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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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Iron Jawed Angels

History Lesson on the Privilege of Voting ...

"The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the Night of Terror on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie "Iron Jawed Angels" It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say.I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. "One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie," she said. "What would those women think of the way I use--or don't use--my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn." The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her "all over again.”

HBO will run the movie periodically before releasing it on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunko night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. 

The doctor admonished the men: 

"Courage in women is often mistaken 
for insanity.”

Please pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women."  Catherine Cargill

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Tony Ruch

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

Tony Ruch

My friend Ida Ruch lost her best friend and the love of her life after 44 years of marriage, on February 17, 2017. She misses him every day. She also misses the discussions they had about the industry. Ida was a Flight Attendant with Swissair when she met Tony. He was a Flight Instructor/Check airman/Simulator Instructor and Test pilot for Swissair 1965-1984. Tony retired on the DC-10ER flying international. Below is Ida's story in loving memory of her husband, Tony Ruch.

"I believe we are all born with a passion, that will be unique and different for every individual. Tony was born with a passion for flying. Growing up in a small town in Switzerland, that had a small grass strip as a runway, where wealthy people took their planes for a flight, it was also home to a gliding club. As an 8 year old boy he would be there whenever he could get away from home, making himself useful to the owners of the planes and the gliding club by cleaning shop and doing menial work. In return they would take him along for a their short flight adventures and he was a happy little boy. As a teenager he became a glider and at 17 yr old to become proficient to be on his own. 

He was moving into competition gliding nationally and participated with the Swiss team in the World Championship 1973 in Vrasac, at that time Yugoslavia. However, he realized in order to compete on an international level he would need much more time for training.

He asked at that time his employer Swissair if they would give him a leave of absence, unpaid, for him to have more time of training, but they declined. Also this particular World Champion ship was so competitive, that three pilots lost their lives crashing into each other in the clouds and that made him re-evaluate the competitiveness of competition gliding world. Since he was not given the time he needed, he left the the gliding competition and focused on his career with Swissair. He flew a glider whenever he had a chance.

His initial training was to become a civil engineer and after he completed this to become a pilot. He wanted to become a pilot in the military. In Switzerland every young man has to complete 17 weeks military boot camp when he turns 20. He passed all the test with flying colors to become a military pilot until his physical, when they found out that he had a color vision deviation from the norm that was required. And that put an end to his dream at age 20. That was a big one, but that’s when he put all his efforts into gliding and became very good at it.

He had a pilot friend that didn’t let things sit, and he kept on nudging him to try again with Swissair because his friend kept telling Tony I see the same color like you do, I don’t know where you a have a problem. Long story short, Tony applied with Swissair, same thing he passed all the tests with flying color until it came to the physical part about his vision. 

Now they knew about Tony’s previous experience with the military so they, the Swissair doctor had an expert with him when they did the tests. Now comes the funny part, the two the expert and the doctor started to have an argument about what color they saw, the color that was in question.

Well those two now had a problem to be solved. And it was no small matter, if the color chart needed to be adjusted, that meant it had be integrated internationally. Obviously there was a reason that Tony had to become an airline pilot. The expert and the doctor agreed that Tony’s vision was as perfect as theirs and they initiated the process to have the chart changed which included that it had to go through all the channels internationally to have it changed . And it had to be approved by the FAA.

Tony was informed about their decision in his favor September 11, 1964. And he was scheduled for flight training class with Swissair April, 1965. Flying and ground school took from April through October1965 and then the flight training on line.

Now finally at age 29 he was in his element. He quickly progressed into flight instructor, simulator check pilot, check airman, test pilot, and flew new aircrafts from MacDonald Douglas base in Long Beach to ZRH. He was also a member of a committee of the “Eidgenoessiches Luftamt” sort of similar to FAA, participating in recovery evidence of aircraft crashes. 

The management wanted him to go into the administration. But he declined. His character was, what I would call seeing with an eagle’s eye. He saw through the things and he had a keen perception what was going on behind the scene. And he dared to tell his superiors about it and didn’t shy away from difficult topics. That made him kind of a maverick.

He was very much liked but also fought by his very colleagues because he dared to shine the light on the things which were not good. Duty time regulations, safety procedures that were compromised, training issues…and much more….

Now he was captain on the DC-10 doing long range flying. Far East, South America, Africa, rotations were quite long up to 21 days, much away from home and health wise it took a real toll on him. Something started brewing within him. At that time Swissair retired pilots at age 55. He always said that he will call when he retires and not the company. He saw that many of his colleagues didn’t survive retirement much beyond 55 maybe 2 to 4 years dying mostly of cancer. That concerned him greatly. Swissair at that time vaccinated their flying personnel almost every six months for something. especially when they were flying into these continents.

He asked to company for a reduced flying schedule which sounded very reasonable, but they declined. A year later at age 48 he was the first pilot at Swissair that gave them notice of his early retirement. They were all stunned to say the least. How can a top pilot on the top of his career do something like this. His chief pilot said to him with this words … you are telling me a bad joke aren’t you??? when Tony told him about his intentions. Well Tony did survive his retirement until the age of 80 and six months. Which most of colleagues didn’t.

How did I meet Tony. Well that was simple. We had a 5 day rotation on the DC-9, mostly doing short legs 3 or 4 a day all over Europe. We had an overnight in Rome. As it was the usual procedure that the crews on overnights would get to together and go out for dinner in a nearby Restaurant. Thats’ what we did in Ostia/Rome.

After dinner we went to a Disco “Tibbi Tabo” a dancing place overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Tony loved to dance and so did I. We danced the night away until the band closed down. All the other crew members had gone home to the hotel. But we were hopelessly falling in love, walking home on the sandy beach of Ostia by full moon and the rest is history, that was July 5th, 1973. What can one do when “Amore” strikes you? You have to submit…..

I am very grateful that the Lord brought Tony into my life and we weathered quite a few storms…some were hurricane intense… but we made it through them all with His help. And every second of my life brings me one second closer to see him again.

Among the pictures is one that shows me on my first transatlantic flight back in August 1966. I was eighteen visiting my oldest sister who lived in Forest Hills, Queens, NYC. After my mother passed away 4 years earlier in a freak accident at the age of 53. My brother in law took the picture, at that time you could still be on a terrace in JFK and wave to the passengers.

And I couldn’t believe when I saw this picture about 2 years ago when my sister sent it to me. The DC-8 had the SR ID - HB-IDA how cool is this having your name on the plane that brings you over the Atlantic ocean." Ida Ruch

Life passes in a moment
but our memories will forever stay
for those were loved deeply
and God has taken away
We will always remember!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Never Again!

My friend Jeremy Carlisle posted the following message on his FB page yesterday.

"Let This Sink In"

And then there was today!

Never take life, freedom, or the moment
for granted. 

Enjoy the Journey
XO Karlene

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Queen of the Skies

The Boeing 747...

Every story starts someplace...

Owen Zupp

“I was always ‘most likely’ to end up in a cockpit some where. If I wasn’t at school, I was at the local airport filling in as my father’s shadow and crawling over all and sundry airplanes.”
Owen Zupp

"To many, the Boeing 747 is more than merely a means of air travel. Affectionately called the “Queen of the Skies”, its arrival transformed the globe and over more than half a century it has carved its own niche in the history of aviation.

Its significance was recently impressed upon me by the number of queries I have received, both in person and via my website, that relate to the Boeing 747. Even though my career has seen me operate a hundred different types - the “Queen” continues to consume the lion’s share of interest.

I have been fortunate in that as an airline pilot and aviation writer, I have been privy to some very interesting 747 operations. From flying over the Antarctica to ferrying a fifth engine beneath the wing, I have been able to research and share a range of experiences.

As a consequence, I thought it was time to put these stories together in one place and the title, “Boeing 747 - Queen of the Skies. Reflections from the Flight Deck” was born." Owen Zupp

February 17, 2012
(click on the Friday's Fabulous Flyer link to read his story)

To Purchase the Queen of the Skies
Click HERE

You can also find Owen at:

Other books by Owen Zupp

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Join the Flying Fun!

Air Race Classic is Ramping Up!

Air Race Classic Is Organizing 
For ARC 2020!

Save the Dates! 
The 44th annual Air Race Classic 

 June 23-26, 2020.

Starts in Grand Forks, ND, 
and ends in Terre Haute, IN!

Get Involved:

If there is a racer out there 
that would like a copilot let me know! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Life Cut Short

But Never Forgotten! 

"In loving memory of Francesca"

Francesca Norris
May 19, 1994 – July 28, 2019

Francesca Norris passed away 
at the age of 25 

Born on May 19, 1994 to Brian and Maria Norris, Francesca touched countless lives in her short 25 years. Known for her contagious joy, loving smile, quick wit, delicious baked goods, and perfectly painted fingernails, Francesca was a loyal and vivacious woman whose kindness was unending. She left a lasting impression on everyone she met and always lit up the room. Francesca was the flawless balance of being adventurous, patient, and wise.

After graduating in the top of her class at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, Texas, she attended Baylor University and graduated as a University Scholar. Francesca was brilliant! She was sharp and cultured, yet humble and curious. Not only did Francesca love to learn, she loved to travel. While in high school and college, she became fluent in Spanish by taking trips to and studying in Spain. After college, Francesca spent a year in Thailand teaching English. Effortlessly, Francesca had the intelligence and ambition to do anything she wanted. Following in the path of her father and brother, Francesca chose to see the world as a pilot. There is no doubt that she had found what she loved to do.

Francesca treasured her family, faith, and friends. She was blessed with a loving, large extended family, which was always a priority in her life. Her love for family and friends was evident in all she did.

Throughout her life, Francesca cherished her faith and was involved at Good Shepherd Catholic Community. She had a heart of gold, always willing to help others with selfless love. Francesca was a person one could rely on whenever they needed her, she always had a piece of advice and a listening ear. Francesca will be dearly missed by all who knew her.

A celebration of Francesca’s life was held at Good Shephard Catholic Community, 1000 Tinker Road, Colleyville, TX 76034. The turn out was incredible...close to 1000 friends and relatives and a virtual sea of uniforms. There was a flyover afterwards.

Cards and condolences can be sent to the family:
Brian, Maria and Alec Norris
7029 Herman Jared Dr.
North Richland Hills, TX 76182

Giving Back in
 Francesca's Memory

The International Society of Women Airlines Pilots (ISA) are ensuring that Francesca's memory and passion will carry on through others. ISA has collected just over $25,000 since Francesca died—enough for at least five scholarships in Francesca's name! They will keep collecting and help as many women as they can, in an ongoing memorial for years to come.

100% of the money goes to CFI/CFII/MEI scholarships for women whose stated career goal is to be an airline pilot. ISA and Francesca are giving the gift of flight.

Donate in Francesca's memory

(Sample page below)

Fill in your Contact Information
Then go to Contribution Details.
Select in "Memory of" in the drop down box
and write Francesca

Your donation will go to her memory 
gifting a scholarship
to another young woman. 

Please tell anyone who needs a scholarship to go to 

I stare at Francesca's picture and I can feel her joy and love for life. The world should have been hers. I believe it was for a short time. My heart goes out to her family and friends, and I pray they will be comforted by her memory and know that her legacy will continue with each scholarship in her name. She will continue to share her passion, and we will never forget. 

Life is over in an instant.
Live it strong!
Live it with joy!
Live it like Francesca did
with kindness, selflessness, 
humility, and passion. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Monday, September 2, 2019

In Memory of SR111

The Disaster of Flight SR111
September 02, 1998

In memory of those lives we lost, 
we loved, and we will remember forever!


September 2, 1998

Statement by the Chairman of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada concerning the investigation into the accident south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, involving a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 on the night of 02 September 1998.

"At approximately 1030 Atlantic daylight time on the night of 02 September 1998, Swissair Flight No. 111, en route from New York to Geneva, declared an emergency and disappeared from air traffic control radar off the east coast of Nova Scotia. Wreckage has been found approximately 8 km from Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. It is understood that 229 persons were on board the McDonnell Douglas MD11. There are no reported signs of survivors. Search and Rescue is looking for survivors and recovering the victims as a top priority."

My friend Ida reminded me of that fateful flight of Swissair in 1998, and that the anniversary was approaching rapidly. That day is here. She introduced me to Stelios Kaziras, who was manager of SR Station in Athens, Greece, and worked with Swissair from 1974 - 2001.  Ida tells me that he is sort of a historian on Swissair history, and posts lots of facts and events from Swissair and the Airline Industry in general. 

Stelios Kaziras: 

"2nd of September 1998 was a dark day 
in Swissair’s history."

"Already 21 years passed, after, we Swissair staff ‘faced the unthinkable’, the crash of SR111 JFK-GVA-ZRH the fated IWF “Vaud”. The Halifax tragedy stays vivid in our minds and reflects with brutal clarity the unpredictable and relative nature of our existence.

SR111 left JFK on the 2nd of September at 2018 LT, for his routine flight to GVA and ZRH with 229 souls on board. The aircraft was piloted by Urs Zimmermann (50) and First Officer Stefan Lowe (36). At time 2214 LT was flying over the Canadian coast and was in contact with Moncton Centre in Halifax when a distress message was sent reporting that smoke was spreading in the cockpit. Over the next 10 minutes the situation became critical and at 2224 LT the Captain addressed “ we are declaring an emergency we have to land immediately “ seven minutes later at 2231 LT the Swissair MD11 disappeared from the radar screens and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean eight kilometers from the harbor known as “Peggy’s Cove” in Nova Scotia.

This is in short the story of the crash of flight SR111 that hugely affected our lives within Swissair.

There are times when every one of us has to traverse the path of sorrow. In those hours we were with the relatives of the lost souls, Passengers and Crew of SR111 with heartfelt wishes for a hope filled tomorrow".  Stelios Kaziras

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Presented by the Canada’s Maritime Forces to the families of 229 people on board SR111 and to the emergency teams of Swissair directly involved.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene