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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, January 7, 2013

What If you Could Do Anything...

What would that be?

"Better to have a short life doing what you love doing, 
than spend a long life doing what you don't like." 

                       Alan Watts

Swayne Martin, our future pilot we met last Friday, wrote to me concerning his dream to fly and shared his concerns from those who have been stamping upon his dreams. Maybe we can all share with him a little advice. I know he would appreciate it.

Swayne says...

“I will begin working towards my private pilot’s license next summer which I can obtain shortly after turning 17. Its not just something I “kinda” want to do, it really has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. It will not be easy to get the license: including hours upon hours of training, testing, exams, and FAA check-rides.  Luckily, I have the support of my friends and family and I am ready to take this challenge head on. I couldn’t be happier with how this has turned out, what the future might hold, and what I will hopefully gain from this experience.”

One thing I have gotten frequently is a lot of mixed feedback from the forums and other people online.

The difference is, from what I have heard from many other pilots via email (and the people I know personally), it can be a completely different story depending on attitude. The people I know personally love their jobs, and would probably hate doing anything else for a living (I feel like that could be the future me) It is discouraging to hear feedback telling me to “run,” and it honestly makes me really nervous.

The best advice I have gotten so far about the above was: “DONT get too involved in the forums. Often times, it will only discourage you.” Instead, email around to pilot’s you know personally, or from blogs, youtube, websites, etc. See what they have to say. This is what I have done recently with much success. Many pilots are willing to help and want to offer advice to people who share the same passion.

Based on those points I have a few questions for you Karlene, hopefully they can help someone else who is in a similar position: 

1.) What should I think when I get responses from online forums or people who tell me to "run?"

My answer is run from those people. There will always be people pulling you down because life did not live up to their expectations. If there is something you want to do… do it. This is your one and only life. Remember one thing—Happiness is a choice. Some of my best times were the most challenging. No matter what challenges we face, we can look for the good. We can find the good. 

2.) After years of flying, do you still look forward to it like you did when you first began? Is it still interesting and exciting in its own respect?

Yes. I love sitting in the plane, feeling the thrust levers beneath my fingers, and the power of the jet as she rolls down the runway. I rotate and lift her into the sky, and I’m off to another adventure.  While it is hard to be away from home, and I look forward to each day with my family, it is hard to wipe the smile off my face once I’m sitting in the plane. Each month I still look forward to my new schedule and the surprises it may hold. I have the greatest opportunity to visit my friends worldwide.There are many challenges, but I choose to allow the benefits to outweigh the other. Yes, it is all about Attitude.

This job is very interesting as are the wonderful people I meet along the way. The challenges are many, but challenge is nothing but another word for opportunity to learn and grow. When I stop loving it, is the day I ground myself.

3.) What do you think the future of the industry is looking like? Do you see a brighter future for people like me compared to the last 11 years?

Yes. I see a shining future for all pilots starting today. It’s hard to imagine where we will be in the next ten years with technology, but I do know that the opportunities for employment are far better than the last ten years. December 2012, was that magic year for the age 65 pilots to begin retiring. I’m watching Boeing and Airbus orders for new planes skyrocket... Somebody is going to need to fly them. That would be you! And once hired, the pilots of today will move up to Captain relatively quickly.Today is a fabulous time for a career in aviation.

I (Swayne) would like to share this motivating video: 

"I really appreciate people like Karlene who have been such an inspiration to me and many other current, past, and future pilots. I can’t thank you enough. (Ahhh... Thank you!)

I decided to start a blog to go step by step through my process of becoming a private pilot and beyond. Maybe one day someone will find inspiration my blog, like Karlene has done for me: FromPrivate to Professional Pilot

My email is available via my profile on my blog, as well as with Karlene if anyone would like to contact me."  Swayne Martin. 


Swayne, Thank you so much for the great questions, and sharing your concerns. Swayne can also be found on Twitter @MartinsAviation 

Does anyone have advice for Swayne?
What do you think the future of Aviation Holds? 

 Leave Swayne your advice and then click on over to 
From Private to Professional Pilot
And read what people have been saying.   

Enjoy the Journey~ 
XO Karlene


  1. Swayne,

    What a great story. First, just recognize this truism, everyone has an opinion, not everyone has a great opinion. As a result, I take comments made by complete strangers with a tremendous grain of salt. Actually, I might even do that with people I know if their advice just doesn't seem right.

    Another thing is most people do not believe in "possibility". Lots of people focus more on what they can get vs what's possible. What I've found is never discount someone that has a passion for something. It's amazing what passion and commitment can accomplish.

    I've been in the aviation business for almost 30 years. While the experience isn't quite as new now as it was when I first started it's still the best thing I could've ever done. In fact, I'm constantly amazed at how things have progressed after all this time.

    Don't let other pundits get you down. TThey don't have a better crystal ball than you do. All anyone can do is be prepared and pointed in a good direction for opportunities as they arise. Opportunities come from mysterious sources. Only when you're ready for them can you grab them when they arise.

    1. Thanks for that Tom! I have been trying to do that, especially recently. (not listening to people I have no connection with)

      Thanks for all of the encouragement, I hope you enjoy my blog. I'm glad you're here to support me on the journey I will hopefully take.

      Feel free to email me if you want, it always helps to make connections with people who have been/are doing what I can only dream of right now.

      Many Thanks,

    2. Tom, What a great comment. I love that thought of possibility. When we believe anything is possible, we can achieve it.

      About the experience not being new... I know one thing for sure, nothing is as it was 30 years ago. We change. Things change. But when we go through life appreciating what we do have, and the new experiences... it's all good.

      Thanks for reaching out to Swayne.

  2. Wow Swayne, that was awesome!
    I wonder why it seems like people in USA can join flying school at least for PPL easily because I heard (maybe I was wrong ) that sometimes they took the class for hobby. If in my country, it was tooooooooo expensive.

    By the way, enjoy your training! Can't wait to experience the same. hehe

    1. Hi Mima! I read your story on the Friday's Fabulous Flyers list.

      You have an incredible story. DO NOT give up the dream, with hard work, anything is possible. In the USA, we have a lot of flight schools--4/5 in my city alone. It might be in Malaysia that there are much fewer.

      Thanks for the encouragement, feel free to email me at I am always happy to email with people who share my passion and dream.

      As Tom Hill said above, don't let the naysayers get to you. You can and will do it, I am sure.

      Many Thanks,

    2. Dear Swayne.
      The recent scenario in Malaysia is not just having few school but even with that few school, there's a tons of jobless pilot. I've read statistic made by government and it says approximately around 1214 jobless pilot failed to get position after finished and completed their training. That's what makes it scary.

      What about in your place??? Does this scenario occurs?

    3. Both of you, don't fear "what if I don't." Focus on I can. I recently read (or started to read) a book called Squawk 7700. I could not continue reading. It was a story of a pilot who did not make it, and gave up. But why I put it down was because he was whiny, and his behavior was not that of a dedicated pilot. He did not think like a captain should. He made excuses about why he could not get a job, but the timing... major airlines were hiring. He just did not apply.

      So, I take those statistics with a grain of salt. And today they mentioned on the news (again) about the pilot shortage. Timing has a lot to do with it, but anyone who is willing to do what it takes can make it.

      Live life with "No Fear."

  3. "What if you could do anything?" is one of my all-time favorite questions. One that I actually spend a lot of time contemplating. We all have responsibilities to loved ones that need to be honored, but after that, I think the sky is the limit (so to speak for you aviators). Here's my bottom line: if there's something in your life that you love doing, you are one of the very lucky people in the world. Find a way to make it a regular and important part of your life!!!

    1. Thanks so much! I've heard so many people say that they are "paid to do what they love."

      I feel like this career could make that my reality, which is why I am so willing to go for it :)


    2. Linda, thank you for the fantastic advice. Sometimes I think we get caught up in life, instead of living it. Passion, it's a virtue.

  4. I really love the continuation of Swayne's story for Monday Motivation. I am replying to this post first before the Friday Flyer as I want to reply to question #1. Yes, run and run far. Mysery LOVES company. And because someone else's situation didn't pan out the way they wanted it to (everything happens for a reason), they will make it their raison d'etre to bring everyone with the same dream(s) down with them to make themselves feel better. Run far, far away from them. Only hang around positive people. People who will support you.

    I was on a PIT-DTW flight once and there was a nice gentleman sitting next to me. We engaged in conversation especially talking about how Pittsburgh's airport is now a ghost town. I told him my ambitions to become an ATP (comm pilot) and he started discouraging me from it saying that I will be nothing but a "bus driver" with screaming little kids. He then gave me a thousand other excuses not to go commercial. Honestly, by that one conversation alone I felt crushed. After having thought about it, and the way his ego was swaying in and out during the conversation, my final analysis was/is that he honestly doesn't know me and my mental patterns enough to bring me down. Nice try. I came across Karlene a few days later on Twitter.. the rest was history. ;) It's all about positive people. They are the ones who shape who you are and what you will become.

    1. Jeremy, Thank you for the great comment. I know that we need to surround ourselves with positive people. Over the previous two years, I have been choosing my friends who fulfill that up-beat nature, and creating distance from those life long friends and family members that complain and pull me down. For some, life is never good enough. I believe life is great and as Tom said, "Filled with Possibility." I am so glad you did not listen to that person on that flight, and that we met.

    2. Thanks for the advice Jeremy!

      I decided a month ago that I wanted to reach out to pilots like Karlene, so I could try to build a small group of positive pilots that might be able to offer some advice.

      That small group I envisioned grew to be so large! It's amazing how many people out there are willing to help out, and really emphasize me following my passion.

      I have run into people like that a few times, which is why I reached out to Karlene. Since then, like you, I haven't been worried. I know that this is something I have to do.

      Thanks! Hope you enjoy the blog,

  5. As you know Karlene, I did. ;) It was terrifying, giving up security, retirement, and a steady job to embrace my dream. But it was completely worth it. Swayne sounds like he's on the right track. My advice to him would be to embrace your dreams and never settle. Life is too short to settle.

    1. Yes, you did. And you followed your dream with one huge bold step. Yes, it was worth it. Thank you so much your advice. Life "is" too short to settle.

    2. Thanks for that advice Heather!

      I have been lucky to have close relatives and parents who have really raised me to never "settle" they have always encouraged my passion(s) to grow and develop. They have always told me to go for the happiness in life vs the monetary results. Luckily, in this career, looks like both can happen :)


  6. Swayne,

    I have several short comments.

    The first is that you are doing your part to dispel every stereotype about the lack of passion in today’s youth. According to the old guys at the doughnut shop, all you young people want to do is sit around, play video games, dabble with drugs and live in your parent’s basement. I am proud of you and I thank you for your drive and commitment. I also appluad every other young person who is out there working for their dreams.

    Secondly. When I meet a young person who tells me they want to be a pilot. I do everything I can to talk them out of that decision. You have already learned that it is hard, it is expensive and the odds of landing a job at a major airline are not very high. To be successful in this career, you need a huge amount of dedication, determination and single minded focus. If I can talk a young person out of this career in 30 minutes while sitting at their dinner table with their parents, then they did not really have the passion to find success.

    Third. When I find a person like you who is committed to this career. I like to share this story. Kevin was a year older than you are now when this happened to him. The year was 1986 and Kevin was the star baseball player on the baseball team, but he was told that he did not have enough talent to play Division 1 baseball. His dream was to play baseball at Alabama. He called the coach who told him that if he was a student, he could try to walk on but there were no scholarships and he wasn’t good enough to even walk on. Kevin enrolled in Alabama, paid out of state tuition and tried out for the team. He made the team as a Freshman and even found significant playing time.

    At the end of the season, the coach called Kevin into his office and offered him a scholarship. He had achieved his dream of being a baseball player at Alabama. However, he was madly in love with a young lady he met on campus. She was moving to Hawaii and begged Kevin to join her there. He begged her to stay in school but she had her own plans and went to Hawaii. Poor Kevin missed her so he quit the team, scrapped up some money and bought a one way ticket to Hawaii. When he landed, he called her to have her pick him up at the airport. That is when she told him that she had a new boyfriend. He worked for a few months before he could earn enough money to get a ticket home. He never played baseball again but he was a superstar in the church softball league.

    I tell this story to all the young folks I talk too and the moral of the story is this. Don’t let anything get in between you and your dream. If she loves you, then she will not ask you to give up your dream. She will work with you so that both you and her can accomplish your dreams together.

    Finally. Stay as far as humanly possible from message boards. I put zero credence to any comment made be someone who will not share their real name. They might be right, but if they really care they will let you know who they are. Real people don’t lie and real people don’t say stupid crap on the internet. If a real person tells me something that I don’t agree with, I still listen. They might be right or they might have some valuable information. I do not listen to people who constantly whine, complain, make excuses or blame others. I have no time for that attitude.

    One more finally, I promise. When you get in trouble. Yes, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the table at some point in your career. Do not lie about what happened. The truth may hurt but it will not get you fired. You will get fired for lying. It may be a necessary to have professional representation with you at that table, but telling a lie to hide something is not a place you want to go.

    Feel free to say hi anytime.

    Good Luck. To me good luck is when hard work meets opportunity. Work hard now, opportunity will present itself later.

    1. Rob, all I can say is wow! Thank you for a great comment. Which I believe should be a post itself.

      And Swayne... he's right on "every" account!

    2. Rob, I cannot explain how much a response like that means to me. You have got to know how much messages like that means to someone like myself.

      Your words are filled with cautious optimism, the kind I hear frequently and know very well of. I appreciate that cautious optimism, and stories like these.

      I really like how you discussed about how if you can sit at a table and talk someone out of their passion in 30 minutes--they weren’t ready to take that passion on. Before I met Karlene, or any other “real” pilots, I had those very bad experiences on forums. Luckily, it did not dissuade me. I know that this is something I HAVE to do. If I don’t, I know I will regret it forever. That is not a risk I am willing to take at all. I know the road I will take to become a pilot won’t be an easy one, but I sure am ready for it! I’m not going to let anyone stop me :)

      I’m lucky to have been raised in a school with a serious Honor Code. We have such trust in each other, that we can leave expensive laptops, phones, wallets, backpacks, etc just out in the open--all around school. While this kind of environment would never exist in the “real world,” I have learned a great deal from it. That is personal honor. I try to live my life with no regrets; with this goal in mind, I really try to be as honorable as I can be. (I learned many of the same morals in Scouts-- I am getting Eagle Scout tonight).

      I will make sure to email you, I really enjoyed reading what you had to say.

      Karlene, I agree with you... this is completely worthy of a post. You might want to consider something like this for your site. It can really put things into perspective for people like me.

      Thanks so much for that response Rob, I saved it on my computer, I hope you enjoy my blog and some of the posts,
      Swayne Martin

  7. BOTH OF YOU!!!! (Karlene and Swayne)

    I really want to let you guys know that I got through the second stage of cadet pilot exam (for Airasia ) and it will be held on 21st January 2013. Wish me luck as I now preparing myself for the upcoming ADAPT test. Yes, I literally cried + screaming when I received an email saying I passed. It felt like a dream, a true dream that come to reality. I guess Karlene was right, ALWAYS SAY YOU CAN DO IT, YOU WILL DO IT... My email came a bit late compared to my friend who also got selected so I spent almost 12 hours fighting with urge to think of something negative. I kept on telling myself 'yeahh my inbox is full, that's why I didn't get any email just yet' and it turns out that my inbox indeed full so my email came a bit late.

    I CRIED even this was just the second stage and still got one more last stage but this is also mean I am indeed one final step closer to my dream. I can't wait to tell you guys the good news and I promise to myself I will wear that 'cadet pilot uniform' and once I do that, I TAKE PICTURE and share with you guys here....

    Right now, I'm going to study and give all out for ADAPT because I know it was challenging but I also know I will pass. Throw away all the negativity from my head. Phewwww~~~~

    Thanks Karlene and Swayne, you guys are one of the people that I can't wait to tell as soon as I know I passed the stage one of cadet selection. hehe

    1. Mima, I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!!! This is such great news. You have worked so hard, and deserve this success. I am wishing you luck!!! I know you will make it. I can see you as a Cadet. And one day soon, I will have a photo on my wall of you in your uniform!

      Those tears of joy are well earned. Congratulations Mima. Way to go!!! You know I am going to be shouting about this one. :)

    2. GREAT JOB! I am so happy for you, you have no idea.

      It makes me SO HAPPY that you are getting that much closer to your dream! It is incredible, I know that you WILL do it. Just work hard, stay focused, and study study study those books!.

      Please let us know how everything goes! Make sure that you don't let your guard down, and keep working at it... you never know when something might come up you haven't prepared for.

      Just know, that no matter what happens... you have done something completely AMAZING. You have done what people told you that you couldn't do and shouldn't do. But you didn't let that get to you!

      Keep your head held high! Your making it happen!
      Best of luck!

  8. Fantastic story, Mimi! So happy for you!!

    And excellent, real-world advice, Mr. Akers. There WILL be distractions and challenges along the way, but the ones who "make it" are the ones who stay focused on point, come hell or high water!

    And, sadly, I can agree--you WILL find yourself on the wrong side of the table some day, and the hard truth (not lying) is what will get you past it!

  9. Swayne,
    The Wall Street Journal reported in December that the biggest pilot shortage since the 60s is coming. One reason is because there are so many negative guys out there discouraging young people. I try everyday to encourage people to go for their dreams. It's the only way to live because we can never kill the dreams within ourselves.

    Karlene is right that attitude is everything. I've found that sometimes something will happen to me and at first I want to react as if that thing were bad. And then I find another way to look at it. Amazingly, I see that actually it was a good thing.

    If you decide to be a positive person, it's amazing how different your life will be from others.

    Now that you have all this support and encouragement, spread it to those around you. Show them what believing in yourself and trusting can accomplish. As you can see, we here believe in you!

    I have some positive stories from pilots on my website under "Learn to Fly" and "Fearless FlyGirls" at

    Good luck. I know you'll do well.

    1. Syd, Thank you so much for the great comment. Trusting in yourself, that you can accomplish anything, is essential.

      And Swayne, check out She is a fabulous support, and a brilliant lady!


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