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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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Do You Fly?

Question of the Day:

Did you always know you wanted to be an airline pilot, or did something make you decide that you wanted to fly for a career?

The answer to the question has fascinated me for years. As I studied human nature during my Masters in Counseling, I realized that human behavior is impacted by many things. The age old debate... is our behavior based on our personality or by our environment? My contention is it's both.

At nine years old I was sitting on my bedroom floor playing a game called 'careers' with three girlfriends. This board game enabled us ability to spin a wheel and move around the board in search of a career. Stewardess was the desired job by all. We could also become a school teacher, nurse, secretary or librarian. 

My friends landed on the much desired stewardess spot, but luck wasn't on my side... or was it? I finally said, "I don't care. I don't want to be a stewardess, I'm going to be the pilot!"

Colleen Moore said, "You can't be a pilot. My dad is a pilot ... girls can't do that!"

The ensuing argument was directly related to, whether or not girls could fly.  I ran to the kitchen and asked my mom. She said, "You can be whatever you want to be."  And then she told me to get out of her kitchen. The days that followed I told everyone, "I am going to be a pilot!"

My sisters made fun of me. My friends doubted me. And I decided I would prove them wrong. But the first time I stepped foot on an airplane, now I know it had been a 727, I remember looking in the cockpit and thinking, "There is absolutely NO way I could do this!" There were so many buttons and dials and instruments. We were flying to Disneyland with my dad, and my sisters' minds were wrapped around the enchantment of the happiest place on earth, mine was wrapped around how my life was going to be filled with failure.

I never shared that fear with anyone at the time. But deep down, the conflict prevailed. Fear of what I didn't think I could do... and the pride of doing what I had told everyone I was going to do. Pride won.

At the age of 16 I bought an introductory flight.  Taking to the sky felt natural and I loved it. The thought of, 'I can't do this' shifted to... 'And they're going to pay me to do this?'  I was hooked, and every paycheck from my high school job went to the airport on the weekends.

Through the years there have been many moments of doubt and fear. And thus I learned a few things about success through the process of life:
  1. Tell people your goals and you have a higher chance of follow through.
  2. Pushing through your fear stretches you and your ability.
  3. There is really nothing that you can't accomplish if you are willing to try.
Was it the stubborn Taurus in me that I had to prove people wrong? Was it that I was a middle child and felt the need to be someone, and do something special to break free from mediocrity? Was it the fate of a childhood game and a friend that pointed me in the right direction for my life? 

My advice for life: If a door opens... go through it. If you don't like what you find on the other side, don't be afraid to jump ship and do something else. Life is too short to not do what you love.  I happened to be directed to the sky, and discovered I loved it.

On a side note... Colleen's dad was a pilot for Delta. Now isn't that a small world!


  1. This brought a tear to my eye! How fantastic.. you're an inspiration Karlene :)

  2. Ah Jen, Thank you! And... soon you'll be up there too! And speaking've reminded many pilots of how they felt when they were young pilots just starting out. You are an inspiration!

  3. i wish my dreams will come true sooner or later..!! thanks karlene for the motivation...!!!

  4. Nicholas...your dreams will come true! Just keep believing! Thanks for your comments!


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