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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, June 26, 2013

Lesson's Learned from the Airlines

Last week I read a great post by Brent Owens, Why Do We Suck at Being Safe? He pointed out the conflict with the pilot personality and what it takes to be safe. Yes... there is a huge disconnect between the pilot and their innate behavior. 


Flight Reminders:

Safety is a choice. It's the ability to focus on the task at hand and not allow your mind to wander. It means understanding the threats are everywhere and learning to mitigate them. The airlines use the term Threat and Error management. This is something that must transport to the general aviation world. 

Threats do not care if you have one person on your plane, or 300. But your family and friends care. 


And now the FAA is talking about the Startle Effect.

There have been many times I have seen a pilot startle. It has nothing to do with the enormity of the situation, but everything to do with the mind wandering. I have flown with a captain who startled when the power reduced (as it should have) and she jumped, and grabbed for the thrust levers. Her mind was not in the plane prior to that. The power reduction brought her back.

A captain spent 20 minutes starting an engine with a manual start valve procedure on a 727. When we started the second engine, as the fuel increased, he startled and inadvertently shutdown the engine with the start valve failure. The FAA was on board, and obviously his head was not with the starting engine...but someplace else. 

I flew with a captain who was asleep with his eyes open on final. When he did not respond to my standard callouts, I landed his plane. When we touched down... he startled. Where was he?

This stuff is very real. The benefit that commercial aviators have over general aviation world is that we have each other for backup. You have yourself. Well... that and ATC, mechanics, FBOs...etc. The resources are there, you just have to use them. And then when the devil and angel are sitting on your shoulders... it's up to you to make the right decision. 

Always ask yourself this... "Is it worth my life?"

What threats can you share with your flying friends? We're all in this together, and can learn from each other.

Be Safe and Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. I think it's also how you manage your own life. As we can see, safety is related to health. It's also how you detach from your personal life and become part of the aircraft. However, again like I said, it's how you envision and deal with things, it's how you live life in a healthier manner. Does it has to do with perspective? Maybe.

    I know it's easy to say, but honestly, there are always solutions to perform better.

    If your question has a general meaning, then my answer is: It depends.

    If your question has a personal meaning, then my answer is: Yes.

    Amazing post!

    1. Alex, Thank you for the great comment! Health has so much to do with safety. Physical and Mental health. One with the plane for sure. When life is a challenge, we have to work that much harder.

  2. I think an inattention to detail is also a huge issue. I had a first officer load an approach to the wrong airport and the wrong runway. When I asked him if he had loaded everything correctly, he was adamant that he had.
    This was also indicative of a bigger problem, laziness and carelessness. When given a task, he would complete the task as quickly as possible, and as a result would make careless mistakes. A failure to check his entries before hitting the execute button was also a factor.

    1. Oh... I have seen this often. The problem is, I am sure he thought he had. The example you give here, is exactly the importance of mental health. When we have problems... home, industry, pension loss... etc, we become distracted. We think we did something right, but our mind was elsewhere. This goes for fatigue too.

      All this means is focus on the detail as you say, that will be the only way for accuracy. Thank you so much for the comment!


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