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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, April 30, 2014

Cameras In The Flight Deck?

Should we go there? 

I say unequivocally no!

Before I give my reasons, I have to ask those who work in an office, "would you want to be video taped during your 8-12 hour workday?" Despite what some may think, the flight deck is the pilot's office.

MH370 opened the discussion on this topic. And this is not the first time it has been approached. The bottom line is, a camera would not have prevented what happened. It may have helped to determine location (unless it too were turned off). But there are other more practical ways that the plane can be tracked. 

This camera suggestion goes back to my concern that our industry is more reactive than proactive. A camera might provide additional information to what happened, but will not prevent something from happening. Camera's will not increase safety. But they could do just the opposite.

We had cameras in our simulators for many years as part of the Advanced Qualification Program. AQP. And I saw performance degradation when those cameras came into being. When the pilots knew they were being video taped, they appeared to make more errors. While I cannot be certain that this camera issue was the reason, I can tell you what I saw. And I certainly believe it was performance anxiety with knowing they would be viewed and judged. Knowing that all they did, was on record. 

There are always a few pilots with Checkrideitis. They do perfectly well in the plane, until the day they are in the simulator and under scrutiny. Not everyone, but enough face this. That number increased significantly when the videos came around. My thought is... it's just not worth it.


Positioning of the camera would also be a huge challenge. There is no good place to install a camera to see everything. Would we focus them on the instruments? On one pilot? On the other pilot? On the control stick? But which one? Out the window? In the faces of the pilots?

If someone took over the plane and turned off the transponder, they could certainly depower a camera. We need to think of a better way. Maybe use the money from the camera idea and put it toward training.

What do you think?
Cameras or no cameras?

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

From Jet to Wheelchair

The Race Continues...

A couple years ago we met a pilot whose life was changed by a swim during a layover in an ocean. Jerry Ward may have been forced of the flight deck, but he has not given up on life. Read Jerry's story here.

"To all my good, and in some cases, very old friends! (Only old in the sense of a long time ago not age of course!)

In a couple of weeks on May 18 my team of trusty pushers will be attempting to shove me in a wheelchair around the course at Manchester to complete The Big Push 7. I'm not sure where the years have gone since I was lying in intensive care, on a life-support ventilator, in Salford looking through the window at the finishing line by the Beetham tower, the Hilton hotel on Deansgate, thinking if I would ever be able to take part again. And now we are getting ready to do this for the seventh time.

In previous years the team have raised funds for many different charities, mostly those related to spinal-cord injury, cancer or children. However, this year the team have decided to split our fundraising between three charities, all very close to home. Diabetes UK, Aerobility and SIA.

A very good friend/neighbour/driver/helper/budding aviator/odd job guy recently lost his brother to diabetes aged just 53. My son, Sam, who has been a member of the Big Push Team several times, is insulin-dependent, as is Lisa, wife and mother to 2 more of the team. Derek's death was a huge shock to all of us who know how difficult it can be managing the condition. 
 Last Year's Race
Aerobility provide flying experience and training to people with all kinds of disability, flying is something most of the Big Push Team take very much for granted.

Spinal injuries Association (SIA) have supported me continually since my accident in many ways.

I'm sorry that it seems to be every year I've asked the same questions, but please support the team in any way you can by visiting our fundraising site at: ;

Please give generously, your donation however small or large really will make a difference. If possible please also make sure that the sneaky Chancellor doesn't benefit from your donation by claiming gift aid. Please forward this to any of your friends if you feel able to.
Thank you for helping

Jerry a.k.a. Fatty

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pulled in Many Directions...

Monday Motivation:

Concerns from a from a future pilot...

"I have dreams and I want to fly... But my mother say's this... My father say's that... my Uncle suggests this...What am I supposed to do? I am not giving up!"

There will always be people (family and friends) trying to help by telling us what they think we should do with our lives. Not to harm or confuse us, but to help us because they love us and want the best. But the reality is... their best may not be what we want for ourselves. This is the time to ask yourself... 

Whose life is it anyway?

