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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.

Monday, November 22, 2010

AIRMENTORS! The Best Way to Learn

31 years of flying. 8 Airlines, 7 Type ratings. New procedures. New planes. That's my flying life.  When I got my 727 type rating I had under 500 hours total time. I'd been a second officer for 12 years, but easily transitioned  to the Boeing 744.  I'd been off for 22 months with a hip replacement and upon my return I jumped into the A330 with a brand new airline. Different technology than I'd been use to, and new procedures, too.  Not only have I been learning new planes, flying International, starting over with  new companies, and teaching throughout the years, I've been raising a family, and working on multiple master's degrees in the process. Most recently I've been writing a novel, blogging and tweeting.

How did I earn a type rating in the 727 with so few hours? How did I manage to successfully transition between aircraft with ease, so often, and with such a hectic life? Today I share my secret--- I got lucky.  Lucky that I met someone early in my career who created a foundation of basic flying skills, that I've carried with me throughout life. 

I'd just finished college, and was building my resume.  My plan was, that when my daughters were in school full time, I would start flying professionally.  Someone recommended I go to STI-- Simulator Training Incorporated-- get some sim time and a Flight Engineer rating. That's where I met Bo Corby. The owner, operator, and one of the instructors at STI. Bo was also a pilot for Northwest Airlines at the time. 

2009, NWA B747 Retirement party

When I arrived at the STI, a group of men sat in the lobby. I'd later learned they'd been training, and were on break. As I opened the door, conversation stopped and all heads turned. I asked, "Is Bo Corby here?"

One of the men said, "Yes." My eyebrows raised, anticipating more of an answer than yes. But then one of the men stood, and strutted toward me. He turned to the group and said, "Boy, I like my women tall." Everyone laughed.

I didn't laughed, I smiled.  Then I put my arm over this man's shoulder, wrapped it around his neck, put him in a head lock and said, "Great. I like my men short, that way I can keep them under control."

Bo and I have been friends ever since. I did get my FE ticket at his training center. And during the evening, while my babies slept, I would return to the simulator and observe other carriers' training events. One night, the second officer for Evergreen's training didn't show up. I offered to work the panel for them. I proceeded to help out for the next three days. A couple months later I received a call from Evergreen offering me a job--- Contingent upon the fact I could fly. They knew I'd pass their ground school. I had a brand knew engineer ticket. Flying? We'll see. Evergreen booked a simulator session with STI and scheduled their senior line check airman to come up, and give me a check ride to see if I was "teachable" with so few hours.

For the next three days, Bo spent two hours a day in the simulator with me, teaching me how to fly jets. He taught me how to scan properly, and not waste time on instruments that weren't going to impact the outcome. If my vertical speed wasn't moving, I certainly wasn't climbing or descending. He taught me the concept of phugoid oscillations, and stability. He taught the importance of and how to effectively trim to a hands off state.  And then he taught me how to manage the speed with the thrust levers, without diverting my attention for power settings, enabling me to fly any plane.  Now all this may sound basic, but the core concepts he taught have carried me through an amazing airline career.

Bo's life and experiences have taken in to multiple airlines including Northwest.  He's flown close to 19,000 hours, and I suspect taught as many. With that many hours, a pilot has stories. 

Bo and Mr. Akbari
DC-10 Leaving Tehran
We recently had the great pleasure interviewing him at FlightPodcast about his divert into Tehran. Bo proved that CRM goes far beyond the flight deck in his incredible feat of getting his DC-10 out of what he was told to be hostile territory. Apparently they even woke up the President of the United States. Once on the ground, Northwest dispatch told Bo there was nothing they could do for him. They were on their own.  How many pilots do you fly with speak Farsi? Bo does. If you haven't listened to Bo Corby's episode on FlightPodcast, click HERE you'll be enthralled.

Bo is now retired from Northwest Airlines, and STI has been gone for a few years. But Bo has not slowed down. What is Bo doing today? He's teaching again. His new program AirMentors is the extension of what he's been teaching for years to thousands of commercial airline pilots. And what he taught me so many years before. This course is perfect for anyone starting their career, to learn primary skills of flying jets.  But it is so much more than that...

Bo teaches accomplished pilots who are transitioning between aircraft, taking their first captain upgrade, or preparing for recurrent, how to fly more efficiently. Efficiency means the ability to divert your attention in the event of an emergency. It means flying the plane smarter, and safer.

Bo, it's still four days until Thanksgiving, but I want you to know that today, and everyday, how thankful I am that I walked through your door 24 years ago, and have had the opportunity to know and work with you over the years. I know that your telling the ladies at NWA that I was flying the Whale for Tower is why they pulled my application out of the archives, and invited me for an interview. Thank you! You gave me a foundation to fly, and you opened many doors for me, too. You truly have been my mentor. And what a better name than Airmentors.

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. Karlene,

    What a fabulous story! Bo sounds like an amazing person, and I'm so glad that you had the opportunity to be mentored in this manner. A mentor can make a huge difference in a person's life.

    Recently I was asked to be a mentor at my place of employment (in another industry, not airline), and I'm looking forward to helping this person develop and achieve their career goals.

  2. Wonderful story, Karlene. Bo sounds like a fantastic mentor, a gem for sure. You were lucky to find him, and you had the determination and energy and excitement and brains to make it all happen for yourself. And to give back, as well. Congrats, and here's wishing you many more years of happy flying and sharing.

  3. Jule, How wonderful. You will make a great mentor. It really is all about paying it forward. You will enjoy helping a person achieve their career goals more than you can imagine. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Thanks Linda, Yes, I was lucky for sure. And thank you so much for the nice comment. Giving back really is the best accomplishment anyone can have. Stay warm. It's snowing!

  5. Just listened to the whole podcast- What a great story with so many talking points about safety issues/decisions during flight. Thanks for sharing this with us. K

  6. Thanks Karla! I am so glad you had a chance to listen to it. It was an amazing story. He's a man who's lived a wonderful life, and just keeps going. I would fly with him anytime.

  7. Thanks for sharing much of your story, and Bo's! You are both an inspiration! Now I'm off to click on the podcast...

  8. Thanks Heather... that podcast is going to be a story one day. Your friend and mine will be staring! :)

  9. Great article. Of course Bo's story about landing in Iran is just something movies are made of. He sounds quite amazing. What I liked most about his interview on the Podcast is that he listened and discussed the decisions with his crew. I bet CRM was no surprise to him when some smart pants invented the acronym. Saying that he also knew when to be the leader. I bet his crews would go over the top for him.
    Karlene, you follow closely in Bo's shoes as you are a shining light to many of us out interested enough to listen and learn. P x

  10. Thanks for sharing not only Bo's story, but yours as well. I can't wait to get off work and catch up on the podcast. Just remember, when you write you're blog you are being a mentor as well! Thanks for being a mentor to me and all the other aviators out there :)

  11. Thank you so much Victoria! That means a lot. I know you'll love his podcast. Very interesting.

  12. Pieter, His story is going to be a movie. Well, first a book, and he said I could write it. Actually, I think that maybe he invented CRM. I think, bottom line in life is good communication is the key to success in everything. Thank you so much for the very kind comments! Happy Holidays

  13. Loved it Karelene! It is so amazing to see pilots helping other pilots, people helping each other. Aviation is a small world and one day I hope we all get to play a part in helping somebody.

    You certainly are following closely in your mentor's footsteps!!! Your blog is just an incredible source of information and inspiration for pilots and aspiring pilots!

    I have had the chance to have met an AMAZING pilot who decided to mentor me from the very first day we met, and I can't put a price on that! I owe him SO much, including my first job :)

    Keep up the good work Karlene, you're doing awesome stuff!

  14. Jean, I noticed early in my career that the aviation community was small, cohesive, and if you were in it--- you were part of the family. So many people willing and excited to help. Some pilots have carried that helping attitude to the majors-- most of them. Sometimes passion turns into a job and is lost. But there are many who still have that fly it forward attitude. That's great that you met an amazing pilot who mentored you from the first day. And I know you will be that person to someone else too.
    Thank you so much for the incredible comment!

  15. Its great reading about my brother. What an accurate profile of Bo, truly. Did he ever tell you Karlene how he would mow the local airport for flying lessons & air time before he was even 16. He was buzzing the house all the time in that small town of New London, Pa. He always knew what he wanted to be, it was never a question with him. We are all so very proud of his achievements in life, but most of all the person he is.

  16. Jerseitraveler, Bo never told me these things. I'm thinking we need to get together and compare notes. You should be very proud of the person he is. Someone that I am so honored to know. And he's always there to help someone else follow their dreams. Thank you for your comment!


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