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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, August 31, 2016

Air Traffic Control

A Training Travesty?

Last week I wrote about non-reporting cultures. Hard to believe that we live in a world where safety is sacrificed because of lack of reporting cultures.  Then look what should end up in my inbox. Fear prevails in many companies.  When employee's fear, nothing will be fixed. Below is the letter I received.

Hi Karlene,

I have been following your blog posts last week regarding safety culture and reporting systems. Your posts have encouraged me to come forward about an ongoing safety issue that has the potential to affect a large percentage of the aviation industry.

I am a pilot, but I have a strong interest in air traffic control. I am employed at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (usually known as the FAA Academy) as a Remote Pilot Operator. An RPO is essentially a “pretend pilot” who simulates radio calls for aircraft and inputs commands into a simulator so that ATC students can train.

Photo from

The Academy is their first stop before these students are sent to various facilities around the country. It is split into three areas of training: Tower, Enroute, and Radar. Students in Radar training are mostly current tower controllers who are learning to work in a TRACON, but students at Tower and Enroute were hired in one of the past two hiring bids, so they are considered “off the street.” A few of them happen to be pilots or students who studied air traffic control in college, but such experience was not required for their selection.

Before these OTS students begin working simulated traffic, they attend a class called Basics, which is essentially a combination of private pilot and instrument ground school. They learn aircraft types, performance characteristics, the pilot’s environment, how an instrument approach works – just about everything from the ground up.

Unfortunately most of these students do not take their training seriously, and largely they do not know anything about aviation before they get here. After an aircraft identification test, I heard one of them admit they had no idea what a C172 was. I continually overhear them saying things such as:

“Why is the time in hundreds and thousands?”

“If it’s 8 o’clock Zulu in Oklahoma, what Zulu time is it in Florida?”

My personal favorite is:

“I don’t know any of this stuff, but my friend told me Oklahoma is just a big party, so I can do that.”

Photo from

Oklahoma? A party? It sounds ridiculous, but it makes more sense when you learn they get paid $98 a day as a per diem. Then they spend all their free time at the bar and the casino instead of with a textbook, and they frequently show up to training hungover. The trouble really comes when they start to do poorly.

Academy training is centered around the students’ success in passing, not necessarily their performance.

Photo from Aviation

They frequently badmouth their instructors and blame their RPOs when they make mistakes. They can pretty much say whatever they want without fear of reprisal.

If the students make an offhand comment to us on the frequency or make a serious error (or several), immediately after the problem ends, we have to go to our supervisor’s office and explain what really happened, in case the instructor comes over to complain that we weren’t doing our jobs. This happens all the time.

Sometimes it can be as serious as
the student letting two planes collide
without even noticing.

They mix up left and right, north and south, and sometimes even vastly different aircraft types like the Cessna 172 and the Citation 750. They will get into situations where they have small VFR aircraft holding over the final approach fix, circling right under heavy jets, and not even realize what’s happening. Much of the time, if this were the real world, the student would be responsible for everything from numerous separation errors to midair collisions. 

Of course, in a training environment, mistakes are to be expected. However, the students do not take their mistakes seriously, and they can do everything short of demanding someone be fired, whether the accusations are well-founded or not.

Photo from

It gets to the point that we joke that we should find out what facility a person works at so we make sure not to fly there, but then the ongoing joke is ...
there’s nowhere in the country
that’s safe.

I am afraid to go public about these issues ...

because I am trying to become an air traffic controller, and I know it would hurt my chances of getting hired when I am already facing slim to impossible odds. The Academy can only accept a maximum of 1400 trainees per year, and 30,000 people applied to the most recent hiring bid. I applaud the CTI students who have been in Congress fighting for the return of our hiring preferences.

I resolve to set a different example if I am ever lucky enough to attend. I am personally aware that most of our air traffic controllers are the best in the world. They do a difficult, important job that only a small fraction of people can do. But with Academy training the way it is, the burden falls mostly on the facilities to wash out the incapable candidates, which costs more time and taxpayer money. I can only hope that Academy training will improve and that the FAA will focus on hiring and generating the world’s most skilled and qualified air traffic controllers.

