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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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Sexual Harassment in Aviation

Impacts Safety! 

It's about time that we all "speak out" regarding Sexual Harassment in the airline industry, because it does impact safety. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and there is no better time than now to share the injustices. There are no protections for these women because EEOC has as little knowledge regarding aviation as does OSHA for airline safety. Unfortunately HR works for the company not the employee, and these women are required to remain silent until they retire.

Kathy McCullough Author of 

How Harassment Impacts 
Aviation Safety

A Captain grabs First Officer Laura Savino's breast while she's handflying the approach on short final. She has to make a choice between her physical embarrassment and the control of her body versus smacking the "man in charge" and the safety of everyone on board. She continues to fly, humiliated. 

A Captain throws the paperwork into the garbage and pours coffee on it after he asks Tammie Jo Shultz if she needed it. A captain stamps on her hat destroying it, not once but multiple times... Tammie Jo was even terminated by a false accusation of a new hire who, despite his overt falsifications nearly destroying her career, later becomes a management pilot. Had they succeeded getting rid of her, flight 1380 may have had different results. 

While Tammie Jo and Laura Savino are retired and can speak to these events in their memoirs (both excellent books), there are many women who cannot speak because they are still employed, and the airline's "social media" policy enforces silence. But it's this silence that is propagating the continuation of these events and forcing these women to suffer in silence. For some, they are fighting back through lawsuits. But many do not have the means. Yet even those who do fight, without public awareness nothing will ever change. And I am one to attest that the legal battle feels like you're being raped in the process. 

Sarah Hammel's recent article, sharing the rape of Flight Attendant Erica, speaks volumes as to the nightmare that is ongoing for many women. She was drug and the company did nothing. Erica was even asked what she wearing, as if it was her fault that pilot had no control of raping her because of the clothing she wore. Sexual harassment and rape is still ongoing and nobody is doing anything about it. Airline management blames the woman and appears to condone the behavior. 

Then there was Captain Ratfield... 

Captain Andrea Ratfield

Captain Andrea Ratfield had a check airman pound on her door at 2 am to go drink with him. She refused, but he ensured her performance evaluation reflected her off-duty unwillingness to participate. Chief Pilots and a Regional Director gathered in an office to discuss the fit of her pants in vulgar terms. She followed due process, went to HR, yet they did nothing. Unfortunately things got worse after she spoke out. Then, at a female aviation event, someone put something in her drink and she awakens to a stranger raping her. 

As if rape couldn't get any worse, a now Delta manager asked her if she was drinking at the time, as if that gave permission to the rapist. This manager was convinced that if she were drinking, she had to be an alcoholic and that was the reason for the rape. She was told that she would get rape counseling if she went into the HIMS program. Sadly, there was no rape counselling. They also never tested to see if she was an alcoholic. But they did lock her into a facility where VP James Graham (the very person who orchestrated my potential demise) sat on the board of directors. Once out of rehab, the company ordered a Dry Blood Spot PEth (DBS) test, a non FDA approved test, known to produce false positives, of which they used in attempted to remove her as a pilot. The chain of events clearly indicates the company was utilizing the HIMS program to remove her as a pilot, just as they attempted with the Section 15 process in my case. 

Andrea is a fighter, not unlike Erica, and is the reason for the class action lawsuit against “USDTL” CASE NO. 22-CV-62325. Andrea also has a gender discrimination lawsuit against Delta. This woman went through years of hell putting up with and fighting the atrocities internally, and not until management decided to destroy her career, did she file her lawsuit. Standby, there is more to come on these cases. 

Captain Ratfield also filed an ASAP report because she and her female first officer were ignored and laughed at when they attempted to notify the ground crew they were fueling the plane with the door closed. A violation and huge safety risk to all passengers on board.  The ground crew refused to listen to the pilots because they were women. To my knowledge, the company took no action against the employees. 

And then there was Christine Janning. 

Captain Christine Janning

Captain Janning, as a First Officer, had to live through the horrific experience of her captain completely disrobing and masterbating in the cockpit. What was she to do... leave the environment? Who's flying the plane? Apparently EEOC doesn't understand the unique challenges that women being assaulted and harassed in the flightdeck must endure. 

Christine filed a complaint against her perpetrator and the airline for the event and those that followed. Her management was even planning to send her to a mental health evaluation as Delta did with me, but at the news of Delta losing their case, their appeal, and the Seattle Times article with Delta finally throwing in the towel after a seven year battle, Christine's management decided otherwise. 

This behavior should not be happening in today's world. But what can these women do? If they report, they are flagged as troublemakers and the rumors become about them. They are shunned professionally. They face losing their careers if they speak out. Some airlines also engage in a war of attrition, meaning management is simply going to battle and dragging it out in court for one purpose only... to financially break the complainant, as Delta did with my case. 

Ladies, I'm asking you:

  • Do not fear reporting. There are people out there willing to help you.
  • Please do not sign an NDA. If the company wants you to settle, there is a reason. You do not have to sign an NDA as part of the agreement. Read Jet Boss and you'll see how Laura addressed it. I did not sign. We need to let the public know that these events are ongoing.
  • If you are raped, go to the hospital and get tested.
  • If you were drugged, go to the hospital and get a blood test.
  • Do not remain silent, this is not your fault.
The Solution: 

What we need to do is create a Federal Aviation Regulation to prevent harassment and the violation of corporate ethical compliance. Yes, airlines have ethics, no-harassment, and non-retaliation policies, but it's my experience that they do not follow them. At least one airline I know does not. If anyone is harassed and retaliated against for reporting their issue, then the employee could file an AIR21 instead of dealing with EEOC. This would provide a level of protection and should improve safety. FAR's are designed to improve safety. Clearly something must be done if this behavior is ongoing. 


First we need to get the AIR21 law changed because it does not protect the employee as it should. Delta has proven that the AIR21 Statute (whistleblower law) is ineffective if the company declares a war of attrition on the employee. The airline's insurance pays their fees and the employee may not recoup all their expenses due to compensatory damages and only "reasonable" attorney fees.  

Please help me change that law. Please Read, Sign, and Share the link below with everyone you know. We need to take action to help all employees. This law change is the first step. Stand by for the future FAR. It's time we address one of the most serious safety concerns of the airline industry. 

If you have not done so yet,
Thank you! 
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Mental Health and Reporting

The FAA Workaround

The challenge any aviator faces is being flagged with a mental illness if they seek counselling or a psychiatrist to work out personal issues. Far too many lives are lost because something that started out small, grew until the person saw no way out because they did not get help. In the post Delta Pilot Suicides, I have no doubt that if Brian had received the help he needed, without fear of reporting to the FAA, that he would still be with us today. So how do we navigate mental health help and subsequent reporting without the fear of risking our license?

Today I am going to tell you how to "workaround" the FAA's archaic regulation of reporting a counselling sessions, in order to get the help you need, without labeling yourself with a mental disorder at any level. No risk reporting.

Do not be concerned with my term "workaround" because I was told by an FAA investigator, after they researched an airline's duty time violations, that they [FAA] knew that placing pilots on duty for 25 hours was wrong; but they concluded it was not a violation because it was  a "workaround". When asked why the same airline received a violation of order in 2016 for the exact same thing, but not today, the investigator said, "I don't know. The report is missing." I told him he should probably look in Steve Dickson's desk. 

Despite missing reports and the FAA looking the other way on behalf of an airline, the agency has acknowledged that a workaround is not a violation. What I'm about to convey is not a workaround to the extent of a Federal Violation, as with an airline violating duty time. But, it is a way that you can get professional help, have someone to talk to, and report it on your 8500 document without fear of mental health being attached to the visit. 

Integrative Medicine

If you would like to talk to a professional, that won't send up a red flag, schedule an appointment with an Integrative Medicine Doctor. These doctors are not counselors and not psychiatrists. An Integrative Doctor is an MD who can help you with life. 

Integrative medicine is an evidence-based approach to improve your health and wellness through physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual impact on your health. These doctors are an excellent source to help anyone deal with life issues. I met with an integrative medical doctor at the Mayo Clinic, and learned so much. The fact that the Mayo Clinic uses this approach indicates the validity of this type of medicine. Insurance also pays for the session. So... how do you report this "non-counselling" medical session? 

This is how I would recommend reporting your visit: 

Jon C Tilburt, M.D. 
Division of Integrative Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona
Mayo Clinic
Reason: Overall health and wellness 

Seeing an MD for your overall health and wellness does not raise any red flags to your mental health. This might be the best option until the FAA changes this mental health requirement and stigma regarding counselors. Stress impacts the immune system, mental health is directly related to our physical health, and your overall well being is the key to life. We want our pilots healthy. This might be an option. I most definitely recommend it. I also recommend Dr. Tilburt if you have an opportunity to visit the Mayo Clinic. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Monday, April 10, 2023

What Makes You the Best

Adversity or Destiny?

Tammie Jo Shults' Nerves of Steel 
Was an Absolutely Incredible Read! 
For so Many Reasons...

Tammie Jo's story shows us the power of perseverance. Her perspective later in life reminds us that not getting what we want, when we want it, may not be such a bad thing. A lesson to be learned for anyone living in an, "I want it now, or I'm giving up" world. There is a divine time for everything. 

Her early childhood, filled with hard work, climbing fences, and swimming, then later in her college years as an athlete gave her the physical ability and skills to pass what many men could not. Sometimes what we perceive as overwhelming challenges are nothing more than preparation for something bigger in life. 

She lived a life of commitment and dedication proving that studying, learning, and understanding each aircraft that she flew brought the best of results. Her unending faith, despite all, protected her along this journey and enabled her to face the greatest challenges known to man or woman.  Did she cry? Were there moments of depression? Even those pilots with super powers are human. 

What's written between the lines and throughout these pages, however, is that all those assholes (apologies for my word choice) who did everything they could to deny her, destroy her, derail her, attempt to make her a statistic, and lied about her history, could have possibly contributed to saving the lives of 149 people instead of destroying this woman. Her life journey, with all the delays and obstacles that forced her to be the best she could be, to prove herself capable... gave her what she needed. Nerves of Steel. 

To all those who attempt to destroy a determined woman, 
all you are is a 200 lb weight providing endurance training. 

Tammie Jo's recap of the events of Flight 1380 bring the reader into the flight deck as well as the passenger cabin with such clarity and vivid realism. As I read, I thought... Thank God Tammie Jo was the captain of that flight, or they may not have made it. I challenge anyone to read this book and tell me you would come to a different conclusion. I don't think so. 

SWA Flight 1380

I have an email from a management pilot at another airline who declared an emergency because he didn't have an autopilot and lost his flying skills. God forbid this event happened on his 737. The divine course of life... the challenges, the timing, the delays by some, the wisdom of others, and those who stepped forward to right a wrong, all brought Tammie Jo to this point, in this plane, at this event. Where she showed the world that she was made of the right stuff. At one point SWA had fired Tammie Jo due to the false statements of a new hire. I'm most certain bringing her back was the best thing they ever did! 

I remember hearing this event play out on the news, speculation about the "female" pilot talking on the radio... "She's the captain, why is she talking on the radio?... she must be letting the first officer fly!" Well, the reality is, she flew, she talked, and she managed the plane, and without any automation in the most extraordinary of circumstances. She also kept a cool head, understood her aircraft, the limitations, the potential for exacerbating the problem if she followed the checklist. Her decision-making exceptional. 

Prior to the flight Tammie Joe had also created a team with her fellow cremembers. The credit she bestowed upon her crew for this success was well deserved. At the end of this flight, everyone remained seated, calm, no panic, and she walked through the cabin, as she always did, and talked to them to see how they were doing. Compassion and caring rang true in her life, no matter what was thrown at her. Not often you lose a passenger, and I am certain everyone on that flight will be impacted for life in one way or another by that loss. Prayers to that passengers family. 

The prayer that Tammie Joe remembered saying at the end of this ordeal that ended up on the voice recorder was, "Thank You, Lord. Thank You, Thank You Lord." I want to say "Thank You Lord" for giving the world this remarkable woman! Tammie Jo, thank you for sharing the amazing story of your life. Lessons for so many. I loved it!!! 

If you have not read her book yet you can find it:
Visit her on her website: 

Follow her on Twitter @Captainshults 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene