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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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Weaponization of Mental Health

FedEx this time...
And Delta becomes involved

Do not underestimate the power of a Airline Freighter falling on your house. Despite no passengers on board these aircraft can do as much damage to anyone on the ground when something goes wrong. The following event was in an Airbus A310 aircraft. Planes get old, equipment fails, and the very reason we need pilots. You'll see why two pilots are equally as important. 

December 2015, Phil Seubert and his captain operated an Atlanta-Newark leg in an Airbus 310. The fuel slip and flight release indicated they had 62,500 lbs of fuel on board. The flight plan stated that fuel at destination would be 40,000 lbs because they were tankering fuel. The flight proceeded normally, and the fuel gauges, totalizer readings, fuel used readings, and Flight Management System indications agreed with each other and indicated that the aircraft had consumed about 18,000 lbs of fuel. But, just prior to turning on approach the fuel system reading increased to 61,000 lbs of total fuel, and froze! 

Phil Seubert and the captain flew the airspeed hook, the only indication that provided them an accurate maneuvering speed because it utilized angle of attack. They landed immediately due to the unknown fuel state. An example like this is why every pilot should have a deep level of understanding of their aircraft systems, as these pilots did. They wrote up the incident upon landing. When maintenance installed a new fuel computer on the aircraft, the fuel system reset to 2,900 lbs "total fuel" and a fuel low light came on for the first time. But maintenance said there was still 40,000 lbs of fuel onboard despite these indications, but they would continue to research the issue. 

Phil and the captain jumpseated to Norfolk Virginia to continue the rest of their scheduled trip. The next night, having returned to Newark, Phil Seubert discovered that maintenance had confirmed only 2,500 lbs of fuel was onboard by dipping the tanks. The aircraft had essentially run out of fuel. 

Phil took pictures documenting the fuel issues and filed an Aviation Safety Action Program (“ASAP”) report within 24 hours of the initial incident, which was transmitted to the FAA and flight management. 

But, instead of investigating the aircraft’s airworthiness, FedEx Fleet Captain Dolores Pavletic began issuing Flight Crew Information Files (“FCIFs”) blaming Phil and the captain for inattention to fuel indications, even though the fuel indications reflected the expected fuel levels until just prior to the flight’s approach.

Phil undertook his own research to identify the reason for the inaccurate fuel reading. He discovered that the aircraft had landed in Atlanta with 21,000 fuel lbs and then was shutdown. When power was restored the fuel system indicated 62,500 fuel lbs, although no fuel had been added. Maintenance had accepted that reading and entered it on the fuel slip and load manifest. The absence of a chain of custody for fuel settings created a dangerous scenario and led to a violation of FARs that requires an accurate load manifest. 

The FCIFs filed against Phil Seubert showed FedEx’s hostility toward him and his safety concerns, therefore, he felt compelled to raise the fuel issue again with FedEx management because they were not taking action to solve the problem, but instead blaming the pilots. 

It turns out that they were not tankering anything. If the previous flight had even a 1000 pounds less than 21,000 pounds on shutdown, Seubert's plane would have flamed out both engines on arrival killing all those on the ground in Newark. Furthermore, there could have been just enough fuel to break ground in Atlanta, but not enough altitude to turn and glide back in. This is a significant safety concern with a potential for what could have been a catastrophic event, but for the grace of God. In subsequent communications to FedEx management, Phil recommended five courses of action designed to improve safety and prevent future fuel reading errors: 
  1. Fix the Fuel Low light per certificate requirements. 
  2. Ground the fleet until the proper investigation could be conducted. 
  3. Mandate a running fuel log in the logbook. 
  4. Make Aircraft Communications, Addressing and Reporting System (“ACARS”) entries for shutdown fuel and fuel added and independently track entries in the flight logbook. 
  5. Require calculations for zero fuel weight approach speeds so crews can estimate the fuel state. 
FedEx management was minimally responsive to Phil’s safety recommendations; however, FedEx management attempted to place a written warning in his employee file. Not unlike Delta SVP Steve Dickson asserting that I was a "catalyst for safety", but still sent me into a Section 15 mental health evaluation. FedEx management attacked the messenger instead of thanking him for the suggestions. 

In February 2016, Phil spoke with an FAA inspector, who stated that there had been no report made to the FAA by FedEx as a result of his ASAP report. The lack of a report indicated that FedEx had either suppressed the ASAP report or had failed to disseminate critical information to the FAA. On the other hand, reports have disappeared at the FAA. 

If you do everything you can to fix the problem but your efforts fall on deaf ears, you leave that equipment and upgrade to a captain on a newer fleet. That's what Phil did. He checked out as captain, first on the B757 and then he went to the B767.

In the spring of 2021, Captain Seubert flew a FedEx route from Memphis to Toluca during which there appeared a 5,000 lbs discrepancy in weight and balance due to the presence of an undocumented 5,000 lb cart. On a subsequent leg of the same trip, another weight balance issue arose that required "significant in-flight abnormal control adjustments during takeoff and landing to avoid aircraft damage". What is significant to one, is catastrophic to another. You decide: 

Captain Seubert was on takeoff roll at V2+20 and his nose was at 7 degrees up, but they were still on the runway! There was no way to abort. The only thing he could do was use his skills and get that plane airborne. That's exactly what Phil did. He knew, however, that they would be required to land the beast with the same out of balance situation. Therefore, he dug into the performance charts and worked this math problem backwards, figuring out what the CG must have been, based upon the performance, then figured out an accurate landing speed and adjusted accordingly.

Phil immediately reported the weight discrepancy to FedEx’s On Duty Pilot. The On Duty Pilot responded that similar weight discrepancy issues had “been happening lately.” Phil reported the incident directly to Fleet Captain Kevin Whearty in Captain Whearty’s office. Phil also raised the incident in training sessions that followed the incident. Based on his experience and his higher level of understanding, I would believe this would be a very heightened concern. 


It would be so much easier if airlines would solve the problem, instead of killing the messenger. But when that messenger has nine lives, and the company is running out of options... my advice is don't go to court and air your dirty laundry, just apologize and do the right thing. 

How Many Bullets to Get Rid of a Pilot?

Bullet 1: Section 15 

December 17, 2021 prostan called Phil and reported a pilot complaint. He characterized the entire complaint a nothing more than a "political vendetta/dispute.

December 18, 2021 Phil was grounded. FedEx immediately put Phil into a Section 15, without rationale. Section 15 is a psychiatric evaluation process that I, too, experienced at Delta for my reporting safety. Funny thing is, unlike my neuropsychological testing and the three-days in Chicago over period of many months, and being dead-bolted in a room with Dr. Altman for the evaluation, Phil's psychiatric evaluation consisted of a singular recorded phone call with Dr. Fred Tilton and a representative from Harvey Watt insurance company. 

December 20, 2021, Phil's evaluation began. 

Phil stated that Dr. Tilton opened with 20 rapid-fire questions without taking a breath. Phil responded by stating, "Doc I can answer questions one at a time, please, pick just one."

That's when Dr. Tilton lots it, so much so that at the end of the this mental health evaluation he apologized to Phil for his behavior. He said something to the effect of "I'm sorry I had to get a little nasty." Phil took it as that was the goal to goad him. So Phil said, "You were just doing your job. Happy New Year." 

January 3, 2022, Phil passed this mental health evaluation. He suspects it was only due to the embarrassment that Dr. Fred Tilton would face to have that audio go anywhere. I haven't heard it yet, but I will at the trial and therefore it will find its way to Youtube. I suspect, based upon what I've been told, that this call may indicate that the doctor was a screaming banshee and the patient was composed. Hard to make an adverse diagnosis when that happens, even if the company is paying you to do so. These retaliatory evaluations are conducted by bought-and-paid-for doctors. Medical Fraud Abuse is living practice.

They were expeditious in this process for Phil compared to my evaluation process. My process was 18 months, whereas Phil's was only 16 days. 


When bullet 1 misses, bullet 2 is ready to be fired!   

Bullet 2: Section 19

January 4, 2022 Phil received disciplinary action. When the Section 15 failed to do the job, FedEx placed Phil on disciplinary action the very next day. Now, the fact that they have nothing to discipline him for, but an unverified report, they needed to create something. 


FedEx found three first officers to write a complaint, "after" he was placed into disciplinary action of which they stated in their letters, "per your request" indicating these were solicited reports. Then these pilots used the same wording in each of their reports. I am most certain that these boys will find themselves in management one day, and the judge will smell a rat. Regardless, this wasn't enough. 

Fleet Captain Kevin Whearty was already conducting a "lookback." This is the same tactic Delta uses on their pilots. This is also the same chief pilot that Phil reported to regarding weight and balance concerns. 

David DeBerry provided Whearty a background. He stated, "Let me know if this is what you're looking for on Phil Seubert, I can did a little deeper if needed." 

Phil had no training failures. He had no violations. The only issues in his life were tragic. His fiance had died a year before this all began and on May 19, 2021 his son was killed. When his son passed he had to argue with the company to keep his assigned vacation in order to grieve and be with his other children. 

Phil had worked for Delta back in the day, and had left in 2006. So they went deeper, and the hunt for dirt moved to Delta Air Lines. 

Apparently Delta has not learned their lesson after losing my AIR21 trial and losing their subsequent appeal, because they are now helping FedEx to do the same thing to a pilot for reporting safety concerns. There are some missing pieces to the chain of emails. I suspect the request came via a phone call, or perhaps they withheld documents in discovery as Delta did in my case. Either way, this is what we know:

On January 31, 2021 the email exchange began as the result of the Delta search. 

Delta Air Lines Fleet Captain Bill Thurber wrote to Delta Air Lines Managing Director of Training, Rich Kaynor: 

Subject line: FedEx. Instructor Phil Seubert Mystery Solved. 

"Hi Rich, Doug Howard's Phil Seubert did indeed have a chapter with our Company. His personal record is below; I have no idea why he left us. From his PQIS file I see a quick run through the 767B seat with subsequent categories in the 737B and M88B seat. I do not see a CAGS nor POI code on his record."

Rich Kaynor forwards this information to Sarah Howard and simply writes, "Interesting...."

Sarah howard forwards this information to Doug Howard, and writes. 

"He was a Delta line pilot for 5 1/2 years but was never in the training dept. There's a story there for sure but who knows what it was." 

Sarah is not using a FedEx email. Is she Doug's wife? Is she trying to keep this off the record? I don't. But I am happy to clear up the big mystery. While their subject line say's mystery solved, I think there is some confusion as to why he left. 

Leaving Delta Mystery

Rich, Bill, Doug, and Sarah, the "story" and reason Phil left Delta was that he had only 5 years invested, more than enough time to see the culture and the writing on the wall with company mismanagement. At the time Delta was headed in the toilet. Delta had even filed bankruptcy in 2005. He viewed FedEx to be a better career life match for longevity. Any pilot would think that was a no-brainer career shift. 


When bullets 1 and 2 miss the target, they fire bullet 3. 

Bullet 3: HIMS

ALPA tells Phil he will be terminated immediately if he doesn't enter HIMS (The Alcohol Substance Abuse program). Bill Tenner, from the FedEx HIMS program reached out to Phil via text messages. He and Phil met for breakfast, at which time Bill attempted to sell Phil on the HIMS program. 

Phil said, "The problem is,  I don't drink."  

Bill responds, "That doesn't matter. Exercising too much can be an addiction too."

Bill Tenner

One of the many issues with the HIMS program is that the reason a pilot drinks is not addressed. Just removes the crutch if that is the reason. If you replace one crutch with another, such as food for alcohol, you're simply eating your feelings no longer drinking them. A heart attack ready to happen. The very reason we need two pilots at all times. But often pilots commit suicide in this program. The chair of Delta's HIMS program did just that. 

The second reason I have issue with the HIMS program is that airlines use this program as a tool of retaliation, not unlike Section 15, to rid itself of pilots. They place you in the program and administer a non-FDA approved Dry Blood Spot (DBS) PEth test that is known to produce false positives... career over. This is what happened to Delta Captain Ratfield as a form of retaliation. The reason to put her in HIMS because she was "raped" is almost more ridiculous than putting a pilot in the program who doesn't drink. 

Furthermore, does anyone think that telling a pilot who doesn't drink that the HIMS program is his get out of jail free card because he exercises too much?

The HIMS program is a free ticket to termination,
via a connection through hell.

Warning to Pilots


When bullets 1, 2 and 3 miss, fire number 4! 

Bullet 4: PATH

They failed the Section 15, couldn't get dirt from Delta, he refused to into the HIMS program, what could possibly be next? "PATH" 

May 2022, Kandy Bernskoetter reached out to Phil to get him into the PATH program: 

"PATH is available for pilots seeking 
psychological, or
medical assistance."

Phil has only been seeking fixes to the maintenance problems that could have been catastrophic on multiple accounts. I know Kandy. She assisted connecting me to some pilots during my research, after I was cleared. However, during my event, unbeknownst to me, she had reached out to her counterpart at Delta, Mark Pinsky, to ask about my being diagnosed bipolar. FedEx appears to have an open door with Delta when they are snooping into a pilot's life.

She told me that she did not believe that could happen later in life and asked Mark Pinsky. Mark said, "Yes, it can. Ask my sister, she's a psychiatrist." Then Mark put Kandy on the phone with his sister the psychiatrist who told Kandy why I could be bipolar later in life.

I'm uncertain if Kandy knew at the time that ALPA legal had been trying to convince me to go to Mark Pinsky's sister as the final and binding doctor. I had refused because of a conflict of interest, a violation of the contract and those little hairs were standing up. Kandy did not share this information with me until after I was cleared and returned to work. Therefore I dodged a bullet on my own. I later asked her to testify. She refused. I told her I planned to subpoena her, and she became livid.  

Kandy Bernskoetter

Now Kandy is encouraging Phil to go down the mental path in another manner, on his own, despite a clearance during his mental health evaluation, followed by his refusal into HIMS due to his lack of alcohol consumption. 


When bullets 1, 2, 3, and 4 end up in a brick wall, fire bullet 5!  

Bullet 5: Threaten IRS Action

ALPA is now agitated and threatening. Why do they care? Good question. Phil has gone non-qual; therefore, he doesn't need sick leave, he can't fly because of the company having pulled him. They have to pay him. However, ALPA is pissed he's not using up his sick leave. They threaten him with the IRS because they assert he is not filing his taxes properly. I faced the same issue (less the IRS threat). Delta made me use not only my sick leave, but vacation too. I should have been as smart as Phil, because I was non-qualed and did not have to use my sick leave or vacation. The judge, however, made Delta reimburse me for vacation and the sick leave was a use it or lose it option. 

For Phil, and me, ALPA would not make any effort to find any discovery for the pending grievance hearings. How far will this go? 


When bullets 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 miss, let's go for number 6, the final round in the chamber.

Bullet 6: The Hearing

Throughout all this time, Phil had never seen a written complaint. He asked ALPA over and over again. He then goes out on disability due to sleep issues. Clearly exacerbated by the stress of this ongoing attack. Not only from the company, but the knowledge that ALPA is helping FedEx, not him.

The letter of complaint finally arrives. But not to Phil, to Captain Sid Graham, 767 Chief Pilot. He received a copy of the complaint on August 4, from Captain Whearty, who received his copy from Veronica Swink. Whearty says, "Thanks Roni" and passes it on. 

Captain Sid Graham
(Any relation to Jim?) 

"Crapping In My Pants"

Sid's response, "Kevin, If I received an email like this with this level of detail I would be crapping in my pants! Shock and awww." 

Phil did not get to crap in his pants, because they had been blocked him from FedEx email. He never received that email. But, one would think a letter of this magnitude detailing his pending grievance hearing and the complaint, that would be held on August 13, 2022, would have been presented to him in a timely manner. Well, at the very least before the hearing. 

Captain Phil Seubert was finally invited to his own hearing on September 3, 2022, three weeks after the hearing date of August 13, with a FedEx delivery. While the company manufactured past events in this document, if any event they alluded to in their final hour attack were true, they were required by law to address those events at the time of occurrence if they impacted safety, or were in fact a violation of any kind. Not 1-2 years later, after they fired 5 bullets to get rid of him. 

Fighting Back with 
and Attorney Lee Seham

There is nobody that understands labor law and the AIR21 statute better than Lee Seham. Phil is in good hands, and is scheduled for trial in November. Precedent has already been established that a psychiatric evaluation is retaliation. I think we should create precedent the many other ways they tried to get him as retaliation, too, such as the HIMS program, digging up dirt with another company, requesting reports "after" the pilot was placed in disciplinary action.  

Phil meets all elements of the AIR21. Why are they going to trial? Perhaps the same reason Delta did... ignorance, ego, insurance paying their fees and a war of attrition. Like bad gamblers, they could not walk away from the table even though they lost with each flop of the cards. I hope that the board of directors at FedEx will understand that Airlines should invest in fixing their equipment, verus attempting to rid itself of pilots who report safety concerns. There is an amicable solution. But, if they go to trial, we'll have the courtroom full. 

A month before everyone's bidding schedule, I'll provide the date and time of this trial. These are public trials and the public is invited to watch. 

If you haven't signed my petition yet, please do so: 

Until we slap punitive damages on these airlines and hold all individuals involved accountable, airlines will continue to persecute pilots for reporting safety. Until we eliminate the RLA, ALPA will continue, pilots be damned, to use the arbitration process to rid itself of pilots airline management wants gone. 

Enjoy the Journey! 
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727


  1. Wow. How appalling!

  2. Never knew FedEx would do this kind of job, always thought FedEx was invented by pilot for pilots. They used to provide industry leading contract for pilots. It's sad to see this.

    1. Joel, they were certainly the favorite choice among the pilots once upon a time. I suppose you get bad actors everywhere. Look at SWA, even their culture has changed.

  3. Sadly Warren lied for Delta too. He told me himself. Then he also refused to testify or help. In the end, he took his own life.

    1. Do you ever wonder if Warren took his life for the guilt of how many people he harmed? I wonder if there is a point when you can't forgive yourself, have done too much harm, you don't see a way out.

  4. So much wrong and so much fear mongering in this article. FedEx reacted immediately and there were massive changes to procedures almost immediately. The FCIFs were not targeted at the crew. The crew was laudednand those FCIFs were to alert crews to be diligent. Did you even reach out to FDX ALPA to get any facts?

    1. This article was written (copied) from the legal complaint. And, I read the emails between Delta and FedEx, and the timing of their actions. It's almost a comedy routine of the many ways they've tried to get rid of him. We'll let the judge decide on this one. But ALPA, I know how they operate, and I know how they use the HIMS program to get rid of pilots. I know how they worked with Delta in my case. But seriously, putting him in HIMS when he doesn't even drink? If it smells like a dead rat... probably is.

    2. No there is no fear mongering. The Chief pilot and his ASSitant Chief pilot and Traing Manager and Traing department will lie to protect their jobs. Ask how many traing department insttimuctors are alcoholics and pay the schedulars to get draft pay. They make in excess of $700 thousand a year. Why would they not lie again

    3. Thank you for sharing this. It's hard for people to believe, because normal people with integrity and a conscious would not behave in this manner. But, sadly they do.

  5. What a fact-packed, hard-hitting story. This topic doesn't get nearly enough attention. Please share Karlene's stories wherever you can--they're vital! As a fellow writer, Karlene, I am in awe of how prolific you are with your continued in-depth investigative pieces.

    1. Thank you Sarah, Thank you for keeping these stories at the forefront too. Your efforts with the sexual harassment and discrimination is giving a voice to women who otherwise don't have one.

  6. This is a common tactic at FedEx. The Senior Chief Pilot and ASSistant Chief pilot bully people into see Dr. Tilton. They will even lie to get people into this program. The training department is full of alcoholics and people who should not be passing their Class 1 physical. They pass it because they all go to one AME in particular at Minford TN

    1. My friend at Delta was raped at an aviation event, after years of reported sexual harassment that management did nothing about. Then they put her in the HIMS program because of that rape. Then they set her up for a false positive with the PEth test. Delta is trying to pull this out of court to go to a grievance process of which they own thanks to ALPA. If that were to happen, I'm going to be very upset. Nobody has seen me upset yet. This will be interesting.

  7. It will be 1 year on the 14th since my son took his life. After reading this horror story, I think I'm glad he isn't flyng for Delta any longer. What a nightmare this business is. Trying to get help would likely have been worse than what happened.

    1. Annie, sadly... getting help does feel worse. This should not be the case. My heartfelt condolences are with you!!


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