The way I see it... you are a beautiful flower with petals of hope, future, dreams, success, etc. You are in the process of blooming into the person you can be. What you need is support to help you grow...water, sunshine, soil, nutrients, etc. But, if you get too much water you drown. If there is no water and the sun burns bright, you dry out. Worse yet...

If each family member or friend who are trying to guide you are grabbing petals and pulling you in different directions, telling you what they think you should do with your life... this must stop or they are going to pull off your petals.

Don't let them!

This is your life and those petal pulling people need to allow you to bloom into the person you deserve to be... and you need to tell them. How? With a skill that we first officers learn early on... be Assertive With Respect. 

Remember, they want the best for you. Tell them that the best is to allow you to live your life how you want. They had their turn. This is yours. You may mess it up, but it will be your mess up. Convey that you would appreciate their support, but you have to live your dreams. Support does not necessarily mean finance you. But if they love you enough to guide you, they should love you enough to  be your cheerleader when you venture out of the nest in pursuit of your dreams.

Control and letting go is a challenge. Many parents find it difficult to let go of their little birds. While others throw them out of the nest. But once they truly believe you are firmly committed to following your dreams, they'll come around. Keep the doors of communication open. Tell them where you are and what you're doing. Listen to their concerns. Be open to suggestions. Be flexible. But always remember... this is your life. 

What Horizons Are in Your Future?

Enjoy the journey!
XO Karlene

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pete Wilson

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

 In the Boeing 747-400 simulator as part of the MSc course
Pete Wilson

Yesterday's post, Practicing with Passengers, was all about automation and the deterioration of flying skills, and how to become more proficient. I introduced Captain Pete Wilson who is conducting a survey for his thesis. Today is all about meeting the man behind the study and how he became interested in Aviation. 
Pete Wilson: 
"I guess I was hooked from a tender age of 2, parked in my pram during many a sunny afternoon (my memory must be tainted, it was in Scotland!), facing skywards and watching the RAF jets “zoom” through the skies above our garden.

At school I was in the Air Cadets, with my first flights at the controls of a De Havilland Chipmunk. I was very lucky and was awarded an RAF Flying Scholarship at the age of 17. This enabled me to get my Private Pilot Licence, but due to the need to wear glasses my plans switched to civil aviation.
I have always been interested in all aspects of aviation and alongside learning to fly I completed a degree in Aerospace Engineering. During this time I spent a year's placement working at Airbus in Toulouse.

Just after completing my degree, the opportunity arose to work as a mechanic and ground crew on historic aircraft at Duxford in England. I worked on a wide range of classic aircraft, my favourite being the Spitfire. My bosses there were Ray and Mark Hanna, for whom I will always have the greatest respect. I did two air show seasons as support for the Breitling Fighters Team.

A view from the back seat of the Mustang in Switzerland,
flying in formation with the P-40 and Spitfire. 

It was as part of this team that I came on my first trip to Switzerland, flying here in the back seat of the P-51 Mustang and T-6. I didn't know then that I would return years later with my wife on our honeymoon and then to come to live here!

Looking to get into the commercial aviation world, I started working in the Flight Ops department of a worldwide cargo airline called HeavyLift. Getting to see how an airline worked from the inside was great experience. I feel all these different areas of aviation: engineering, ops and piloting, have all been valuable in my career, working in a multi-disciplinary team.

My first civil pilot jobs were on the Dornier 328 and subsequently the BAe 146 in Scotland. Unfortunately both companies being small airlines, they didn’t survive the “credit crunch”.

Christmas day flying

Presently I am a Captain on the Q400 for an airline in Switzerland. I live here with my wife and two mini huskies. I love flying over the Swiss Alps and my wife was keen to move here due to the abundant supply of Swiss chocolate! In fact, it was the tale of Swiss chocolate which first brought us together. When I previously worked with the Breitling Fighters the Mustang flew back from an air show in Switzerland with the wing ammunition bays filled with boxes of chocolate. My wife said she was very impressed by this tale!