Best regards and safe travels."
My question to you all is: 

How do we fix problems like this 
if we are afraid to come forward?

Flight For Sanity coming soon....
Catch up on the series so you will be ready!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Inspiration Has Wings

To Take Flight! 

GREAT NEWS! I passed my qualifying exam and I am now an official doctoral candidate. 

The work has begun. Because as my friend said ...

The Excitement Continues! 
We are Flying it Forward
and giving free flights to girls 
who have never had the opportunity 
to fly in a small airplane.  

September 24th and 25th
Museum of Flight at Boeing Field

 Flight For Sanity coming soon....
Catch up on the series so you will be ready!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fabio Sturaro

Friday's Fabulous Flyer! 

Fabio Sturaro

I have met some  of the greatest people on twitter, and Fabio Sturaro is one of them.  The world needs more enthusiastic pilots like Fabio, who has not only embraced aviation, but exhibits a self-directed focus toward his aviation career, and more than that, he is also sharing his journey and giving back to the aviation community by sharing his experiences, and educating the public.

Where did Fabio get his passion?

"My dad is an ultralight pilot and he transmitted me the passion of flying, while I was growing up I thought to turn my passion into a career, so I decided to follow my dream of being an airline pilot. Nowadays is more and more common to travel with aircraft, firstly because they're the safest transportation method and secondly because they shorten a lot the time of traveling."

Photo by Drone of Fabio and his runway

Fabio believes it's important for people (passengers) to understand what kind of pilots they are relying on to make their travels safe. There are so many responsibilities that do not come lightly. Thus, Fabio decided to talk about his pilot training on Twitter using the Hastag #cadetpilotdiary. This type of discussion will also be useful for everyone who is taking pilot training themselves.

"Everyday I'll tweet about topics discussed in class and curosities keeping updated my followers with all my progresses. In June 2016 I started my ATPL integrated course at Fte Jerez in Spain, and I'm currently attending ground school lessons to take the first 6 EASA exams in November, after that I will be flying; there is an alternation of flying and ground school teory ending with the MCC and JOC with a total of at about 14 months of training."

Phase One Reading

Fabio would like to help anyone he can, and is willing answer questions for anyone thinking about flying. He even created an email address dedicated to his mission: 

I have no doubt Fabio will finish his training with great success, and reach his goal of flying for an airline one day.  How much fun will it be learning with him, along the way. 

Follow Fabio on Twitter at: 
and monitor the Hastag 

Good Luck Fabio!
You will achieve great success!
Enjoy the Journey!
 Flight For Sanity coming soon....
Catch up on the series so you will be ready!

Thursday, August 25, 2016


The Whistleblower Law

This week we learned the essence of a safety culture, and that many airlines have a non-reporting culture. When an employee becomes an ‘irritant’ for reporting safety issues, or hurts the ego of a manager who was aware of a situation and should have solved the problem and didn’t, or identifies where the airline is working around policies with ‘carve outs’ that may be in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), and someone decides the best way to deal with that problem employee who reports these issues is to have them removed… 

But wait, you can’t fire an employee for reporting! You can, however,  falsely charge them with a mental health accusation, and send them down the rabbit hole fighting for their life. Or can you? Many managers think that they cannot be held accountable for removing a pilot from flight status if they are still on the payroll. No harm. No foul. 

The truth is, regulatory policy has been created to support a reporting culture by establishing programs such as the Air21, whistleblower law, making it illegal to not only discharge an employee, but also illegal to change the terms, conditions, or privileges of their employment for reporting safety issues. 

More than that, the report does not have to be external. If you report internally to a manager, chief pilot, or supervisor, and any aspect of your job has been changed because of that report (demotion, pulled from flight status, loss of known crewmember privileges, or unfounded mental health accusation, etc.), then you may have an Air21 claim.

The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (Air21) 49 U.S.C. §42121 is a joint FAA/OSHA program that extends beyond discharge and compensation, to terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. 
Unjust action in any capacity is protected. 
You can read more here:
But know one thing: 
You have only a minuscule 90 days to file.
Don't give up your rights! 

Without a Safety Culture and freedom to report, a level of safety will be reduced. Hazard identification and risk mitigation depend upon every employee, from the ground floor to the top of the food chain, to feel comfortable in reporting safety related issues, training issues, manual issues, procedural errors, or regulatory violations, etc. The success of safety management systems (SMS) will depend upon the structure of airlines' processes they have in place. If you do your best in the interest of safety, do not be swept under the rug and put out to pasture. Fight for your rights. Make the system safer.

Need Great Attorney?
Click Here

Enjoy the Journey!
 Flight For Sanity coming soon....
Catch up on the series so you will be ready!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Non-Reporting Culture

There's a Sign! 

Photo from:

Yesterday I wrote about the elements of Safety Culture.  One of the easiest ways to identify if your organization has a positive safety culture is to ask employees if they are comfortable reporting safety related issues. If you hear employees speak of fear in reporting with comments such as, "I'm not saying anything, I need to keep my job", then the chances are your company may be lacking a positive reporting culture. Personally I think a reporting culture is one of the most important elements of a safety culture. 

Photo from

Without a reporting culture, supported by open communication, that encourages and rewards reporting safety related information and is free from retaliation, the opportunities to demonstrate flexibility will be non-existent, and there will be no opportunity to identify if the culture is just, informed, or provide areas for learning. Systems must be established that enable employees to report without fear of retaliation to support a positive safety culture.

I found the above photos on line. The statistics are appalling. During the final quarter of my doctoral course, I began researching elements of safety culture and associated retaliation. What I learned was nothing short of shocking:
I know of seven pilots, from multiple airlines, that have been pulled from flight status with a fitness for duty challenge due to mental health accusations in retaliation for reporting safety issues, and 24 additional pilots (I have yet to speak with) have been identified to be off duty for a similar reason. Airlines are using a mental health clause to retaliate against employees who have reported safety issues, and they can do it to anyone for any reason.  

These pilots are being paid because the company thinks it is only illegal to fire an employee for reporting safety. But they are ordered to go through horrendous psychiatric evaluations, with questioning and interrogation that nobody should be exposed to. They are set aside for months at a time, isolated from their airline family, humiliated, kept from flying, not allowed to maintain currency in the simulator, haunted by nightmares of the fiasco, and many end up just quitting. Therefore, the company thinks they are not liable for unjustly firing them.

The fact that the Germanwings crash is being used in support of and justification for this retaliatory tactic is one of the most criminal things an organization could do. Not only does this methodology harm the psyche of the pilot, that will be carried with them for life, but it creates a stigma for pilots to self report if they needed help. If this is a punishment from a manager, why would anyone who really had a problem come fourth? They wouldn't.
Mental health problems are a disability, not a punishment. For anyone to mock the disabled, by using their illness as a tactic to punish an employee who is attempting to make their work environment better, should take careful consideration of what they are doing. Many pilots who are facing this retaliation think there is nothing they can do until they are fired, that's not true.

Join me Tomorrow to Learn 
Your Rights!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Safety Culture

A brief update on ...
Safety Culture 

A lack of accidents does not indicate safety.  It’s more than pretty airplanes, fancy uniforms, or a great marketing strategy. A safe airline will have a strong safety culture.  Safety culture is the essence of how the organization operates, and is identified by five critical sub-components to include a reporting culture, a just culture, a flexible culture, an informed culture, and a learning culture.

Reporting Culture
Reporting cultures exist where open communication and reporting safety related information is not only encouraged, but rewarded.  Ground floor employees are working in the field and are the closest to the operation, and the first to identify hazards. Operations must have systems in place for these employees to report without fear of retaliation.

Just Culture
A just culture is where fairness prevails and those people who report are listened to, right or wrong, there is always something to learn.  Honor, ethics, and leadership are the core of a just culture.  There are no special favors for the good old boys, everyone is a valued employee, and they all have the same opportunity as everyone else. 

Flexible Culture
In a flexible culture, leadership will adapt and shift from a hierarchy structure to a flatter structure where control passes to those employees making the decisions, where the system can adapt to 'on the spot decision making' versus an ivory tower mandate. Silos are replaced with a cross-networking structure. 

Learning Culture
A learning culture is where employees learn, grow, and improve the overall system. Every experience can be a learning moment, and information sharing is key. Without a strong reporting culture, that is flexible and just, learning will be hard pressed.

Informed Culture
An informed culture indicates that management has the experience and knowledge, not only about the technical aspect of the operation but they also understand the psychology of people. This knowledge is supported by diversity and subject matter experts, and will determine the safety of the organization.


The FAA states, “All levels of management must actively promote and provide leadership to foster a positive safety culture,” and further defines safety culture as, “the shared values, action, and behaviors that demonstrate a commitment to safety over competing goals and demands” (FAA, 2013a, p. 9).

Leadership is key to a Safety Culture 

DOT Safety Culture

The department of transportation (DOT) safety council identified the most critical elements of a safety culture:

  1. Leadership is clearly committed to safety.
  2. There is open and effective communication across the organization.
  3. Employees feel personally responsible for safety.
  4. The organization practices continuous learning.
  5. There is a safety-conscious work environment.
  6. Report systems are clearly defined and non-punitive.
  7. Decisions demonstrate that safety is prioritized over competing demands.
  8. Mutual trust is fostered between employees and the organization.
  9. The organization is fair and consistent in responding to safety concerns.
  10. Training and resources are available to support safety (FAA, 2013a, p. 9).


Why is Safety Culture Important?

Safety Culture is the foundation is of Safety Management Systems (SMS). SMS is an FAA mandate, required for all US airlines, January 2018, that will improve the safety of the operation.  However, without a Safety Culture, an SMS will be nothing but lip service.

Does your airline meet 
all aspects of a safety culture?

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Author of:
I am Awesome. The ABCs of me. 


Federal Aviation Administration. (2013a, May 8). Safety Management System 8000.369A.  Retrieved from

Monday, August 22, 2016

Courage for the Greater Good

"Although what lies ahead 
may appear daunting to others. 
To me, it is perceived with willingness 
and anticipation
- for I am guided, from within."

~ by Eleesha,
Author of - The Soul Whisperer

Strength. Courage. Determination.

History provides examples of people willing to experience pain to do the right thing for the better of the world. African Americans, women, those with disabilities, and gay people have all benefited from those who have come before, and were not afraid to take a stand to do the right thing, for the right reason. Employment has been impacted where people fought for work rules, safety in the workplace, and fairness in hiring practices.

Human rights enabled all people to be treated equally, vote, drive, fly, and be able to function in the workplace without a preconceived notion they were the wrong sex, too fat, too old, or worked from a wheelchair. This was achieved through pain that someone received while fighting for what is right.

I just finished my first two years of doctoral course work, and I am awaiting the results of the qualifying exam. If I don't pass, I will take the test again. Perseverance is a key to success. And I will not give up because I have passion for what I am doing. And the future of aviation safety depends upon it.

My training background and flying experience, understanding, education, and perception of where we are now and where we are going in the future of NextGen, and the knowledge of how important safety culture is to support SMS (safety management systems), has provided me strength to do the right thing, for the right reasons. Warnings of what could happen if I pointed out problems in the industry that impact safety will not stop me. I will hold strong no matter what the headwinds, because the safety of my fellow crew members, flight attendants, and passengers alike are what is important. As it should be. 

My journey is fueled by My One Wish for Aviation.

I am not quitting no matter the obstacles, and your continued support and encouragement is appreciated. 
Together we can make a difference!

One of my professors gave me her song: Fight Song to listen to each morning to provide strength on this journey to safety. There are multiple versions out there. The one I like best is the one she sent, but I did not post it due to a couple seconds on each end of the video that had a political alignment. This song is not about politics, this is about taking control of your life and having a little fight left to take back your life. So the second best rendition is the New Years Eve version.

"This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song"

Friday, August 19, 2016

Emilio Corsetti III

Fridays Fabulous Flyer

Emilio Ciorsetti
 Pilot, author and defender of justice.

I want to thank Emilio enabling me to share his story on Flight To Success. Mostly, because I have been so busy with school and qualifying exams this week, that I was able to grab this content from his website!
His list of flying jobs includes flight instructing, charter flying, corporate, time critical freight, air ambulance, aerial photography, regional airline, and now he flies for a major airline. He holds type ratings in the Lear Jet, ATR 42 & 72, A320, DC-9 MD80, and Boeing 757/767, and has over 25,000 hours total time. He graduated from St. Louis University where he received a degree in Aeronautics. 

In 1985, Emilio started his first company. Apollo Software was the first company to market a computerized trip quoting system for air charter companies. His next business venture was Odyssey Interactive. Emilio, along with three business partners, began Odyssey Interactive to create multimedia CD-ROMs. The company’s first and only CD-ROM was Apollo XIII: A Week to Remember. This award-winning CD-ROM tells the dramatic story of the Apollo 13 space flight through a combination of still images, narration, animation, an original soundtrack, newspaper articles and interviews with the astronauts and five of the controllers who worked the flight. Emilio was the writer, programmer, and project manager on the CD-ROM. 

Emilio’s writing career began after he sold his first article to Flying magazine. From there he went on to become a regular contributor to Professional Pilot magazine where he wrote on a number of topics relevant to the general aviation industry. He also published articles in the Chicago Tribune and Multimedia Producer magazine. He currently writes nonfiction books, films, and documentaries on his blog

Emilio’s first book – 35 Miles From Shore : The Ditching and Rescue of ALM Flight 980 – tells the dramatic story of the first and only open-water ditching of a commercial jet. 
His most recent book Scapegoat: A Flight Crew’s Journey from Heroes to Villains to Redemption tells the true story of an airline crew that was wrongly blamed for causing a near fatal accident and the captain’s decades-long battle to clear his name. 

Emilio has appeared as an aviation expert on the show Studio B with Shepard Smith and in the MSNBC documentary Why Planes Crash: Brace for Impact. He and his wife Lynn reside in Dallas, TX.  If you want to read more about Hoot Gibson click here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Aviation Galore!

I am in Daytona Beach with my cohort...

And 7 of us took our 
QEs (Qualifying Exams)

Two days of testing and results will be in a couple weeks!

But today, I received an email from the marketing director of an aviation business that has been around for about six months, and ased in San Francisco. They are a directory of Flight Schools Flying Clubs and post flight instructors within the US. All you have to do is type in your zip code and you'll find a training center near you. Also, there is a link to a listing of jobs. There are actually flying jobs in Seattle... and all across the county. Oh, and a calculator to figure out how much your flying will cost, and more. So, I'm thinking this is going to be pretty good site. I had fun job searching, and checking out training centers too. 
Check out 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Author of:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hoot Gibson

Friday's Fabulous Flyer 

Hoot Gibson

The following excerpt is from a fabulous book I recently read (and endorsed) about an aviation hero who saved the plane and passengers, but spent the remainder of his life attempting to clear his name. Scapegoat is the book, Hoot Gibson is the pilot, and this is a story that you must read.  Pilot error is most often the cause when an accident occurs. But when a botched investigation and misrepresentation of facts hangs a hero, there is no justice. 

Emilio is the author (and we'll learn more about him next week). But today enjoy the Friday Flyer of the century who must be returned to hero status. Like many pilots of his day, his love affair with aviation began early. He never quit flying, even when the industry quit him.

"Hoot grew up on a small farm in Illinois about seventy-five miles west of Chicago. The eldest of three children, Hoot took his first airplane ride around the age of five when a barnstormer landed in a field on his father’s farm. It was a two-seater biplane, with the pilot sitting in the back.
As a teenager, Hoot rode his pony to the local airport three to four miles away. He washed airplanes in exchange for airplane rides. A local crop-dusting pilot offered to take Hoot flying in exchange for helping him with his crop-dusting work. Hoot had the unenviable job of standing in a field with a flag raised above his head.

The crop duster would fly over Hoot and then start spraying the four or five rows of whatever crop was growing. Hoot then scurried over four or five rows for the next pass. Hoot would later joke that inhaling the crop-dusting spray had stunted his growth, which pegged out at five-foot-six.

When he had no pilots to pester, Hoot would hang around the mechanics while they worked on planes. He convinced one mechanic to let him taxi an old Taylor Cub. Hoot claimed that he eventually got the Cub going fast enough that he was able to lift it off the ground for a few hundred feet, about the same distance as the Wright Brothers’ first flight. That’s when he got serious about wanting to learn how to fly. He soloed at age fourteen, having lied about his age." 

April 4, 1979
A 727 flying at 39,000 feet, falls from the sky.  Within seconds of impact, Captain Hoot Gibson and his crew save the aircraft and all passengers on board, only to be blamed for the incident. Despite all the evidence pointing to a malfunctioning aircraft, Hoot lived his final days fighting to save his reputation. 

Author's Note: 

When TWA 841 departed JFK on April 4, 1979, no one on board had any idea of the drama that would soon unfold. One passenger, traveling with her husband, wrote in a journal about the smooth takeoff. She had been keeping a personal journal of her travels to share with her children on her return. She documented everything down to the most inconsequential detail such as her ears popping as the aircraft climbed. 

A Video Worth Watching

Days, weeks, and years later, after TWA 841 had become the subject of one of the longest NTSB investigations in the agency’s history, investigators would scrutinize every minute of the flight in a similarly detailed manner. Much like a criminal investigation, the movements, actions, and whereabouts of each crew member were documented. Routine tasks such as when and where the meal trays were exchanged between the cockpit and cabin crew would take on added significance. Unraveling the mystery of TWA 841 was a monumental puzzle that needed to be solved. But unlike any accident investigation before or since, the same evidence investigators would use against the crew would be used by others to challenge the theories put forth by Boeing and the NTSB. Readers can draw their own conclusions as to which version is correct.

This is a book of Hoots life, his journey through aviation, and his fall from the sky and much deserved fame.  If you check out the comments on Amazon you'll see a comment from one of his passengers from that flight. I loved this book. The story is riveting. The writing is exceptional. My only complaint is that Hoot passed away January 2015, and I am unable to tell him he will always be a hero.

 If you email Emilio at
you can add your name to the list for a drawing of 
a free ebook or audio.

No matter how you get the book,
this is a story you will want on your shelf! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Author of:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Aviation Movies...

Gremlins in the Plane!

My friend Mark found the origin to the Spielberg film: GREMLINS.  Did you know that in 1943, fighter pilot Roald Dahl, was also novelist, poet, short story writer, and screen writer... as well as a pilot serving in the Royal Air Force?

At the end of the war he wrote a book called, " GREMLINS" based the story upon those pesky troublesome little creatures that would play with our aircraft, but were later talked into jumping out of the airplane to fight the Nazis, and then they were turned into mechanics.

Walt Disney bought the rights to the book, but it never got made because of confusion as to who owned the rights due to the R.A.F being involved in the making.

They did, however, in 1984 release the Gremlins that you might remember.

Before this month began, I had two ideas for movies. However, I now have a third! Animated. Which will be based on an air line... where pilots are monkeys, the chief pilot is a Baboon, and boy is it a jungle out there! Pixar... stand by!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Author of:

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Dark Before the Light...

Monday Motivation 

"Sometimes, those unexpected difficulties are just a sign that you’re on the right track. It’s always darkest just before the dawn appears. The enemy always fights the hardest when you are closest to your breakthrough. The key is to stay the course and keep fighting the good fight of faith."

Joel Osteen

I receive many messages of motivation and inspiration via email, and  often they are exactly what I need to hear at the time. This is one of them.

Stay your course and keep the faith!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Author of: