Contract Airline Services

"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.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Sexual Harassment

In The Airline Industry

Dr. Tony Kern wrote an article in the Skies Magazine addressing Sexual Harassment and the impact on safety in the airline industry, in response to the FAA's report "Breaking Barriers for Women in Aviation." Dr. Kern want's to shout to the world that something is very wrong, and he could not be more right.

Numbers Speak Louder than Words

This is not just a line pilot issue, but many of these numbers involve management and union representatives. The very people who should be setting a positive example. Imagine a line check airman pounding on a female pilot's door at 1 a.m. trying to get her to go out and drink with him on a layover during her captain upgrade training. When she doesn't go out with him he gives her a negative write-up with no recourse. What about a regional director who is talking to a chief pilot and check airman, discussing how a female pilot's pants fit and uses the term cameltoes. He's still a director. Think about the female captain who has her phone taken by a union representative, and he takes pictures of himself and posts them on her facebook page via her phone. She doesn't say anything because, "What good would it do anyway?" Then there is a female pilot who is touched and harassed, and when she turns the union representative down and walks away he throws something at her, she turns and it hits her in the eye, sending her to the emergency room? She doesn't do anything and asserts, "He was just messing around." Fear of retaliation and being labeled is real.

The extent of sexual harassment today is not just about off-color jokes or dirty pictures in the cockpit that we experienced years ago. It wasn't long ago that I listened to a phone recording from a captain to a flight attendant who was working to become a pilot. The message her captain left was that she "would make a better flight attendant than a pilot, and the only reason a woman should be in the cockpit is to give a pilot a blowjob." Airline management took no action when this was reported.

What makes a captain, a regional director, a chief pilot, a training captain, or union representative think they can behave this way? Perhaps it goes back to the culture of the airline. If a married airline VP gets his assistant pregnant and nothing happens to him despite senior management knowing, or a CEO who sleeps with flight attendants, and gets one (or more) pregnant, which becomes the talk of airline, this type of behavior sets the example for all others. The numbers in the FAA report don't lie.

I highly recommend you read Dr. Kern's article:

Enjoy the Journey
XO Karlene


  1. It's a shame that we have reached a level that this has become an even more of a major issue. This behavior is totally unacceptable on every level and with every industry. These employees need a source of empowerment to come forward and report these offenders with no fear of retaliation. The imperative fear needed are those of the offenders and what they will face if they ever come close to making comments, physical advancements, etc. towards other employees.

    For companies that do not have an anti-sexual harassment culture, it is in there best interest to get one or they will have some hefty lawsuits against them.

    I hope you've been well, Karlene. Life has been busy my way (with good things!) Will be in touch soon!


    1. Jeremy, Thanks for your comment. It's difficult to change the culture of an airline or any business when the bad players are the top executives. Like a parent who says lying is bad, and yet they lie in front of their kids daily. Setting an example holds true in business too. I don't know if a business can remove harassment if leadership is allowed to behave in an abhorrent manner, and if they don't understand how their behavior impacts everyone... what can we do? Yes, much to catch up on.

  2. After reading your blog it occurred to me that in the maritime industry, the term “predator” referred more to an attempt by predators to convert fellow shipmates to their, shall we say, disagreeable activities. In recalling my 5 decades aboard various ships, women did not typically go to sea until after my progress to Alaska harbor pilot. As such, my knowledge of “predators” was mostly anecdotal. It did seem the more effective solutions occurred aboard ship rather than hoping for solutions to come from shoreside management. There was a story circulating around the waterfront about a captain who reportedly made hard usage of some of the crew. As the story goes, he was docking the ship from a position on the open bridge wing when a dose of croton oil surreptitiously deposited into his cream-of-wheat attacked him during an inconvenient part of the maneuver.
    Such a solution should not be considered in aviation if a CAT-II landing is anticipated (or probably any other time). And one last thought, it has been said that being a leader does not require a title and having a title does not make a leader.
    Sandy, who you met at PMI, might have some good ideas. Let me know if you need her contact info.

    1. Jim, Thank you on the message that a leader is a behavior not a title or position. I always felt that way about pilots, too. Despite what seat they sit, they are all captains after they receive that type-rating. I would love to speak to Sandy and hear her ideas

  3. I loved being an airline pilot, despite the harassment. I hoped that being a “pioneer” would make a difference in the industry but unfortunately today’s harassers seem much worse. I just published a “fiction” book on what used to go on… see what you think…

    1. I read this book and there is more truth that fiction. Imagine a female pilot standing in a lobby and a captain coming up behind her and sticking his hand in her crotch for a grab. Thinking it's funny. Shocking most watching. Check out Breakfast in Narita!
      Thanks for your comment Kathy and I hope everyone reads your book. Maybe it will bring attention to the ongoing wrongs.


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!