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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.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween!

 Tricks or Treats... 

Thirty one days and 31 ways 
you can position your bones!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and this year I am spending it with my sister and my Dad in Palm Desert playing bridge. Traditions worldwide have been altered due to Covid, except for one: The Roaming Skeleton. 

All through the month of October my sister and/or her boyfriend move the skeleton throughout the house surprising the other. This year he took charge while she was at work. Creativity and humor never cease. This is a tradition that I will be adopting for next Halloween. 


Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Power of the A350

For the Love of Airbus 

It was March 2016 that I said goodbye to the A330. Now, four and a half years later, I'm back to the Airbus. This time the A350. Many Boeing pilots and Boeing engineers argue against Airbus technology, where the plane flies the mission and the pilot manages the process. In August 2011, Joe Sutter, the man behind the Boeing 747, stated,

"Airplanes are supposed to do what the pilot tells them not the other way around. The difference between Boeing and Airbus is the Airbus tells the pilot what to do. That's wrong! The pilot should tell the plane what to do. And you can tell those Airbus people I said that. What are they going to do to me anyway? I'm ninety years old."

Sadly Joe passed in September 2016 at the age of 95. If you want to understand the legacy Mr. Sutter left behind, and the history of the B747, then please read his book. Well worth the read. However...

As Bob Dylan professed, 
"These Times They are a  Changin..." 

The A350 is an extremely well designed aircraft that will please any operator based on improved efficiency, which appears to be the primary goal of the industry. However, Airbus has also incorporated safety features that should keep any pilot out of trouble. I say "should", because if training is short-changed and pilots don't have the ability to obtain the requisite knowledge, accidents such as Pakistan Air 8303 will occur. 

Airplane operation is only as good as the pilot, 
The pilot is only as good as the training allows, 
regardless of manual or automated flight. 

Flap Extension 

I've observed three types of pilots. Those who start configuring 25-30 miles out in preparation for landing, so not to get behind the plane. But, they waste fuel. Others who get behind the plane, and are not stabilized at the safety gates. These pilots often end up going around because of that instability, costing more fuel during a missed approach than their conservative counterparts. Then we have those pilots who understand their aircraft, understand mass management, and aircraft performance. They fly the perfect arrival and approach safely and efficiently arriving at destination. 

Unfortunately these experienced pilots are retiring, training footprints are shortened, and pilots simply don't get the experience to become proficient due to long haul operations with necessity of multiple pilots and minimum take offs and landings. Airbus is working to solve this problem.  

Airbus created technology that will result 
in a safe and efficient operation,
any pilot should love! 

One of the energy efficient features on this aircraft, and for easy planning, is the indication when to extend the flaps. The airplane knows distance, altitude, and energy state and the perfect time to start configuring. It takes the guess work out for the new pilot, and, if followed, provides the most efficiency for the airline. 

There is a circle around a 1 and then another around a 2 on the ND, at the point to extend flaps 1 and 2, respectively. For the pilot new to the A350, this provides confidence that waiting until those numbers are reached, they can safely and efficiently configure. This is a great feature that will achieve high fuel savings and should reduce instability to improve safety.

There is also lot of data to interpret on the ND and the PFD, but this information will assist the pilot for a seamless departure and arrival if they know what the information means. Quality training, even for the most inexperienced pilot, can achieve a safe A350 operation, if the pilot has the aptitude and understanding of operational information. 

Training is the Key

Unless management involved in designing training programs understands what information is required and learning methodologies, and regulators bring requirements of the fly-by-wire technology to the forefront of AQP versus old school memory items, even the best aircraft in the world won't protect the passengers. There are far too many variables in the system to impact rote memorization and operation. 

Weather aside, ATC, due to the number and variety of aircraft, is dynamic and does not allow for a fully managed operation from departure to arrival in most cases. The pilot must have the understanding and ability so they can be flexible while managing their aircraft when ATC speeds them up, slows them down, or takes them off their desired plan.  Pilots on the A350 need more training not less. But this aircraft if probably one of the best designed for safety and fuel efficiency alike. 

For those who think the Airbus is about button pushing, it's far more than that. The A350 requires a higher level of understand and knowledge to manage the operation safely. 

Back in my A330 days, the joke was that airbus made all pilots average. The best pilots lost their skills relying on technology, and the  under-skilled pilots were able to adequately manage the airplane due to the technology. The truth is, flying has shifted from what it once was, but it's still a fabulous adventure. After experiencing the A350 I don't want to ever take a step back in technology. 

I finished my type on the October 9th, and have yet to see the plane for my operational experience. But, I am reviewing daily and anxiously await to when I can get flying. Until then, I will be sharing my knowledge on the A350, hopefully in a manner that improves understanding and operational safety, here. 

The magic of the non-moving thrust levels next week!

If you're interested in the research behind the importance of training, the level of understanding, and what I learned during my doctoral research please read Normalization of Deviance, a Threat to Aviation Safety. 

Until then... 
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene PhD

Friday, October 23, 2020

Inside the Cyclone

Friday's Fabulous Flyer! 

Danny Roach 

A pilot's journey from an arrogant "know it all" teenager, who received a D in his GCSE English Language exam, and had no interest in writing, to writing his first book. He thought that it was more fun to "bait the English teacher, whilst rocking back on my chair (Sorry Mrs. Morgan)." After three years Danny's book, Inside the Cyclone has finally been published. A journey worth traveling. 

"My interest in writing, after my struggles as a student, can be traced back to 2014 when I started to learn to fly. Whilst learning, I decided to keep a diary of each lesson to help me learn more quickly and to keep me, at least metaphorically, grounded. As I grew into the ritual, I quickly found it was extremely therapeutic to write with a pen and paper, and gradually began to expand these business-like notes to include anecdotes and feelings.  It was a small step from here to starting my blog: Danny Roach Flying Author, where I experimented with my writing voice, and learned what worked. 

I then eventually plucked up (no pun intended) the courage to send my article, Forgive me Feather, to Microlight Flying magazine as an exemplar of my style. I expected some critique and pointers from the editor on where I could improve, but what I got back instead was an email saying that it would be published in the next magazine. 

With confidence soaring, I continued to write more and more pieces for the magazine and then got invited to write the introduction to the British Microlight Aircraft Association's Official Guide to Microlighting

You can find copies of both articles to download off my website

During all this time, I was gathering stories and formulating a structure for my first book, Inside the Cyclone'

I'd recently decided to buy an aeroplane and realized I didn't know anything about it, and thought my experience could be a valuable lesson for all. This book is about my journey through buying, assembling and flying my Cyclone AX3 along with all the ups and downs that come with aircraft ownership. I also did some research into the history of the type and managed to get contributions off some of the key people involved in her approval by the UK CAA. There are loads of anecdotes from many of the previous pilots and owners of my aeroplane and it took me a while to weave all of this into a coherent narrative. 

What I didn't realize was that writing the book would be just the start. Formatting and cover design is an extremely painful process too and it has taken me a further 3 months to get from a finished manuscript to a print ready book."

I hope you joy reading the book which is available on Amazon here: 
Paper and Ebook! 

And comments are very much appreciated! 

You can follow Danny on Facebook on Twitter @dannydenfisch  and his Blog

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Training on the Airbus A350

Success is in Preparation

Behind every pilot who is prepared, 
sits hundreds of passengers who don't have to worry.

Human Factors Built into Home Training 

In the midst of Covid my B777 was on its way out the door, but I was one of the lucky pilots who was still employed. Albeit,  transitioning to a new plane. The A350.  I had yet to be scheduled for training, but it would be in the distant future. I decided to see if my doctoral research held true. 

What I had learned in my research was that the level of understanding negatively impacted performance. This negative performance was the result of airline training programs due to a negative safety culture. If these facts were true, and I was responsible for my own learning, then I was in control of the outcome. Furthermore a high level of understanding should improve performance. I began studying even without a start date. Despite the many distractions of life. 

Northwest Airline Pilots unite for 
Kim's Happy 4th of July Birthday! 

I began studying systems in July, hoping to have three months before I would be scheduled for training. As it turned out, I only had one month notification. August, I learned I was schedule for a September 9th start date and the type-ride schedule for October 9th. An aggressive schedule with only the legally mandated breaks built in. My schedule varied from 0200 wake-ups with my body clock at 2300 for a week. Then, just when I shifted to the local time zone, I was moved to an 1800 report time to fly into the night. 

If prepared you can do anything!


There will always be distractions to pull you away from what you should do when training is involved. I began my studying process with the 4th of July birthday celebration for my friend, and our first visit from grandkids since Covid a couple weeks later. My husband was in the midst of heart procedures, and my Dad arrived to Seattle in August for a couple weeks.

Life doesn't stop when training happens,
Sometimes we have to workaround obstacles. 

My Training Process

In order to learn the plane, I defaulted back to old school technology: Flash Cards. I made them for systems, emergencies, procedures, general knowledge, and memory items. The thing about flashcards is that you can take them everywhere. When I found a conflict in information, or something I didn't know, I found someone who did and edited the cards. I wanted to understand this most technologically advanced airplane. 

The first month I sat at the lake and wrote them. Then I read them daily on the elliptical. I read them sitting in the hospital room waiting for my husband to return from his heart surgery. I even read them while donating blood. 

I then wrote a 278 page study guide, and 19 page procedures guide. Once in training, I set up my hotel room to practice flows while bouncing on the exercise ball. I also awoke two hours early to study the day's procedures on the elliptical. 

There was a purpose for the ball and the elliptical while studying. Motion helps store memories. But also, I did a lot of talking to myself. If you were the instructor and had a group of people sitting in your room, what would you tell them to explain what they needed to know? If you can do that, as if you are teaching the subject to others, you are teaching the subject to yourself. You have become the subject matter expert. Try this, it works. Vocalize as if you were giving the lessons. 

A350 Hotel Room Training 

At night I set my alarm to shutdown my studying, and soaked in a hot bath with a cup tea and read a random book that had nothing to do with life. For thirty minutes I escaped to another world of Wizards and Trolls.  Sometime this occurred at 430 pm when I had to get up at 0200. The book I read during training:

Then I cranked up the air conditioning to sleep in a very cold room. The reason behind all this was because memories are formed when we sleep. Far too often in training we believe studying all night will be the benefit of more knowledge. However, without sleep memories will not be stored. So to shutdown the plane and to store what I learned through the day, I created the sleep plan. 

First, shutdown the airplane brain and distract with something else, such as a book you don't have to think too deeply about. Second, the hot bath heats up your body and relaxes you. Third, the cold room, after a hot bath, induces sleep. Yes, the cooling down process is sleep inducing. I also scheduled 8-9 hours of sleep per night. That part didn't always work, simply because I was in a hotel. But if I awoke before I was ready to get up,  due to a slamming door at 9 pm, I would force myself to go back to sleep. 

Ironically, to be at your best performance, research says you should be sleeping during your body clock from 0200 to 0600. However, if that's not a possibility during training, get as much sleep as possible. Research identifies that accumulated fatigue will also reduce your performance. Once you get behind that power curve it might be difficult to catch up. If you have a choice to go to bed two hours earlier during training versus reading something while fatigued, my advice it to choose sleep. 

Commuting home on my days off

Many were surprised I did this with such a long commute and the strenuous program, with only two days off. Logistically from hotel to home took 8-9 hours each direction, so I actually only had one free day. I arrived home and shopped, prepared food for my husband for the week, did laundry, mowed the lawn, played Scrabble, and I actually ate real food. But I also studied while at home, and on the flight back, after my morning golf game, I studied for another 5 hours on the plane.

The important part about taking time off is that like any machine that operates 24/7 it's going to eventually break if you don't take care of it. Your brain is no different. You need sleep to store memories, but you also need to allow a bit of normal to save your sanity. Also, focus on what you can do, not on the challenges. There were times I wanted to complain, but instead I shifted to the positive and spoke my mantra. For example, waking up during maneuvers training at 2300 my body clock, I said, "I can do anything for five days."  And I did.

Newest A350 Type-Rated Pilot

On March 9th, I became the newest A350 type-rated pilot. This makes 9 type-ratings. Not a snag in training. No issues, despite the numerous personal obstacles and challenges that occurred throughout the process. I truly believe it had to do with the level of understanding and the foundation I built at the beginning. But I also had the gift of over a dozen incredible instructors during my training. Each had exceptional knowledge, indulged my daily questions, and were communicative. I cannot say enough positive things about this cadre of A350 instructors. They are proud of their program and interested in continued improvement. Nice to see. 

If you you would like to learn more about my research, I invite you to read Normalization of Deviance, a Threat to Aviation Safety. If you would like to learn more about training and additional study tips you should read, Flight to Success, Be the Captain of Your Life.  Both these books are available on ebook on Amazon, or you can get your autographed copy on this blog (order on right column). 

Flight Training Into the Sky

I am now waiting for Operational Experience, which is estimated to be out more than 6 weeks after the type-rating. Nothing is scheduled, but we know it won't be sooner.  I have a plan to retain my knowledge. I have reorganized my flash cards and am reading them daily 1-2 hours while on the elliptical. Last night I went to bed and had planned to mentally rehearse my flows prior to sleeping. However, I fell asleep prior to reaching the overhead panel during the preflight. The next plan, I'll do this in the bathtub before bed. 

So many things we can not control in this life. But those that we can, we should do our best. I will also be requesting an additional simulator session to practice what I learned before I step into the plane. Now, the million dollar question.... 

What do I think of the Airbus A350?

I love it! 

More to come on that next week... 

Enjoy the Journey
XO Karlene