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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.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Aviation Inspiration: Laura Savino

 A Life Lived Well!

Dreams Become Reality
When You Find Your Passion
and Live Fearlessly

Karlene and Laura Savino

Last month I interviewed with Liz Booker as part of her "Aviatrix Author Interviews" and subsequently found myself invited to connect with other aviation authors at an Aviatrix reading and reception in Long Beach California. I was inspired and in awe of all the authors I met, and look forward to reading each of their books. But today is about the Jet Boss.

At the reading event I had the opportunity to sit with Laura Savino, a retired United Captain. When she told me she recorded her memoir Jet Boss without a studio and read it herself, I immediately downloaded the book on audible and promised to let her know what I thought. The first word that comes to mind is:



Laura's memoir is absolutely worth the read for any pilot, any want-to-be pilot, anyone fearful of reaching their dreams, any woman, man, or someone who just loves a story of a well lived life. I also hope the mechanic that she almost killed, the passenger who told her of an issue as he ran out the cabin that she listened to, and the passenger she so eloquently told off in the first class cabin all read this too. Do not be mistaken that a well lived life is cotton candy and sugarplums. I found myself laughing out loud at one moment, and tears filling my eyes at another. Her recount of 911 and the pilot friends she'd lost along this journey were heartfelt. I cringed and wanted to tell this young aviator... "Don't do that! You're going to kill yourself! You're going to get violated! You'll never become an airline pilot!"

Spoiler Alert:

Clearly she lived, and was not violated (by the FAA at least) because she made it to United Airlines and found herself as a captain, responsible for hundreds of lives daily. Laura's life lessons, joys, sorrows, and a handsy captain on short final, was incredibly well written. There was no "poor me" and no "I'm the best pilot in the world"... there was authentic discussion on the stupid shit she did as a new pilot and the lessons she learned. 

"Teenage Captain"

Female Airline Pilot

Laura shares stories of being a woman in the cockpit. I smiled at one of her techniques dealing with cockpit pornography because I did the same thing at Evergreen. Her hindsight, wisdom and how she handled issues and what she would have done differently has a lesson to teach all pilots. What happened to her and a number of other female pilots must be read. Her courage when she found her voice might just surprise you as to what happened.

For those women who feel guilt, and struggle being a mother and pilot will find compassion in Laura's discussion on this subject. I found tears here to, because I felt exactly the same. Perhaps we all do. 

"Baby Einstein"

Aviator Extraordinair 

While Laura may not brag on herself in this book, and often shares her weaknesses and fears, her flying skills were evident. The icing event on her first captain flight in the A320 in a strong crosswind, and other flight stories throughout, were so well written you might as well have been in the cockpit with her. But more than that, the A320 is a challenging airplane in a crosswind for a new pilot. Laura is pure aviator. She took her job serious. She held herself accountable. She learned from everything she did. United Airlines was very lucky to have had Laura Savino representing their company and protecting their passengers. 


Laura's craft of the language is powerful. Her word choice, sentence structure, characters, and everything about the manner in which she told her story was amazing. As writers we are told to find "voice" and often that's confusing. Well, Laura found hers. Speaking of which, I am now going to circle back to the beginning, because I did not read her book, I listened to it on Audible, and am so glad I did! 

Laura's voice, emphasis, and ability to understand and correctly speak aviation terminology made this audible book so much fun to listen to. She told her own story and she did it impeccably. 

"Secret Flyer"


The entire book was an inspiration, but the ending was incredibly heartfelt. Yes, the fairy dust can fade for many different reasons but life goes on. Accidents happen. Health issues arise. But there is life after flying. Laura encourages all of us to follow our passion. Be fearless! So many lessons to be learned within. A must read! 

If you want a GREAT read
I highly recommend 
Jet Boss

You can find Laura at
On Twiter @LauraSavino747
and on LinkedIn: Laura Savino

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Monday, March 6, 2023

Delta Pilot Suicides

When Dreams Die

Delta Pilot
Brian Wittke took his life
on June 14, 2022

This is a difficult post for me to write, but one that must be read. While Delta Air Lines was spending millions to get rid of me, paying a doctor for a false mental health diagnosis, other Delta pilots were killing themselves. 

It's difficult for those who are mentally okay to understand why anyone would kill him or herself. The thought as to why a Delta pilot would kill himself is unfathomable. To kill yourself with the prestige of a Delta pilot career with high pay and benefits makes no sense. Unfortunately, when the only option for a person is suicide it's apparent that they think there is no hope, no help, and no way out. 

