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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.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Warning to All Pilots

Avoid HIMS if you can

If you are a pilot who drinks alcohol,
you could lose your career 
by the very program that is supposed to help you!

HIMS is Human Intervention Motivation Study that began in 1973. This program patterns itself after AA, and I am certain is beneficial for many pilots similar to Lyle Prouse who flew drunk and want to return to the flight deck. If you don't have the ability to show up sober to work, HIMS would be your best option. 

For everyone else.... my opinion...
 run like hell to avoid the HIMS program at all cost. 

If you are a pilot who enjoys an occasional drink, 
you must read The HIMS Nightmare

You might find the events in this book so shocking, 
that you will find them hard to believe, 
unless you know somebody in the program. 
I know many, and this unjust control of pilots' lives 
is scarier than you can imagine! 

Do not think that the nightmare could not happen to you. I know a Captain who had a glass of wine at lunch with his wife. He was pulled over for a random traffic issue and received a DUI. But, an extremely low level. He reported this to his AME (Aviation Medical Examiner). Got his physical. And all was good. Until the following year, a doctor at AMAS (ALPA's aeromedical) incorrectly told him he need to get a psychiatric evaluation. That lead him to Dr. Altman who subjected him to HIMS program, and he ultimately retired because of the very nightmare the author writes of in The HIMS Nightmare.  Note: Dr. Altman is facing prosecution in the state of Illinois, yet they are allowing him to continue to work while the legal system drags on. 

The author's experience is authentic. I know a half dozen pilots at  multiple airlines that have had similar experiences. Some have lost their jobs because they voiced their opinion for the religious aspect, voiced violations of ADA, or reported being sexually harassed by the very people who manage the program. 

What is not in this book, but very real, is the HIMS program (at one airline at least) allows managers of the program, who are all addicts themselves, to sexually harass the women, and these women have no recourse. Because, these addict managers call everyone liars. These women have reached out to HR to no avail. This month alone, one woman was terminated two weeks after reporting gender discrimination and the other was forced into in-patient treatment because she made multiple complaints, wrote to management, and even wrote the CEO, begging to not have to work with her harassers. Nobody helped. 

If you are in HIMS, 
you are a hostage without rights. 

Pilots are forced to work with doctors of management's choice. Which, Dr. Altman on one occasion locked a female pilot in his office for six hours, alone with him, without a break, and asked questions about her expressing her milk to feed her babies. When this pilot reported his inappropriateness to ALPA, they did nothing. She was forced to return. 

The pilots I spoke to have proof that they did not drink, but that doesn't matter. They are terminated, sent back as in-patients, or forced to resign. How can management get away with this? Read the book, because it could happen to you. One pilot was told she would be there for 28 days, and they retained her for 5 months away from her children. 

How do you know a pilot didn't drink?

The alcohol test that has become the test of choice to control pilots is the Dried Blood Spot (DBS)  PEth (phosphatidylethanol) test. This test is NOT FDA approved. The doctor who invented the PEth  test advocates that this should not be used as the only source, as there is too much unreliability. Management uses it because the high rate of false positives and ability to rid itself of pilots they simply don't want. 

Why is ALPA allowing it?

Blood is drawn in strip mall by minimum wage employees that have little or no training. There are a dozens of reasons a false positive could occur from hand sanitizer, process of drawing the blood, the facility, the clerk, packaging, not drying it properly before mailing the sample to the lab and much more. Therefore the pilots who know they did not drink will obtain secondary tests, to include fingernail and hair tests. When those are negative, everyone knows the truth. Unfortunately ALPA managers of the program and airline management don't care if the test was false. The company will seek discipline regardless.

Furthermore, there is a litigation package that could assist to identify why the test was in error and determine validity of the false positive. But, the airlines own this data and they refuse to give it to the pilots. Well, some of the guys they give it to, but others they don't. 

Captain McMurphy's words are not only authentic, but this book is superbly written. And... filled with references that you might need one day. You want to read this before you get snatched in the trap. Share with everyone you know. 

If you need help, please get it.
There are other options than HIMS,
and are listed in the book. 

You'll read many HIMS slogans in the book, as they love to use them in the program. My favorite is something that could rightfully be told to ALPA and the FAA alike about the HIMS program itself. 

"The only thing you have to change is everything!"

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. You are so right. This happened to a friend of mine, and it is so sad to see such a good idea/program misused.

    1. No kidding! If alcohol consumption is consuming your life, it would be a good place to start. For all others... be careful what you get into.

    2. In the year I spent researching, interviewing pilots for and writing “The HIMS Nightmare,” I’ve found that pilots familiar with HIMS generally have one of two reactions: The vast majority have said variations of “How did you write what I was thinking?” But there is a certain mindset – typically Alcoholics Anonymous devotees bordering on cultists – who become profoundly angry that I have the audacity to question either AA or the HIMS program which is largely based on AA. In some circles, these 12-step devotees are called “steppers” and I suspect the individual who made the derogatory comment below falls into that category.

      He is welcome to contact me via to discuss it, but I suspect there is little I can do to make him understand why the book should be required reading for anyone who contemplates entering the program.

      To others who have read his comment, some clarifications are in order. First, if this person read “The HIMS Nightmare” at all, I suspected he merely skimmed it to find things that supported his pre-ordained conclusions. Had he read the entire book, he would know that I don’t uniformly recommend against going into HIMS. Instead, I tell pilots that if they go into the program, it should be with the full understanding so often denied people thrust into HIMS.

      Second, the commenter seems to imply that I was somehow unsuccessful in HIMS. In truth, I got my Special Issuance Medical Certificate in a much shorter time than most applicants. Even when my company tried to get my medical certificate permanently revoked for the crime of being insufficiently supplicant, I got the SI back and have returned to work as a Boeing 777 captain. Ironically, even company personnel admit that I have been at all times fully in compliance with the program.

      Third, he implies that the experiences I describe are only my own. In reality, I have interviewed dozens of HIMS participants and compared HIMS programs from most major airlines, as well as from Independent Medical Sponsors. Moreover, prior to publication the book was reviewed by aviation lawyers, HIMS AMEs and psychiatrists, including an accomplished and widely published psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine. All have been uniformly laudatory.

  2. Don’t waste a penny on this pure fiction junk called a book. This book is written by a spoiled, narcissistic adult-child in his early 60’s who didn’t get his way and is now disgruntled about it because HE [not the HIMS program] got HIS wings temporarily clipped because HE has a problem with alcohol. This “author” spends the entire book throwing an adult temper tantrum because the FAA guided HIMS program wasn’t what HE wanted it to be. The book is nothing more than a collection of lies and conspiracy theories as well as claims of “false positives” on drug/alcohol screens and claims that the HIMS program is antiquated and doesn’t work. Each and every one of his lies and self-concocted conspiracy theories can be disproven. Rest assured that the FAA is going to make absolute sure that an alcoholic pilot is going to be in recovery and completely sober before putting the general public at risk. You as the flying public putting your lives in the hands of FAA certified pilots would and should expect nothing less and demand this.
    In the book, he makes the irresponsible and unfounded claim that the HIMS program is for the airline, not the pilot or safety of the flying public. Simply not true. Only a self-serving, alcoholic thinking, “I am the Captain” type would come up with such a universally irresponsible vivid collection of fabricated fantasies about a time-tested program that works and has been working for decades. He tries to impress you with some irrelevant war stories about when he exercised his “Captain’s authority” during his career as a 737 Captain. It’s irrelevant and you know what, NOBODY GIVES A DAMN, CAPTAIN. His ego is disgustingly off the charts implying in so many words that it [big ego] is a part of the job. Bullshit. He continues to whine like the little victim he claims to be, complaining about his 28-days in rehab as if he were imprisoned in a concentration camp. Really? You’re whining about 28 days? And one should raise holy hell if 2 days get added to make it 30. Most rehabs are 90 days you spoiled moron. He comes up with these crazy conspiracy theories that everyone’s watching and everyone’s listening so “don’t say anything” lest it be used against you. He also comes up with some astronomical numbers comparing his recovery process to how much it costs to replace him and train a new pilot. His numbers spent by the company in his recovery are wildly inflated. I ran the numbers for what my company spent for my rehabilitation and you sir are on another planet. What did you fly, the space shuttle? You’re simply NOT that valuable. Don’t flatter yourself.

    This self-proclaimed expert about the HIMS program and AA is also clearly confused about the difference between faith and religion. AA and TSF therapies have NOTHING to do with organized religion. They have everything to do with faith in something other than your alcoholic self. Much needed as it still appears for this author, given how highly he thinks of himself with his “I’m the Captain” and “I’m in control” ego. This ego maniac even goes as far as claiming that Alcoholics Anonymous is a cult because it doesn’t fit HIS narrative of what recovery should be. Bottom line: don’t waste your money or time on this garbage of a book. It’s nothing more than a temper tantrum of lies.
    B767 Captain (Current)
    Graduate Student-Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies (Current)
    22-year AF Pilot (Retired)

    1. Dear 767 Captain, Thank you for your comment. I feel bad for the anger that this book and this post has incited in you. While the HIMS program is a nightmare for those who are not alcoholics and some who are but need a different path; this may have been the only way for your sobriety and the book does not condemn that choice at all. If you need it go.

      One area that is very important in the AA program is to learn how to deal with anger. "Adult temper tantrum" was an interesting choice of words. Perhaps a better way to express your feelings would have just explained how the program helped you. For those who need it, that could have helped.

      Remember.... "I don't believe in bitterness and resentment so I have to process through my feelings with others and then turn everything over to God and gratitude."

      I wish you well! Find a meeting. Stay sober. Stay safe!
      Happy Flying.

  3. Excellent blog Karlene!! As always, thanks for your selfless time in continuing to carry the torch to stop the pilot targeting & oppression.


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