical decisions. They are not focused on their jobs. Not focused on managing the airline. And, unfortunately, they are financing this high-level poker game with stockholder and employees' money. These managers have unlimited pockets and can attack the player they want gone without any accountability. 

They believe time is on their side, and continue dumping money into a game they cannot win. Perhaps believing that eventually they may get lucky. More likely they have nothing to lose and intend to keep the game going as long as they can, at everyone else's expense, knowing that when the game is finally shutdown, they will be retired with their golden parachutes and stock options.


It's unfortunate when these games begin as the result of players, highly invested in passenger safety, say, "We should not gamble on passenger's live." When management's response is to remove the player, Federal Law (AIR21) is supposed to protect the individual, as reporting culture is required under Safety Management Systems (SMS). Sadly, airline managers have learned to use the AIR21 statute as another high-level poker game where the individual who reported safety becomes an unwitting player.

Irresponsible gambling is a sickness. It doesn't matter if you're sitting in a card room or at the Board of Directors table of an airline. Someone who cares might need to intervene and help those who cannot help themselves. If you know a gambler, airline manager, or a CEO who needs help do the right thing, please help them to help themselves. Identification of the problem is the first step. 


Airline Management and Gamblers alike, 
If you have a gambling problem get help!

NATIONAL PROBLEM GAMBLING HELPLINE
1-800-522-4700

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene PhD, MBA, MHS


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Home Sweet Home

 FOR SALE

SOLD!


Every New Beginning Comes
The End of a New Beginning


My first Golf course!
Built with love for my hubby. 

This is a one-level, 2500 square-foot home that has a generator that automatically powers the entire house and all appliances in 30 seconds of a power outage. There is built-in air-conditioning with a heat pump, an electric gate with a 7-car parking space, a tankless water heater, a putting green in the backyard and a slate patio out front with a living fountain.  Two large gas fireplaces, and even a new roof!  


A 400 square foot kitchen 
creates a living space all its own!


It's been said, "No woman could do that!" But yes, I tiled the kitchen floors, the countertops, backslpash, the brick around the fireplace and on the far wall. I even designed the hanging lamp. A NWA first officer saw me drawing a picture of what I wanted, and he told me his wife made stained glass lamps. Believe in the power of putting what you want into a visual and you can make it happen. Years later we went to A330 school together. (Lamp does not go with the house). 



I planted the bamboo in the backyard, but it's not normal bamboo. It's clumping bamboo and she grows  straight up and not sideways, so this does not create havoc with pipes and makes a gorgeous privacy fence. Best thing I ever did and will do this again at my lake house.

There are hardwood, slate, and tile floors throughout the entire home, with custom shutters in all bedrooms. That is a great feature if you need to sleep in the day after flying all night. A must in every home. 


Then the designer 400 sf kitchen w/gas fireplace & vaulted ceiling opens to a 250 sf glass-covered deck. Off the other side of the deck is a 340 sf den with a wine fridge & sink. 



This room, alias den, was my office. I had a hide-a-bed for the grandkids, area rugs to play on, a television and a toy box. Many fun times were found in this room, and many books were written here as well. But I can totally see a pool table. Oh... and there is a wired in sounds system through the office, living room and dining room, too! 

The den opens to a 300 sf living room w/gas fireplace, built-in bookshelves and vaulted ceilings. Double French doors separate the living room and den or make one large entertaining space. 



This was once the Lake View Lounge
The one place in the house we could see Angle Lake. 

There is a huge dining room with built in glass-door cabinets and windows overlooking the slate patio. Now, to put this dining room's size into perspective, the table is a 9 foot diameter, and we moved it in with the walls open. Either the new buyers want it, or we will break the glass and dismantle it to move it out, as it will not fit through a doorway. The top of the table is carved horses and another creation I made for my hubby. 



One bathroom has soaking tub and the other a bench seat in the shower. I tiled both these rooms. Not just the floors, but I did the bathtub and the shower too. Don't call me crazy, I'm just really handy with a tile saw. So the moral of this story is, lots of love and devotion went into creating this house. 



Our home is nestled just off of angle lake, 10 minutes to SeaTac airport and 5 minutes to the freeway. This house offers all the convenience of perfect location, but low noise due to the lake and trees, and exceptional privacy with a low-maintenance landscaped yard. Sitting on a 12,000 sf property, zoning provides the ability to build a second level and add a garage.  

While there is only a carport, a garage can be easily built in the footprint of the carport, and not impede on the electric gate. Open the gate. Raise the garage door. Drive in for double security. And an apartment could be built over the top as well. 


There is also a ton of parking space! 

PRICED TO SELL:    $689,000

OPEN HOUSE: 

Friday May 6, from 2-5 pm
Saturday May 7, from 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday May 8 from 1pm to 5 pm.  

3743 S 188th St
SeaTAC WA 98188

To find the house: we are off of 188th street. Turn south, toward lake at the 39th street sign, in front of the mailboxes, at fire post #68. We are the third house on the left. Hope to see you there! 

I will be there to show the house, sell books, and do a bit of studying. If the dates and times don't work for you, and you are a serious pre-qualified buyer, please email me and I will schedule a private showing.  Karlene.Petitt@gmail.com


Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 



Monday, April 25, 2022

Safety Concern with New Pilots

Due to the Airline/Pilot Contract


Within a union, an employer must have just cause to discipline or terminate a pilot. Union employees cannot be terminated for just anything... unless, of course, they are on probation. 

Probation is a historic contractual agreement between management and pilot unions that enables pilots to be terminated for anything. Probation prohibits a new-hire pilot to speak out with safety concerns. These pilots will not report fatigue, will not argue they don't have enough fuel, will not stand up to a manager who is violating federal regulations, will not deny a trip due to bad weather, etc. This contractual clause states a probationary pilot can be terminated for anything during that period. Typically, probation lasts a year. With massive pilot hiring ongoing due to the Covid induced early retirements of those senior and most expensive pilots, there are thousands of new pilots flying today who will not necessarily do the right thing but will do what it takes to avoid discipline and termination.

The probationary clause not only impacts safety, 
but violates Federal Regulations. 

Safety Management Systems (SMS) is "the formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls. It includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for the management of safety risk." (FAA) An SMS must have foundation built upon a strong safety culture.  A key aspect to Safety Culture and thus SMS, is a reporting culture. If pilots are required to stay silent for a year, there is no reporting culture. This process forces pilots to operate in fear and places passenger safety is at risk. The only reason to terminate someone without just cause is for personal and/or retaliatory reasons, something other than job performance. Probationary pilots need the same protections as their senior coworkers to perform their jobs safely. 

SMS was implemented to mitigate risk and improve safety. Yet, the probationary clause does just the opposite. Any contract that places a pilot, flight attendant, or mechanic on probation is in violation of Federal Regulations and places passenger safety at risk. 

Unions and airline management, 
it's time to update your contracts
to comply with regulatory requirements.
Passenger Safety demands it!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 



Monday, April 11, 2022

Punishment and The Law

 A Failure in the AIR21 Statute

AIR21 is known as the whistleblower law for airlines. Most recently, because of the cover-ups at Boeing and the ensuing MAX crashes, aircraft manufacturers were brought into the AIR21 statute to protect those employees as well. But how effective is this law? While it appears that employees are protected, in truth, the AIR21 statute enables employers to retaliate with minimum risk to their bottom line and zero accountability.  


I wrote a proposal to change the law, yet it has yet to make it onto an aviation bill. Hopefully that will change soon. Of the many changes I am proposing, one is to award punitive damages. Currently the AIR21 statute only provides for compensatory damages and not punitive. This is a huge oversight to the effectiveness of the statute.

Compensatory damages are awarded for pain and suffering, which are subjective. Typically, the amount an airline employee has been awarded in an AIR21 case is $50,000. There have been exceptions with one award of $100,000 and another most recent award of $500,000. Unfortunately, the $500,000 award has been challenged by the Administrative Review Board (ARB).

The ARB has confirmed the company violated federal law with high-level executives’ knowledge and involvement. Those executives paid a doctor $74,000 to give a pilot a false medical diagnosis. That doctor even forfeited his medical license to avoid prosecution for his actions. However, the executives, in-house attorneys, and in-house doctor who instigated the deception and deceit, by paying the doctor for a false report, are another story. Most of these people have been promoted within the company. Now you ask… how could any of this occur in todays world? How could any judicial body challenge an award, asserting under these Godforsaken circumstances that the pilot did not suffer enough for what transpired? The company’s appeal likely cost more than $500,000.  

The door to that case is not closed. The ARB compared the pilot’s pain and suffering to a manager at the Georgia power company who was awarded $250,000 back in 1989. The equivalent to those dollars in today’s market is approximately $465,000. Yet, the question must be asked, why aren’t punitive damages also allowed for AIR21 complaints? They are in other statutes. 

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are an award of money over and above compensatory damages. The purpose of these damages is to punish for violations in which respondents are aware that they are violating the law or where the violations involved egregious misconduct…  

Punitive damages are awarded when the respondent’s conduct is motivated by evil motive or intent, or the conduct demonstrates reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others. In determining whether to award punitive damages, investigators should focus on the character of the respondent’s conduct and consider whether it is of the sort that calls for deterrence and punishment over and above compensatory damages. (Whistleblower Manual pg 143).   

Punitive Damages are
NOT allowed in Air21 claims!

Believe it or not, the very law that is designed to protect the traveling public has no teeth to protect those who step forward. AIR21 is a statute under OSHA. And OSHA allows for punitive damages for other statutes, just not for the AIR21 statute. Ironically, those employees that are protected with punitive damages include: Federal Railroad Safety Act Whistleblower Protection Provision (FRSA), National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA); and Seamans Protection Act (SPA). These statutes allow for punitive damages for egregious and illegal behavior. But not in the airline industry. Why not?   

To put this in perspective… travelers by sea, the railroad and the transit system are protected because employers are less apt to retaliate against employees for bringing forth safety due to the availability of punitive damages, more than those passengers flying on an airliner. Airline employees, and now aircraft manufacturer employees, despite the law, are silenced daily. They will continue to be silenced unless this law is changed.  

In those other statutes, punitive damages are awarded "when a management official involved in the adverse action knew the adverse action violated the relevant whistleblower statute before it occurred, or the official perceived there was a risk that the action was illegal but did not stop or prevent the conduct."  (Whistleblower Manual pg. 144).  

However, in the airline industry even if top level management such as a VP or SVP of flight operations were the very people who retaliated against an employee, and the CEO sat on the sidelines watching and did nothing to stop it, there are still no punitive damages, despite the egregious and illegal behavior of those airline executives. Grounding of a pilot that may last for years, or termination of a mechanic or flight attendant is unconscionable.   

Imagine a young man with a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, and he loses his job because he refused to sign off an un-airworthy aircraft. Without an income how does he employ an attorney? Attorneys cannot take these cases on contingency. Not only is there no endgame reward, but the employee is only awarded “reasonable” attorney fees, not necessarily all they incurred.  Whereas the airline can throw any disgusting amount of stockholder profits to outside law firms, even if they have an indefensible case. How does an airline hide money they pay to a doctor for such corrupt actions from the stockholders? They itemize the doctor as a “vendor”. How does an airline hide money for attorneys in such cases? That is simply a business expense. What recourse does an employee have?  

Imagine a pilot who was unjustly removed from duty for 2 years. Then spent six-years of pain and suffering while fighting for his career, fighting for justice, battling the stress that consumed his health and the health of those that he loves. Legal fees well over the half-million dollars continued to accumulate. Not knowing if he will ever get his attorney fees returned. Mortgaging his home and selling another to finance the challenges. Then the administrative review board (ARB) confirms that top level executives’ behavior was egregious, and they were guilty of federal violations. Yet, this body determines the employee did not suffer enough to deserve the compensatory damages that had been awarded. However, if punitive damages were allowed, legally they would have been the highest level based upon the facts of the case.  

Now imagine that pilot was a woman, and a HIMS AME (FAA doctor) told her that airlines buy doctors and it was “a dirty business” they all knew about. That her airline had attempted to engage him, but he could not be bought, only silenced. The company went elsewhere. He then tells her that all the doctors are talking about her. He also wrote on an aviation social media platform that the pilot is medically unfit to fly, and she only returned to the airline because she was in bed with management. How much pain and suffering must a pilot endure?  


Furthermore, do you believe that if an airline spends millions to destroy a pilot, loses in court, and then loses their appeal as well, and they are only slapped on the hand with limited compensatory damages, that this law will deter them for repeating their illegal behavior? I don’t think it will. While the AIR21 statute does not limit compensatory damages, those subjective views can, and to the detriment of safety and pilots willingness to report.   

Does Anyone Actually believe
if Boeing knew they would only be accountable
to $50,000 in compensatory damages
that the outcome of the MAX issue 
would have been any different?

The AIR21 Law could simply be a placebo for the traveling public and naive employees who think they are protected. Granted this is all we have. However, one might think a pilot would be crazy to take on an entire airline with the entire executive force involved, all the way up to the CEO, as well as the knowledge of the Board of Directors. Add the FAA administrator into that mix.   

What I have learned about this law and perhaps the legal system in general, is that even when you win you lose. Because, without punitive damages the airlines and manufacturers will continue to play their illegal games, working around federal regulations, and threatening employees who have no real protections if top-level management is involved. When those very people who are proven in a court of law have committed federal violations that impact passenger safety, are allowed to be promoted or continue on status quo who does the pilot turn to?   

The fight for justice is not over.
Law school is in my future,
as is the change in the AIR21 statute.
Your safety demands it. 


Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene