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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, September 20, 2011

Why I became a Pilot

I received an email from my new Twitter friend, Alex Wood, who had some great questions. I suppose it’s my turn to be interviewed.

Alex asks…

How come you became a pilot?

Inspiration struck when I was 9-years-old, and was playing a board game called careers. Actually, it was more stubbornness, than inspiration. The career options of this game were: Stewardess, Librarian, Teacher, Nurse, or Model. At the time I didn't have a desire to become a model but as life would have it, I got to fly some Victoria Secret Models with Captain Dave.

My friends all wanted to become stewardesses, and they all landed on the spot to achieve that dream...During the board game at least. One of my friends actually did end up becoming a Flight Attendant for Northwest Airlines. But that's not the point. Or is it?

Back to the story I call my life. I couldn’t get so lucky and missed the stewardess dream spot. I said, “I don’t want to be a stewardess, I’m going to be the pilot!” My girlfriend responded, “You can’t be a pilot. My dad’s a pilot, and girls can’t do that.” We had a little argument and I took that challenge to the next level. I had a career plan, and all because I was told I couldn't.

Six years later I took my introductory flight, and the moment I took to the sky I thought, ‘Wow! They’re going to pay me to do this?’ I was hooked. I loved it. I felt a sense of freedom in the sky. Quiet. Calm. Controlled. Peaceful. I belonged. The rest is history.

What courses did you take?

In college I earned a business degree. Then later I earned a M.H.S. with a counseling emphasis, and a M.B.A. with a marketing emphasis. This is one of the most common questions I get... “What should I take in school?” I say, "take what you love."

Airlines just want to see the degree. I say—give yourself a backup plan for an alternate career. You never know if the flying job will end prematurely. Besides, if you study something you love you’ll do better in school because you'll have a passion for your subject.

What was your biggest flying challenge?

Wow, this is a tough one. I think the biggest flying challenge of the past was having a family, and flying—Trying to "do it all" creates a tough and exhausting life. Today the biggest challenge is staying proficient while on reserve. Then there is the other side of that equation—Being away from home for 16 days in a row is also a challenge.

No matter what you do in life there will always be challenges. Your goal is to face those challenges head on and use them to make you stronger. Find a dream and fly toward it. You may shift your course along the way, and that's okay. Nothing in life stays the same, not even your dreams. Today it's a Cessna, tomorrow its the space shuttle. Or something may happen in life beyond your control. Then one day you may be writing about it all. Having a passion for something you love will keep you motivated and flying strong in the right direction if and when the wind shifts.

Why did you become a Pilot...Author... Teacher... Flight Attendant... Model...?
Why do you do what you do?

Alex is sixteen years old and would love "pilot followers" to connect with him on Twitter. You can find him @CenterAviation

Thanks for the great questions Alex.

~Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene


  1. Hey this is really great! I always enjoy every one of your posts but it's neat to hear all these questions you ask people get answered by you! Glad your followed your dream!

  2. Excellent advice, Karlene. "Nothing in life stays the same, not even your dreams. . . having a passion for something you love will keep you motivated." So true! I think many people don't give themselves permission to pursue their passions, or even recognize them. It's so freeing to devote some serious energy to what you love!

  3. I'm so glad Alex sent you that email. I had no idea that's how you decided you wanted to become a pilot. Love that story! Thank you for sharing it with us. Determination is the fuel of dreams. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing, Karlene! It's amazing what we'll do when someone tells us we can't. Good for you!

  5. You are so cool, Karlene! Best wishes with words and wings!

  6. An answer to understand what kind of person you are. Nice :)

  7. Thanks for sharing your story,Karlene san. I am proud of you that you have been able to believe in you since you were student before becoming an airline pilot.No matter what your friends said to you,you pursuit of your dream.Very nice!!
    Have a great day!!

  8. Thanks Daniel, I'm glad these are easy questions. :)You know, some people are born with pilots in the family and they get exposed. I just was exposed to aviation a different way. But when you get hooked... it changes your life. Thank you for your comment.

  9. Thanks Linda, and yes it is. We're lucky to know our passion, but until you experience it how would you know? You're living yours and I'm glad to be part of that. Thank you so much for the comment!

  10. Thanks Heather. I often wonder if I hadn't been told I couldn't at such an early age, would I have found this path? I'm not sure. But everything in life happens in its right time. And when the door is opened... no matter how it's opened... we have to climb in and see if that's the right path. And when we find it... we fly!

  11. Thank you Jessica. I think behind every successful person is someone telling them they can't. That is the fuel! Thank you for the comment.

  12. Ah Holly, Thank you so much! Blush. Blush. You can be the president of my fan club. Wait... with Jun! :)

  13. Thank you Fabian. I had to laugh. Yes... this does tell a lot about me doesn't it. Thank you for the comment. Very nice. :)

  14. Thank you Jun. There will be many people in our lives telling us that we can't. Unfortunately too many kids believe it. I say... believe in yourself and don't let people tell you no. Thank you so much for your comment!

  15. Karlene mam.... U really hooked well ! U r great inspirations to me be tge same though there are difficuties in my journey.. But inspired lot ! :)
    Love you...

    1. Thank you so much!! We all have our reasons... and no matter why we are drawn to our passion... we are pulled that way!


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