View of Mt Blanc, highest mountain in the Alps

I think it is important that you never stop learning. In the last few years I have been studying for my MSc in “Human Factors & Safety Assessment in Aeronautics”. Subjects include Air Accident Investigation, Flight Deck Design, Human Performance and Error, Safety Assessment, Risk & Reliability, Aviation Medicine, Human Factors in Maintenance, Human Factors in Simulation and Training… and unfortunately Statistics! I have thoroughly enjoyed the course and met many fascinating people from a wide variety of aviation backgrounds.

I am doing my research thesis on the manual flying skills of pilots of automated aircraft. This topic draws elements from most of the subjects included in the MSc. Also as a training Captain and Ground Instructor, I have a personal interest in this topic."

Flying the Q400

If you haven't had a chance to take the survey, I know Pete would appreciate the support. I took it and it takes about 20 minutes. But I know it will be going to a good cause. Safer skies.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Practicing with Passengers

One of the greatest challenges with the current aviation industry, and one that I will pursue during my studies, not to mention is a central theme in Flight For Safety, is that pilots are losing their flying skills compliments of automation. 

The FAA is now recommending that we hand fly our planes. It took 20 years, but they too believe it's time to kick off the automation and keep our flying skills fine-tuned.  Companies are encouraging hand flying as well. We all know that practice makes perfect. And as the joke goes... the Airbus takes both excellent and shitty pilots alike, and makes them all average. But deficiency in proficiency is no joke. Especially when it's due to automation that we need and love.

Automation is safer than hand flying.

We know this. Thus I have 4 questions: 

1. If we kick off our automation have we reduced safety? 

With automation connected we have greater situational awareness. The pilot monitoring has more time and awareness to pay attention outside the aircraft. When we are hand-flying, the other pilot is busy pushing buttons and dialing knobs for the pilot flying, while responding to clearances.

2.   If something were to happen while hand-flying, who is liable? 

A concern from the pilots for not hand flying their planes is simple: If something were to happen during a flight where the pilots had equipment available, that they did not use, the pilot will be liable. We are encouraged by our companies and the FAA... so they will be liable too. But the ultimate responsibility resides with the pilots. The first time an incident happens while the pilot is "practicing" their flying skills, will be a field day in court if the pilots did not use all their equipment.

3.   Should we be practicing with passengers?

Liability aside, should we be practicing with passengers? International pilots are sleeping in passenger seats, flying long hours, and landing on the backside of the clock many time zones away with a messed up circadian rhythm. Can we be our best under these conditions? If we are not our best... should we use everything available or kick it off so we can practice?

4.   What happens when we lose the automation?

If we haven't been flying without the automation, will we have the skills to do so when we are faced with that challenge due to a failure?

The conundrum of Aviation Safety

Pete Wilson, a graduate student at Cranfield University, is conducting research for his thesis on the manual flying skills of pilots of automated aircraft. If you are a pilot, he would be appreciative if you would take time to conduct his survey. Tomorrow come back and meet the man behind the survey.

Click Here: Manual Flying Survey

What do you think the answer are? 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Planes Fire & Rescue

I'm on my way to DisneyToon Studios for another Aviation Press Day, Thursday, May 8th. Planes was such a huge success and I'm excited to be one of the first to preview this movie. The last event was so much fun... meeting the directors, artists, researchers and more. And I will be sharing the excitement with you soon.

Opens in theaters on July 18th!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CEO of Cirrus Aircraft

Invites you for a great event!

Special Invitation by CEO of Cirrus Aircraft

Speaker: Dale Klapmeier, CEO Cirrus Aircraft

Date: May 21, 2014 at 6pm
Location: Museum of Flight 
Theater Room 
9404 East Marginal Way S 


Date: May 22, 2014 at 5pm 
Location: Microsoft Campus 
Studio B/1350 – The Screening Room 
15101 NE 40th St. 


Cirrus Aircraft came from humble beginnings in a Baraboo, WI barn in 1984 where Alan and Dale Klapmeier designed and built the first Cirrus. Nineteen years later, the Cirrus SR22 became the best-selling single-engine piston aircraft in the world by pioneering the latest technological advances in manufacturing and safety. Today, Cirrus Aircraft owns the largest market share in the industry, producing aircraft more advanced that most commercial airliners, and the only aircraft certified with a whole airframe parachute as a standard feature, which to date has saved 86 lives.

Success, however, has not come without challenge, frustration, and concern over longevity. As virtually every other industry, aviation has faced formidable challenges over the past 30 years. Government regulation, certification standards, labor shortages, and cash flow challenges have brought many aircraft manufacturers to the brink of bankruptcy. Dale Klapmeier will discuss how the Cirrus team has successfully navigated the company through these turbulent times to become one of the most successful aircraft manufacturers in the world, and how these strategies can relate to other small businesses facing similar challenges.

I am really looking forward to this talk not only from a pilot perspective but from a business angle as well. We can all learn so much from the successes and failures of others. And to meet the CEO of Cirrus and have a chance to talk to him? All I can say is wow! I hope you all can make it.


Anyone interested in overcoming business challenges is welcome to attend but space is limited. Please RSVP to with the date and number of people attending.
Best regards, Gordon Alvord

I'm planning on attending the 
Seattle Museum of Flight venue
On the 21st...
(If scheduling doesn't grab me first) 
Let me know if you'll be there too.

If you can't make... 
What would you like me to ask?

Enjoy the Journey! 
Hope to see you on May 21st!
XO Karlene

Monday, April 21, 2014

How Do I Live Now?

"How do I live with my child gone?" 

YOU live in honor of your child.

You live to carry on what your child would have done with their life. You live to make sure the tragedy that took them does not befall others. You live because life is a gift.

There is no honor in taking your life. 

There is only honor in living strong for those who are no longer with us. 

To the families and friends who have lost a loved one in a horrific tragedy like MH370 or the Korean Ferry crash:

There is no bringing your child or family member back. But you can move forward. You can continue this life in honor of those no longer living. They did not have a choice. You do.

Choose wisely and use your anger and sorrow to make this world better for others, so this tragedy will never happen again. Make the loved one you lost proud. They are with you. Take their memory and their spirit and continue live on in their name.

Honor is Living...
Despite the Sorrow. 
Live strong with honor!

Enjoy the journey
OX Karlene

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter In Paris, and then....

Happy Easter! 

Wherever you are, 
remember to celebrate!

The day begins in Paris... and after I hand out 300 chocolate eggs to the crew and passengers I will fly to Seattle. Head home for a quick change, pick up my eldest daughter and grandkids and head to my mom's for Easter dinner, and a (surprise) birthday party for one of my nieces.  

The day will be long, but full.  I hope your day is special. 

Enjoy the journey! 
XOX Karlene

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dream Catchers

Friday's Fabulous Flyers:

Michelle and Gretchen
Team 33

Michelle Bassanesi is flying her second Air Race Classic! She is both an EASA and FAA (and current) instrument rated commercial pilot with single- and multi- engine, instrument flight instructor, advanced ground instructor. She is also an undergraduate at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University two-thirds of the way towards her BS in Aeronautics with minors in Aviation Safety and Management: Expected graduation 2016!

Valiant Steed DREAMER: N9863H is a 182R Skylane.

Michelle is on the Dean’s List and a member of the Alpha Sigma Lamda Honor Society, recognized in leadership and scholarship. She has 1360 hours in the air and is racing for the experience, the adventure, and the camaraderie. Michelle is also currently working on her FAA-Aircraft Dispatcher Certification. This is all done in her “spare time” … Michelle is a full-time working single-mum, entrepreneur, and problem solver!

She is no novice to Flight To Success. If you type in Michelle into the search box, you'll see her ambition, dedication and commitment has no wavered. Michelle has been flying strong for the three years I've known her and I'm so glad to have the chance to follow her career. She is an amazing lady.


Gretchen Jahn is Michelle's co-pilot during the race. She is a veteran racer, with 18 Air Race Classics under her wings. An instrument-rated commercial pilot with 1650 hours logged, Gretchen has single-engine land and sea certificates and a tail-wheel endorsement.

Gretchen says, "I love to meet and help new racers. There is always more to learn about the airplane, weather, aviation rules, team coordination and personal capabilities. It is fun to collect airports, become more proficient and go fast!" 

Fast they did fly. These two ladies came in second place last year. Will they increase their position this year? Stay tuned to find out!

Gretchen, Ed, Michelle and Chuck Frost!

Ed and Chuck are the owners of the valiant steed and team 33's dedicated ground crew/support!

And YOU can be ground support too. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ERAU PhD Aviation Safety

This morning I'm heading to Paris for the beginning of a six day trip! But before I fly I have some great news:

I have been accepted in ERAU's PhD program in Aviation Safety! The adventure begins in Daytona Florida August 11th, but the journey continues here.

We are part of a team and together will make the skies safer, and continue to support our future pilots. As the workload unfolds, I will be sharing my research and posting questions welcoming your opinion into the mix.

I have a plan for safety, and it's unfolding before our eyes. You can help by promoting Flight For Control and Flight For Safety. When I finish my PhD, we can look forward to: Fight For Safety, The Truth Behind The Flight Series.  Flight For Survival is still scheduled for Fall 2015! And Flight To Success Fall 2014. 

I am earning my PhD for a purpose, not for the piece of paper to hang on the wall. I'm doing this to make a difference and create change for the promote air safety.

If there is anything you think worthy of researching during this process. Please let me know.

Enjoy the week... and make every moment count.

XO Karlene

Monday, April 14, 2014

Soar with the flow of life!

Monday Motivation:

“Do the best you can, and then let go. When we release the outcome life works out just as it is supposed to. 
There is perfect timing for everything."

With two novels written, Flight For Control and Flight ForSafety, and the third in the works, and a motivation book in my computer, as well as two children’s books in chute…I had decided to attend graduate school in 2015, so I could put some projects to bed first.

However, with Asiana crashing in SFO, a couple planes landing at the wrong airports and a freighter hitting a hill on approach, I decided I could not wait another year. I have to start my mission sooner than later—to improve aviation safety

Thus I applied to—Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with plans to earn a PhD in Aviation Safety. I filled out the application, received fabulous letters of recommendation, and wrote essays defining my goals, time management strategies and how I would make navigate the course. There was one more thing I had to do—take the GRE.

I bought books. Planned my study sessions. Worked online. Every spare moment I was studying flash cards for vocabulary, or learning how to do a math problem or two. Well, like all challenges in life, I ran into a few snags. My husband ended up in the hospital and out of commission for a couple months, then a few heart procedures. Then grandkids needed babysitting, a new grandbaby born, and unplanned trips with work. Yes…this was my life—short of time and delightfully complicated.

Despite all the challenges, I took the GRE. I was thoroughly embarrassed by my score—as I am the type of person who strives for that 100%. I did average. Could I get in with an average GRE?

My interview went great, I have strong work and life experience, and managed two masters degrees while working. Would all this outweigh my test scores? Were these test scores normal? I had to come to grips with my demons—I might not get into graduate school...this year.

I learned a valuable lesson during this process. I realized the power of acceptance for being human. I did the best I could under the circumstances of my life. I actually learned a ton during the GRE study process. Most importantly, I put myself out there, worked hard and took a chance. I also came to a very calm and peaceful acceptance of releasing the outcome. I want to get into Graduate school, but...

Maybe we don't get what we want, 
maybe we get what we need.

If I don’t get in this year, I will have another year to accomplish all I have to finish. I could study and take the GRE again and improve my scores. I know that I will attend graduate school at ERAU. Will it be this year? Will it be next year? Or the following year?

The point is, we don't always have to be perfect right out of the gate. Good things take time. And if we don't succeed, we can learn from our mistakes and do it again. Success doesn't mean we don't fall down. Success means being able to get back up when we do, and to keep trying. 

Sometimes all we can do is the best we can. 
And then we have to let life unfold as it should.  

Do we have to succeed to be successful? 
Or is showing up a success in itself?

Make sure to put my novels on your reading list!
They are part of the grand plan...

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Friday, April 11, 2014

Darby Brashaw

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

Darby is said to be "every older mans regret and younger mans dream."  She is also the co-star in Flight For Control, and the leading lady in Flight For Safety. And what a lady she is.

Who is Darby Bradshaw?

Darby is sassy, feisty and lots of fun. She's loyal to her friends, drinks way too much coffee and loves to fly. She's been known to dance for her friends, play strip poker, and drink tequila shots. Her favorite game: Truth or dare. But on a serious side, when she told me her story of how she began flying, it was not unlike many women pilots who took to the sky in the early days.

Karlene: Will you tell us how and why you began flying?

Darby: Sigh. Sips Starbucks. "I began this journey trying to prove myself to everyone. But what I found in process was a family. Pilots are a pretty awesome group. They're more or less intelligent... sometime more, sometimes less... but they are funny and have brass balls. Well, some of us have brass ovaries, but that's another story...

The naked truth is, I learned how to fly and was in control of a plane far beyond feeling like like I was in control my life. But I also learned a huge lesson during those early days of flying. I realized there was nothing that I could not do. I was not worthless. I was pretty awesome and one of the elite. I also learned that I did not need to prove myself to anyone, because I had a license that said I was God.... Oh wait, I mean pilot."  (Insert a wink here that only Darby can do)

Darby Bradshaw was born to fly. She may not have known it at the time, but like many women pilots in the early years, most women took to this male dominated profession to prove something to someone. Most often it was to themselves. They fought battles of the sexes in the early years and paved the way for those who followed. Times had changed. So Darby thought. 

When her airline shutdown, as emulated in Flight For Control, and merged with another in Flight For Safety, she was stapled to the bottom of her seniority list and transported back twenty years in time. What was more painful than a stapling? As Darby says, "Ripping that fourth stripe off my shoulder."

The remainder of this story is yet to come...

While Darby is larger than life she keeps a low profile so not to cause grief at work. And while I'm able to write about her deepest secrets and sometimes most intimate moments, she still has yet to allow a real photo of her to emerge. I have already decided who will play Darby in the Movie. None other than...

Amy Adams

It's more than the fact they look like they could be sisters, but Amy's versatility would bring out the best Darby. Speaking of the best, I have a few questions for our heroine.

Karlene: Tell us what's going on in the romance department. Giving up on pilots yet?

Darby:  (Laughing) "You would think I'd learn!" (Serious) "Everyone believes that being a single captain, flying the world, and having no ties is enchanting. But you know... it gets old. There's nothing like having someone to come home to and just hang out with. They make you coffee in the morning and you don't have to get dressed up and go out to dinner first, to have sex. Ooops. I didn't just say that did I?"

Karlene: (My turn to laugh.) So tell me... since you were Kathryn's side kick in Flight For Control, but the protagonist in Flight For Safety, which story was the most fun for you?

Darby: Grinning. "That's a tough question. The reality of all our stories is that sometimes we have to go through hell before we can find heaven. We have to deal with the hard stuff to get to the good part of life. And the reality is, that hard stuff is so emotional that it's kind of a rush. So what did I like better? Every part of my story has given me something to learn. I laughed and cried, lost and loved. I liked it all. And kicking a little ass when needed was pretty awesome."

Karlene: How do you feel about the automated world with the plane you fly?

Darby: "I love it. I hate it. Both equally powerful emotions. I don't fly like I used to. I think it's making me rusty. That saying that Airbus takes excellent pilots and crummy pilots and makes them both average is so true. I'm not going to I heard rumors you are going to do something about it." (Wink)

Karlene: Before we let you go, what advice would you like to give to our readers?

Darby: "Don't be afraid to be yourself. If you want to jump on the it. If you want to dance naked in the it. And whatever you do, don't fear. Don't fear teaches you humility and gives you strength. Don't fear being vulnerable. There will always be people who will be critical, so give up that thought of needing to being perfect... which is impossible anyway. And stop picking on yourself. You are awesome just how you are...Believe in yourself."

"Life is way too short to give up a moment of compassion, caring, and love. I just want to ask everyone what they are waiting for? This is your life... live it!"  (Deep breath. Sip of coffee.) "And read Flight For Control and Flight For Safety ... especially if you want to know a little more about me." Huge smile and wink.

For all of you who have read 
What do you like best about Darby? 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene