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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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Andy Schwaderer

Friday Fabulous Flyer

 Andy Schwaderer

Major Andrew Schwaderer—Andy—is a C-17 pilot who is just finishing his Active Duty pilot commitment, and will start with the Reserves this winter.  One of his dreams is to fly as a captain at a major airline and I have no doubt he will make that dream come true. He is a leader in every sense of the word.

Andy entered the service in 2001 as a graduate of ROTC from the University of St Thomas, St Paul MN.  He holds degrees in the Russian Language and Political Science.  He has over 3400 hours in 6+ aircraft to include the C-17A, RQ-4A/B, T-1A, T-37—A the majority of which was on the C-17A.  He has flown combat missions over Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.


Awards he has earned: Meritorious Service Medal. Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters. Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster. Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster. Air Force Achievement Medal. 

 I had asked Andy where his aviation dream started, and this is what he said…

“I grew up in the north woods of Minnesota, about an hour and a half west of Duluth.  There was a reconnaissance F-4 unit stationed there at that time, and they would do training missions over our lake--basically drop down below tree line and practice taking photos of a floating dock that was at one end. 

When I was 4, I remember watching one come in low across the lake, seemingly powered by black smudge, and then scream overhead.  The noise was on the scale of a NASA rocket launch, seeing this blur jet overhead was such a powerful experience.  I was hooked—from that point on I spent my free time building jet models, reading about aviation, and pondering what a life in the clouds would be like.”

Andy at 6-years-old

Andy also told me he is a writer of short stories. His words paint pictures and I could feel myself standing with that little 4-year-old boy watching the jet fly overhead. That moment in his life, had changed his life. It pointed him down a path that took him into the sky filled with much success.

But with success, there are failures. With struggles we reap rewards. With each day come new challenges. I love to know what drives a person, and how they deal with life. Our attitude is all we have control over, and Andy has the attitude thing figured out.  A good trait for a pilot.


“The greatest rewards for me are working with amazing professionals—the people make this business extraordinary.  The challenges are part of the appeal—you just do not know what will happen, quickly, at any point.  It forces you to be on your best game at all times.  Makes you realize you're part of something far, far larger than yourself.  The travel is also a great part of the reward!  


 An amazing feeling to be larger than yourself—it puts the ego in check, and makes you human. Flying in Iraq and Afghanistan made for some interesting missions for Andy. He calls them ‘tense flights’ I call them a huge dose of reality. I can only imagine that experience, as I write from the comfort of my home.

“Some of the more tense flights are carrying wounded out of the combat zone. We try to make the flights as comfortable and efficient as possible of course, and the more serious trauma and burn victims will have dedicated attendees during the course of the flight. Those are always tense because there are few divert options in the event the patient's condition worsens. Not being able to help while someone slowly succumbs is among the worst memories of my career.” 


“The other tense times are trying to get into a strange airport, like a dirt field in northern Afghanistan, or one that is extremely busy, like Frankfurt International in Germany. Every 30-seconds they have a plane departing or landing, and there is zero room for error when they give you instructions. Combine that with the German air controllers' strange sense of humor and you get instructions to state remaining fuel onboard, so they know how long they can force you to hold in the penalty box. I've heard other planes get sent to the penalty box (what we simply call having to hold position by doing endless circles) because they didn't respond to their call sign, or for falsely responding when the controller was calling someone else.”

When Andy is not on the road he enjoys writing, and we already know he can through his words on this page. Add Musing and Amusing to your aviation blog list. Such a fun read.

Please join me in welcoming Andy on his re-entry into the civilian world, and his continued success on all his missions in life. Andy, I also want to thank you for serving our country and keeping the laughter alive on your blog. You just keep giving, and remind me that we can all find something to smile about. Today I am smiling at the good fortune to have met you.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Thursday, November 29, 2012


The Movie 

I've been sitting on writing anything for a few weeks because I did not want to give a spoiler alert. But I feel compelled to speak out about the movie Flight.

This movie was not what I was expecting. I was thinking more aviation. However, it was a substance abuse movie. They did an excellent job from the perspective of an addict. Could a pilot be an addict? Or course.  The believability of the plane flying upside down with a broken jackscrew was a stretch. But with most movies, and stories, we need to remember that they are entertainment and liberties are taken for added drama.

The reality of truth is woven through the story.


During the crash scene, I was very uncomfortable. I squirmed in my seat, closed my eyes, and covered my ears once. This was a powerful few minutes. I'm wondering if non-pilots had the same visceral reaction. The impact of the crash brought tears. Just as Kathryn had said, in Flight For Control, "It's the silence after the crash that is the most painful."

This flight had the same problem that caused Alaska Airlines' Flight 261 horrific crash in January of 2000, and it's said to be representing that flight. One of my sisters is a Flight Attendant at Alaska and she lost friends and coworkers, as did many. Entire families perished together. Until you're living there, you cannot imagine. Please join me for a moment in memory of lives lost.


Back to the movie.

A few technical details were in error. But to make it larger than life for the screen, most people would not notice. The errors made the drama more real to the general public. The writers made the captain a normal person with human problems. Pilots are not Gods and this movie displayed that truth.

The movie got panned because they say it was not believable due to the substance abuse of the captain. Maybe today this type of behavior is not as prevalent with flight crews, on the job, but it was. And many pilots still drink. Every once in awhile they catch one going through security. And when there is a problem, they hide it. This is a very human issue.

Pilots bathe in large amounts of stress daily, and they all deal with it differently.

The interesting thing is that the word in the sky is that our union 'ALPA' is very upset with the movie because it "made pilots look bad." Personally, I didn't think it made the pilots look bad, it made the union look bad. You will have to see the movie and make your own decision on that. The funny thing is, I hadn't thought anything unusual about their behavior until my husband and I were discussing the movie and he pointed out how it did make them look less than stellar.

Should you see it? 
Most definitely. 

The million dollar question is...

Could you see Flight For Control as a movie?

If your life touches the airline industry, and you want to be in the movie, email me at and tell me who you are, and that you want to be in the movie. We are going to cast the memorial scene with real airline people. And those who love planes, we'll sneak you on the set too!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Airport Safety!

My friend Robin sent me the following message. I think in the view of aviation safety, this is a must to pass on. When Safety is in question, we must take action. 

Help remove big threat to aviation safety at the Schellville Airport in Sonoma County.  Why?  Yes, this is a small general aviation airport, who cares?  I do, for one for three (ok, 4) reasons:

1. Someone knowingly built a clear hazard to aviation safety when they willfully violated the law constructing a solid log fence across an active runway overrun.  Someone who is trying to make an emergency landing or regular landing on this runway will unlikely see the fence before it is too late and hit it.  The people who constructed the fence do not care that the presence of the fence may kill people.  (They also had a gun target that had people shooting live ammunition across the approach path of the other runway at Schellville.  They only took it down when Channel 7 said they were going to put it on TV.

2.  These same people violated several zoning and land use laws building a business with a huge pond that will attract additional water fowl and other birds that are a hazard to aviation.  Their property directly abuts the airport (which was there more than 30 years).  They couldn't get the permits they wanted to and built anyways and are attempting to get the land re-zoned.  If they accomplish this, it will put all general airports in the State of California (like Sonoma Skypark where we have our C-120) at risk by setting a precedent to change zoning laws in attempt to close airports and develop the land.

3. If the airport closes, the income lost from the airport to the county, which will be much more than the new business (Leland Fly Fishing) generates, can easily cause my taxes to go up.

4.  General principle. They have completely disregarded the county, state, and federal laws, the building and use permit process that you and I have to follow.  They seem to feel he is above the law.  
That just pisses me off to no end.

There is a lot more information below.  This is a link to a piece Channel 7 did a month or so ago that is about 10 minutes long.  Thanks for reading this.  And if you do sign, please forward on to anyone you think might care about airport safety.

Thanks!  Robin
Robin, Flight to Success and all the followers are on this for you. Together we can make a difference~
XO Karlene

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Cecilie Larson sent me an interesting file on Pilot Fatigue. This very serious issue is probably one of the most critical factors in Airline Safety Today. While it's never just 'one' thing, the one thing that can impact a flight with a perfectly good plane, more than anything else, is pilot fatigue.

Cecilie reminded me of critical factors specific to Norway... 

"Norway has one of the most challenging environment to operate aircraft in, most of the routes are short-runway-special ops and throw in some freezing fog, icy runways, snow, excessive crosswind AND pilot fatigue, I think you have the perfect recipe for disaster. That is why that 22-hour maximum duty rule just CANNOT be implemented, it would have a direct negative effect on safety." 

Cecilie also sent me a copy of a recent study conducted on Pilot Fatigue. Below is an excerpt on the findings:

The 2012 Barometer on Pilot Fatigue brings together several surveys on pilot fatigue carried out by Member Associations of the European Cockpit Association. Between 2010 and 2012, more than 6.000 European pilots have been asked to self-assess the level of fatigue they are experiencing.

The surveys confirm that pilot fatigue is common, dangerous and an under-reported phenomenon in Europe.

• Over 50% of surveyed pilots experience fatigue as impairing their ability to perform well while on flight duty.

• 4 out of 5 pilots have to cope with fatigue while in the cockpit, according to polls carried out in Austria (85%), Sweden (89%), Germany (92%) and Denmark (93%).

• A common indicator of the problem is that fatigued pilots are prone to fall asleep or experience episodes of micro-sleep in the cockpit. In the UK (43%), Denmark (50%), Norway (53%) and Sweden (54%) the surveyed pilots reported falling asleep involuntarily in the cockpit while flying. In the UK, a third of the pilots said to have woken up finding their colleague sleeping as well. 65% of Dutch and French pilots stated they have trouble with “heavy eyelids” during flight.

• Yet, fearing disciplinary actions or stigmatization by the employer or colleagues, 70-80% of fatigued pilots would not file a fatigue report or declare to be unfit to fly. Only 20-30% will report unfit for duty or file a report under such an occurrence.

• More than 3 out of 5 pilots in Sweden (71%), Norway (79%) and Denmark (80-90%) acknowledge to have already.

 Austrian Cockpit Association

A 22-hour duty day? I concur with Cecilie, this must not be implemented. 17-hours awake is equivalent to .05 alcohol level. Are pilots flying drunk on fatigue?

When I asked Cecilie when this is happening, and if there was anything we could do, she said, "The proposal for the new regulation was published October 1, 2012. The process of having it implemented will take a while. Organizations and groups will tell the European Union what they think of it, etc. Check out Dead Tired for more info. That's the site for the lobbyist group European Cockpit Association trying to fight against this regulation. They also have a petition that can be signed."

You can read and download the entire report here: Barometer on Pilot Fatigue

What are your thoughts? 
How rested do you want your pilots to be?
Did you sign the petition?

Together... we can make a difference on Safety

Enjoy the Journey... and remember to stay awake for it.

XO Karlene