I hold Delta, ALPA, and the FAA, in part, responsible for the multiple deaths of my fellow pilots. In my opinion, Brian's suicide and others may have been prevented. While Brian's death was last June, Delta's most recent pilot suicide was on February 15, 2023. There have been many more suicides that have preceded both of these. Until the families request that I share their stories, I will just assert they are happening. Delta, ALPA, and the FAA are all well aware of these suicides, yet remain silent. 

An ALPA Captain Representative told me in the fall of 2022, "I knew this pilot was going to kill himself. He kept calling my office. I knew it was going to happen. Then it did."  The suicide he spoke of was not one of those that I knew of because he was a New York representative. There are more than we can imagine, and there is something the industry could do. 

History:  Delta had asserted in court that they "had to" put me through a mental health evaluation because of the Germanwings Pilot who killed himself and a plane load of people on March 24, 2015. Delta believed that I was overly concerned for safety, emotional, and feared I would become the next Germanwings pilot because I had told them that I had a target on my back. Hmmm. 

Most interesting is that the FAA administrator at the time, Michael Huerta, had decided in June of 2016, two weeks "before" I was sent to a psychological evaluation, that pilots would not receive mental health evaluations. 

Huerta stated, "Psychological tests are ineffective because they reveal a pilot’s mental health for only a moment in time without providing insight into whether the pilot will suffer problems later."  

After FAA Administrator Michael Huerta's decision to not perform mental health evaluations, he retired from the FAA and stepped onto Delta's Board of Directors. I have often wondered if this testing requirement had come to fruition, if those pilots who had killed themselves would have received the help they needed. Probably. After I learned of so many pilot suicides, I suspected that Huerta had made the wrong decision. But he did save Delta and other airlines millions.

Mom Annie with Brian

After Delta decided to throw in the towel in my case, Dominic Gates wrote a front page article for the Seattle Times: "Delta ‘weaponized’ mental health rules against a pilot. She fought back". Annie Vargas, Brian Wittke's mother, read this article and reached out. One of her sons, Brian, had taken his life just months prior. His mother does not want her son's death to go unnoticed and she needs to ensure that no parent or family member will ever face the pain that she and her family have experienced.  

Annie told me that Brian had spent over $50,000 earning a Masters degree at the University of Utah, specifically to get a job with Delta---his dream job. Unfortunately the Delta job was, "Nothing like he thought it would be" and "There was so much disappointment in his life." His marriage was a "struggle", he was "a mess mentally and afraid to get help for fear he would lose the ability to take care of his family". This was not an overnight issue, it was years in the making and could have been addressed at the beginning had he been allowed to speak to a counselor or psychiatrist without FAA notification.

Brian was getting help from a Life Coach because, "he was afraid to see anyone who was a licensed counselor for fear that he would be reported to Delta." 

Annie stated, "Everything centered around losing his pilot income. I tried and tried to get him to let Delta know and see what they would do for him and he was adamant he would get grounded and lose his job." Annie also told me, "I truly believe that if he had thought Delta would support him, he would have reached out and asked for help. I was incredulous that he didn't feel comfortable reaching out to Delta."

Unfortunately during the years of Brian's struggle, Delta was weaponizing mental health against me. Of course Brian and others would not believe Delta would help them. Delta also knew of an instructor pilot who put a gun into his mouth on numerous occasions threatening suicide, but Delta refused to do anything. If this information came to light, it would be difficult to continue with their assertions against me in court. Therefore, pilots continued to kill themselves while Delta spent millions asserting they were afraid that I had a mental health issue instead of helping those in need. 

The Pilot Contract

On Christmas Eve, 2016, Delta's hired hitman, Dr. David Altman, sent me my disqualifying letter via FedEx. We later learned that Altman and Delta management had determined that I was bipolar in October 2016. Yet, they waited for two months to tell me my career was over. Permanently. A doctor should know better, and I cannot help but to think that Dr. Altman and Delta management were pushing for my suicide by the delayed timing of this letter, and providing it during Christmastime. 

Dr. Altman

What I learned at the time of Delta's abuse of power, utilizing mental health as a weapon against me, was that the Pilot Working Agreement (PWA) categorized someone with a mental health issue as an alcoholic regarding disability. Meaning, that those with mental health issues would be thrown onto the street after 2 years of half-pay, if they did not solve their problem. They would be without disability and without insurance. Of course nobody would come forward. 

I returned to flying in 2018, and I made it my mission to get that section in the contract changed. I wrote resolutions, gave speeches at multiple bases, and finally in 2019 two resolutions were unanimously passed by the pilots, one of which was that anyone who has a mental health issue will have disability insurance until date of retirement, not just 2 years. Despite this resolution being passed, ALPA and the company decided to wait until the contract was signed to enact it. That would not be for another 4 years.

Not until March 1 2023, was the Delta/ALPA contract ratified, that now enables pilots to remain on disability until retirement if they have a mental health issue. How many pilots would have made a different decision in their life versus death moment, had this been enacted years ago? 

Unfortunately, another resolution I fought for, also approved in 2019, included the mandate that Delta utilize the Mayo Clinic as the Company medical examiner, instead of allowing a provision for them to purchase a doctor with a bought-and-paid disqualifying diagnosis. I was told that change would also be in this contract. It was not.

ALPA did not include that provision, and to date the current contract allows Delta to retain the option to purchase a doctor of their choice, despite, a resolution being unanimously approved in 2019. Delta can still purchase a diagnosis of their choice, and have the ability to force pilots to see a compromised doctor. 

Positive Change Has Been Made

I often wonder if the millions Delta spent to give me a false mental health diagnosis and engage in a war of attrition to have me removed, created fear in these pilots to come forward who killed themselves. I'm saddened that Delta chooses to spend millions in marketing and millions more in efforts to keep the flight attendant union off the property, instead of providing support for the mental health of their pilots. Delta even refuses to allow pilots to stay home for a mental health day despite how much sick leave they may have. 


Brian had just been awarded a captain position. He had three beautiful children. He had everything to live for. At his funeral many captains stated that he was one of their "favorite" first officers to fly with. Sadly, two days before he took his life, he had reached out to Delta's Pilot Assistance Network (PAN) for help and nobody returned his call. Annie, Brian's mother, later reached out to Delta's CEO/Chairman of the Board, Ed Bastian, regarding Brian's death. Annie believes Ed's response was, "just something to make me go away." I read it and concur with her assumption. He did nothing.

Change Needed for Mental Health

We cannot control where airlines like Delta choose to allocate their resources to increase profit at the sacrifice of humanity, but perhaps we can change the regulatory requirements. Currently pilots fear seeing mental health professionals because of the FAA requirement to report such actions. Many pilots fear seeking marriage counseling for the same reason. Then the problems snowball. 

The FAA does not require pilots to report seeing a nutritionist or a personal trainer. Why must pilots report seeing someone for their mental health? Unless an injury or psychosis, a pilot who is fine today will not awaken suicidal tomorrow. If the FAA were to allow our pilots to seek the help they need before it's too late, without fear of job loss, and prior to the need for medication, pilots would seek help before they break. 

Please take time to contact the current FAA administrator, Phillip A. Washington, or Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation and perhaps we can create the change we need. 

The Weaponization of Mental Health
against me by Delta management may have 
prevented Delta pilots from coming forward.
That is something I will have to live with.

I am asking all of you who read this post
to please help me fix this issue
by changing the Whistleblower Law 

Share this link with everyone you know. 

Someone's life might just depend upon it.
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Sanity and Stress

Just Another Pilot Journey! 

Mayo Clinic Rochester

In February of 2016, I spent three days at the Mayo Clinic, fighting for my sanity. Not to be confused with the novel, Flight For Sanity, but my life mirrored the theme in that novel. However, the Rochester Mayo Clinic journey was actually indicative of my fight for truth. The resulting novel: Flight For Truth.

I waited in the lobby of the Mayo Clinic knowing that this visit could dictate the course of my life. I will never forget Dr. Steinkraus and his kindness as he walked into the lobby to get me, himself. He called my name. I stood and walked toward him as I introduced myself. 

He said, "It's very nice to meet you. You are quite an accomplished young lady." 

With an inquisitive look I said, "Thank you. But didn't you read Dr. Altman's 354 page report?"

He replied, "Yes, we all did. But we know a corporate political action when we see one. However, we are not here to get into a legal battle with your company, we're here to assess your mental health." And that is exactly what they did. 

For those who don't know the story, Delta paid a doctor $74,000 to give me a false mental health diagnosis for giving them a safety report. I scheduled an appointment with the Mayo Clinic in their Aviation Department, despite Dr. Riccitello from AMAS (ALPA's aeromedical department) advising me not to go to the Mayo because, "The FAA doesn't respect the Mayo Clinic like the do private practice doctors." Yes... ALPA was participatory in many ways. I never lost my medical, but I did not fly for two years. 

Mayo Clinic Scottsdale 

I never lost my first class medical during the process. At the end of the day (7 years later) Delta paid me what the judge ordered after they lost their appeal. I had believed that the seven year battle would be worth the effort for the change we would create to improve safety. Unfortunately, there was no change. 

All participants in this action are still employed, and many have been promoted. The reason no change was made, and the subsequent promotions is because the Whistleblower Law (titled AIR21) is broken. Delta has proven the ineffectiveness of this law to support employees coming forward, if the company determines to wage a war of attrition. 

After 7 years of hell, despite winning on every account, my health has suffered from the long-term ongoing stress. The month of March began with my visit to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and will finish with my presence here as well.  Hopefully the end of the month will be warmer than now. 


Delta management, don't get too excited. I beat you... I can beat this. But, what I want to ensure is that nobody will ever face what I faced. We need to protect employees who are making an effort to improve safety. We need to change the law. Please, sign the petition and help to improve safety. 

AIR21 Law Change



Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Aircraft Fire Unreported

SMS Violation... 

A Major Safety Lapse

Delta Flight: HNL to ATL

Fire on the Plane! 

The Crew: 

The Delta captain was actually a first officer who was not senior enough to be a captain in real life, but he was allowed to fly as captain on this flight because was an Aircrew Pilot Designee (APD) in the simulator. One of the other two first officers was also an APD, who has since retired and is now back working as simulator instructor/Check Airman for Delta Professional Services (DPS). 

The captain (alias first officer playing captain) was in the bunk at the time. The airplane was approximately over Salt Lake City when the laptop ignited. A lithium battery meltdown, not unlike United's on February 2023. The difference is that United turned around as they should, to ensure safety. Delta continued and kept this hidden from the public. 

A flight attendant noticed smoke and a glow coming from an overhead bin on the right side of the aircraft above (approximately) rows 2-4. This quick-thinking flight attendant did not open the bin. Instead, she shot halon into the bin from the openings around the door/bin and extinguished the fire. 

The captain returned from the bunk and retrieved the newly (less than a month) installed containment bag from the cabin. Unfortunately, he could not find the gloves. The gloves were stowed in the flight deck. The other first officers opened the flightdeck door and threw the gloves out the door.

Water was added to the containment bag and the captain placed the laptop into the bag and it was filled all the way to the top with water and then sealed. He noticed, and later commented, that the gloves were not insulated and the burning computer was quite hot. A flight attendant was assigned to watch the bag and to report anything that might indicate that the laptop had ignited again. 

The captain and the rest of the crew decided that they should continue to Atlanta instead of diverting. The laptop was turned over to the NTSB, of which was returned to the owner a few days later and, to the best of my knowledge.There Was No Investigation.

Under SMS, airlines are federally required to assess and mitigate risk. The problems with this situation were many because the company did not follow it's SMS, but instead hid the situation. Incidents happen. The goal is that we can learn from events and mitigate the risk. But if we hide events, nothing changes.

  • The flight attendant was brilliant for not opening that bin, of which could have been catastrophic had she done so. This should have been a learning point and added to training for all flight attendants, not kept silent. I don't think many would have had that kind of insight, especially when fatigued. 

  • The gloves were not heat resistant, and this should have been improved for the next fire. 

  • The company should change locations to centrally locate the gloves in the cabin by the containment bag. To this day, I believe they are still in the flight deck away from the containment bag. 

  • This crew continued on to destination without the legally required number of fire extinguishers, because they had used them on the fire. What if they were needed later?

Why didn't anyone report this?

Fear of retaliation!

During this time, Delta senior management was already discussing their strategy to submit me to a psychiatric evaluation because I had requested a meeting to bring safety concerns forward. Of course employes would fear retaliation if they spoke of this event. In response to this, and many more incidents, we need to eliminate fear and encourage everyone who sees something to say something, as required by law.  SMS demands a reporting culture free of retaliation. 

Your Safety Depends Upon it! 

Enjoy the journey
XO Karlene

Monday, February 27, 2023

Aviation Success!

When Events Overlap!
You just make it work...
This weekend my husband and I were busy at the Northwest Aviation Conference. We sold lots of books, I gave two talks on Normalization of Deviance, and we enjoyed meeting many aviation enthusiasts!  The little ones are my favorite! They truly are awesome!

While my husband appears to be sitting in a chair, he's actually on a stool wearing the NadaChair. The owner of the company was at the aviation conference and gave him one to help his back. I tried it and it really works! Anyone who attends sporting events, sits for hours fishing, even flying long hours or selling books at a conference... this is cool. And spine support should not be overlooked. If you want to check it out, click NadaChair, or call: 1-800-722-2587. 

I love my 99 Sisters!!

And then....
Winner! Winner!!

The Proud Papa above won the 747 photo! His little angle, who arrived two month early so she could make the Aviation Conference, might just find herself flying a plane one day! 

Days Prior to the
Western Washington Aviation Conference...

Literary Aviatrix
Aviatrix Book Review Website and Podcast, 
Aviatrix Book Club

Liz Booker and Karlene

I had flown down to Long Beach for a book signing and reading at the Women in Aviation Conference with the Literary Aviatrix Book Club. That trip was a quick, but just long enough to learn what a truly gifted, energetic, and talented woman Liz Booker is. 

But to make matters better, she brought together an incredible group of aviation authors who are authentic, down to earth, passionate. I am so proud to have been invited to be part of their group. And I am really looking forward to reading each of their books.

This last minute trip came about, because Liz was interviewing me on my first novel, Flight For Control. One thing lead to another and I added a last minute trip to my schedule. Spoiler alert... this talk with Liz was my first interview after being retired, therefore I was able to speak freely. You'll find a funny little story that was in my Flight to Success book that I was not able to speak about before. 

If you want to listen to our interview
You can Find it here:

The Amazing Authors!

Merryl Tengesdal: Shatter the Sky
John and Martha King: LIFT
Mary Shipko: Aviatrix; Daring Mary
Cecilia Aragon: Flying Free
R. D. Kardon: Flygirl; Angel Flight; Flying Home
Laura Savino: Jet Boss
Erin Miller: Final Flight, Final Flight; What Grandma Did
Charles Morgan Evans: Helicopter Heroine
Lynn Rippelmeyer: Life Takes Wings
Victoria Yeager: 101 Chuck Yeager-isms
Julie Tizard: The Road to Wings; Flight to the Horizon; Free Fall at Angel Creek
Julie Clark: Nothing Stood in Her Way
Tammie Jo Shults: Nerves of Steel
Karlene Petitt: Flight For Discovery

I handed out hundreds of cards 
to change the AIR21 Law!

Enjoy the Journey! 
XOX Karlene 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Western Washington Aviation Conference

February 24 and 25th in Puyallup Washington! 

I'm flying home from Women in Aviation on Alaska Airlines this morning. But this afternoon I will be setting up my booth at the biggest and best Aviation Conference in the Pacific Northwest! Saturday and Sunday you can find me at booth 124, but I'll also be speaking to Normalization of Deviance each day. Not only that, but I'll be signing books, and giving away a unique and priceless prize this year. 

At booth 124 you can enter to win a 20 X 30 1-1/2 wrapped Canvas of a Photo of the Last NWA flight into Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. I was sitting in the flight deck during this last flight, deadheading down to fly the last NWA freighter out the next night. This photo is a part of history... and it can be yours!

As Always there are GREAT sponsors! You can find a job. Buy a plane. Buy parts. Buy a book. Win a prize. Get apples. Speak to representatives from Aviation Colleges, and so much more! 

I hope to see you in my neighborhood 
February 24 and 25! 
At the
Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show
at the Washington State Fair Events Center
in Puyallup, Washington.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Aviatrix Authors Connect

Reading and Reception

A couple weeks ago I had an amazing time speaking with Liz Booker, as she conducted an Aviatrix Author Interview. She reminded me that Flight For Control was published a century ago! We had a great chat, and one thing led to another. Now I'm headed to women in Aviation in Long Beach this week. I am honored and humbled to be among these brilliant authors!! I'll be signing books in the afternoon, but the evening event is a must! 

LIZ BOOKER is at it again! Celebrating and connecting aviation authors. This is an event you don't want to miss! Tickets are going fast, but I hope that you can join us on February 23rd at 7:30pm at Bogart & Co. in the Long Beach Convention Center for a catered social hour and author readings with heavy appetizers, cash bar, and other surprises. Enjoy 3-5 minute readings and an opportunity to mingle with the authors in an intimate setting

Here’s who you’ll see:

Merryl Tengesdal: Shatter the Sky

John and Martha King: LIFT

Mary Shipko: Aviatrix; Daring Mary

Cecilia Aragon: Flying Free

R. D. Kardon: Flygirl; Angel Flight; Flying Home

Laura Savino: Jet Boss

Erin Miller: Final Flight, Final Flight; What Grandma Did

Charles Morgan Evans: Helicopter Heroine

Lynn Rippelmeyer: Life Takes Wings

Victoria Yeager: 101 Chuck Yeager-isms

Julie Tizard: The Road to Wings; Flight to the Horizon; Free Fall at Angel Creek

Julie Clark: Nothing Stood in Her Way

Tammie Jo Shults: Nerves of Steel

Karlene Petitt: Flight For Discovery

If you want to listen to our interview
You can Find it here:

Enjoy the Journey! 
XO Karlene 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Crew Resource Management Training Opportunity

Is This Job for You?

Patrick Mendenhall

I was recently catching up with a friend and former NWA/Delta colleague that I’ve crossed paths with many times during my airline career. In “retirement,” Patrick (Mendenhall) told me that he has been operating a company that provides CRM training to a wide range of audiences both in and out of the aviation “space.” This includes live and webinar training as well as creating content for an online production and distribution company. Aviation clients are mostly Part 91 and Part 135 operators. But he has also been providing CRM training to other High Reliability Organizations, such as the healthcare industry for over fifteen years.

Now that the COVID malaise is mostly behind us, growth opportunities are falling into Patrick's lap and he could use some help!  


Patrick is looking for someone with aviation experience who is knowledgeable and passionate about safety. In-depth knowledge and understanding of CRM and Threat and Error Management principals would certainly be helpful, too. 

He  is looking to cover a range of skills – from simply writing new CRM content to presenting both live and webinar platforms. Compensation would be “negotiable” as the range of scenarios is as endless as the possible levels of involvement.  

If you have questions or are interested, 
please contact Patrick at

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

AIR21 Statute Change

When It's Broke... Fix It! 

Sign the Petition

For those who do not know the story behind the AIR21 law change, please read the article and view the video below: 

"Judge says FAA Chief Helped Delta Air Lines Retaliate Against Pilot Who Raised Pilot who raised safety Concerns."

By Maximus Aviation

This law change is not to go after Delta. They are simply the poster child for what is wrong with the law. The AIR21 statute must be changed because many airlines have and will continue to retaliate against employees despite the current statute. Delta has simply identified that the law is ineffective by their behavior and ability to destroy a pilot and her career. 

Delta has proven that an airline can continue to operate in the same unsafe manner that was brought to their attention, despite the AIR21 statute. Delta management has shown that it is possible for an airline to pay a doctor for a false diagnosis and hide it from the stockholders by making him a vendor. Delta has proven that airlines can violate a court order by withholding discovery and then perjure themselves in court without consequence. They also showed their ability to spend millions of stockholder dollars to enact a war of attrition on a pilot who was promoting safety. 

Retaliation is a violation of Safety Management Systems (SMS). SMS is a Federal Regulations that mandates a reporting culture to ensure employees can identify and report risk without retaliation. Delta has proven that an airline can violate regulatory standards without consequence. For all these reasons, the law must change. Below is the requested change. Please, send it to your local newspapers, senators, congressmen, representatives, or anyone you can think of. Together, we can improve safety. 

Sign the Petition

AIR21 Aviation Advocate Reform Act 


The AIR21, Whistleblower, statute is flawed and does not protect the employee, but enables and supports airline management to retaliate despite the law.  

In January 2018, Safety Management Systems (SMS) became a federal mandate designed to evaluate the airline operating environment, assess hazards, mitigate risk, and capture errors. A core requirement of SMS is a bona fide safety culture with emphasis on ground-up communications in a flexible, blame-free, accountable environment that encourages reporting safety concerns so that management has both the knowledge and ability to support the system’s overall safety goals. An airline’s safety culture establishes the indispensable foundation of a successful SMS in accordance with the FAA-mandated criteria.  

The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21) was enacted in 2000 to protect airline employees when internally reporting a violation of a "federal standard" to their management or directly to the FAA. But this law does not protect employees who are required to report under the SMS federal standard of 2018. The Reporting Culture component of SMS dictates employees must report “anything” they see that could impact safety to mitigate risk in a retaliatory-free environment, not simply a “federal standard” violation.   

Currently, the only means that an employee can initiate enforcement of SMS standards regarding retaliatory free reporting is pursuant to the AIR21 statute. However, the AIR21 statute at face value conflicts with SMS regulatory reporting, protects the employer more so than the employee, holds nobody accountable, does not mandate a solution to the problem, and can find the employee in financial detriment even when they win.   

The necessary changes include: (1) change reference from the “Whistleblower Law” to the "Safety Advocate Law"; (2) extend the restrictive statute of limitations from 90 days to 300 days; (3) Expedite the OSHA investigatory process by limiting OSHA's involvement; (4) expand the definition of protected activity to include SMS; (5) allow to name individuals involved in order to hold them accountable; (6) liberalize the statute’s damages provision in alignment with similar statutes to include punitive damages; and (7) provide for an alternative to the subjectivity of "reasonable" legal fees to enable the employee full legal reimbursement.  

Naming Convention  

Currently the AIR21 statue is referred to as the “Whistleblower Law”, indicating that employees are blowing the whistle on their airline to the FAA. A review of AIR21 cases identifies that most complaints are internal where the employee was making an effort to identify a problem internally to management to assist in improving safety. Furthermore, the term “whistleblower” holds a negative connotation similar an informant or snitch, which undermines the statutory intent of encouraging employees to come forward to improve safety.  

Naming Convention Proposal  

References to the AIR21 statute should be changed from the “Whistleblower Law” to the Safety Advocate Law.  

Statute of Limitations  

The AIR21 statute has the shortest statute of limitations of any discrimination law—90 days. The problems with this truncated limitation period are many. 1) Most employees are unaware of this law, and by the time they learn of it it’s too late to receive the intended protections. 2) Airline employees who are protected under a union’s collective bargaining agreement will be pressed by their union and management to follow the grievance process, believing that the grievance process will protect them. However, the AIR21 statute was enacted because Congress realized passenger safety must not be held in the hands of an arbitrator who is paid, at least in part, by the employer. 3) With only 90 days to file, those employees who know of the law are forced to file. Whereas, if the event was an honest mistake, the matter could be readily solved in the first stage of the grievance process if there was time. 4) Sexual harassment federal statute is 180 days, with state laws up to 300 days or more. Safety should be placed, at minimum, on par with sexual harassment in that lives are at risk. 5) The fraud statute of limitations is four years or more. Paying a doctor for a false diagnosis is aligned with fraud.  

Statute of Limitations Proposal  

Extend the statute of limitations to file an AIR21 complaint to 300 days.  

OSHA Process  

The AIR21 statute involves a joint investigation by both OSHA and the FAA. However, OSHA investigators lack the requisite knowledge of airline operations, and, even where the FAA’s investigation substantiates a violation in the same case, OSHA may still rule on behalf of the airline. OSHA may also take multiple years to conduct an investigation, enabling the airline to engage in subsequent violations during that extended time, while the employee is without a paycheck, of which sends a warning to all employees that the OSHA process is futile. This extended time harms the employee who has lost his or her job unjustly. Taxpayer dollars are funding this most inefficient process with an illusion that safety is being improved, whereas this process has the opposite effect and one of the most inefficient government processes.   

OSHA is currently tasked with ruling on all four components of an AIR21 complaint: (1) Protected activity, (2) brought forth in good faith, (3) resulting in an adverse action and, (4) with a causal link to the adverse action. Unfortunately, rarely does management admit that their adverse action is motivated by discriminatory animus. To task an OSHA investigator with making this determination, given the investigator’s lack of knowledge of airline operations, leaves the airline in complete control of this process.  

A workaround of this inefficient process is for the employee to take the loss with OSHA and then immediately appeal to ensure expeditious justice. If a law requires a workaround to bypass OSHA, then the current process is ineffective. Currently the OSHA process discourages employees from pursuing the justice necessary to enhance safety and is widely seen as a roadblock in the path toward justice more so than being a neutral investigation.  

OSHA Process Proposal

OSHA should be required to determine within a maximum of two months only the following three facts: 1) Did the employee report safety concerns to management, 2) did the employee suffer an adverse action, and 3) was there temporal proximity from the report to the adverse action. If those points are satisfied, then OSHA rules on behalf of the employee. The airline can then appeal to address those facts and causation.  

Protected Activity  

As of April 5, 2000, the AIR21 statute has protected employees for reporting non-compliance with federal standards. Eighteen years later SMS became a federal standard. Embodied within that standard is a federal requirement mandating a reporting culture. It is not clear from relevant case law that the AIR21 statute is consistent with the FAA’s SMS mandate. Under SMS, anything that identifies a potential risk is required by law to be reported in order to assess and mitigate that risk as necessary; yet identification of risk is not a protected activity under the current AIR21 statute.  

Under SMS, employees are required to identify threats and communicate those concerns to mitigate associated risk, in effort to avoid an accident. This is the very reason a reporting culture is a key element to safety. Employees must report the threat before the accident occurs. A reporting culture requires that employees are encouraged to report in a retaliatory-free environment. By limiting protection under the AIR21 statute to only those issues that are explicit federal mandates, this narrow interpretation of AIR21 protected activity undermines the risk mitigation strategy at the core of SMS. SMS is a Federal Regulation. In short, AIR21 is not achieving the goal for which it was designed and conflicts with federal SMS regulations.  

Protected Activity Proposal  

Anything an employee reports in good faith to improve safety of airline operations will be deemed “protected activity” under the AIR21 statute in alignment with SMS.  

Naming those Involved  

The current statute does not allow for naming individuals as defendants, but only the organization. This distinction is at variance with a growing number of state discrimination laws, and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which held individual supervisors accountable. People are violating the law, not the entity. When organizations have a negative safety culture, in that they condone the retaliation of an employee bringing forth safety concerns, these managers are not only free from accountability, but are frequently rewarded by the airline for their retaliatory action. The impunity of supervisors under the AIR21 statute further silences employees from reporting safety concerns; and when such retaliatory managers are promoted, the process encourages retaliation and discourages reporting. Even if the airline loses its AIR21 case, there is not requirement for the employer to hold anyone accountable.      

Enabling individuals to be named in the lawsuit, along with the company, will create an incentive for management representatives to assess their actions and think twice before they engage in retaliatory actions, knowing they could be personally liable. These individuals should no longer hide behind the airline or manufacturer.   

Naming All Involved Proposal  

Enable complainants to name specific individuals in the AIR 21 complaint in addition to the organization.  


This statute only allows for compensatory damages and does not allow for fines or punitive damages. Other OSHA statutes provide for punitive damages such as: Federal Railroad Safety Act Whistleblower Protection Provision (FRSA), National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA), and Seamans Protection Act (SPA). Why not air travel? The purpose of punitive damages is to punish respondents for violating the law. Airlines and individuals must be held accountable for their actions that involve the safety of the traveling public. A slap on the wrist to a corporation will not solve the problem.   

Damages Proposal  

If found in violation of the AIR21 statute, the Administrative Law Judge has the authority to fine the airline any amount the ALJ deems appropriate for the situation and apply punitive and compensatory damages.  

Legal Fees  

Under the AIR21 statute, an employee who wins their case is only awarded “reasonable” attorney fees. While the airline can afford millions in defense of an indefensible position utilizing stockholder funds, the employee, who has been removed from duty because of reporting safety concerns, is without a paycheck, has a mortgage, mouths to feed, and kids to educate, can rarely afford to compensate a competent lawyer. The airline has unlimited resources to drag out a lawsuit in a war of attrition, file frivolous motions, and run up the employee’s legal fees. With subjective attorney fees identified as "reasonable" in combination with compensatory damages the employee could win, but the unrecovered attorney fees may exceed the compensatory damages.   

Legal Fees Proposal 

The employee will receive all attorney fees and all associated legal expenses.    


The federal government found it necessary to enact the 2018 SMS mandate to improve safety by including the mandatory adoption of a risk mitigation program embodying a reporting culture, clearly indicating the ineffectiveness of the 2000 Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). The necessity of incorporating all changes within this AIR 21 Aviation Advocate NextGen Reform Act are more critical as the industry moves into the NextGen environment. In addition, the 2020 Aircraft Certification Safety and Accountability Act should include similar provisions within this proposal.

Please Sign the Petition Here

I'm asking you to share the link with ten or more people and ask them to do the same. I'm asking all my International friends who are passionate about safety and concerned with the trajectory of our industry to sign. I intend on making this a world law. One step at a time. 


Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene