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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.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Living Your Best Life


"Help Hawaii Win!"

Kayla Woputz

My middle daughter, Dr. Kayla Woputz, is living her best life thanks to adaptive sports. I took Kayla to Hawaii at the age of 13, and she learned how to surf, and then continued surfing all through college at USB.  Throughout her youth she was also a dancer, competitive swimmer, and she competed in track and field. But at the age of 21 she was paralyzed during a back surgery to correct scoliosis.

She eventually got some feeling back and taught herself to walk. But over the course of her life she hid her pain and limitations the best she could. Now, after multiple back surgeries, the prognosis says she'll live her life in a wheelchair. That's when she's not on her racing bike, or on her surfboard, that is. 

For those are wheelchair bound... the oceans are open to you, too! The most incredible athletes I have ever met are those who participate in adaptive sports. They do not complain. They are supportive of each other. And they are always smiling. Not only is my daughter one of the coolest people I know, but her smile is real thanks to her ability to live her best life competing in a variety of sports.  And she is on the Hawaii Adaptive Surf Team and headed to competition. 

World Surf Competition
Huntington Beach California 
November 4-11, 2023

28 Countries Will Compete!
I'll be there cheering them on, 
and I hope to see you there too!

The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The Parasurf World Championships have been held since 2015, and the 2022 championships hosted over 180 athletes from 28 countries. This year Huntington Beach, California will host the competition from Nov 4-11, 2023. 

Meet The Hawaii Team! 

The Hawaii Team will be competing in 9 categories  based on disability type and mobility level. Twelve surfers from various islands will compete this year for Team Hawaii. 

Team List: 

Carter Perry, Oahu- Men’s Below Knee Standing Division, IG: carter_parry 

Ann Yoshida, Oahu- Women’s Prone 2 Division, IG: annyoguava 

Kayla Woputz, Oahu- Women’s Prone 1 Division, IG: dr.woputz 

Dustin Meza, Oahu- Men’s Kneel Division, IG: paralysis_assassin 

Mike Coots, Kauai- Above Knee Standing Division, IG: mikecoots 

Evan Strong, Maui- Above Knee Standing Division, IG: evan_strong 

Shelby Estacado, Oahu- Wave Ski Division, IG: estooooooo 

Josh Bogle, Maui- Men’s Kneel Division, IG: Joshybogle 

Aaron Paulk, Maui- Men’s Visual Impairment 2 Division, IG: Blindish_Surfer 

Eric Lazar, Kauai- Men’s Prone 2 Division, IG: ericlazar3 

Scott Davis, Maui- Men’s Prone 2 Division, IG: blownc5 

Casey Proud, Hawaii- Men’s Prone 1 Division, IG: shakaloha1000 

The Maui Challenge

These athletes depend upon donors and sponsorship. Sadly, many of the long-time donors and sponsors have lost their homes and businesses in the fire. Two of the Hawaii surf team members and their head coach were directly impacted by the fires in Lahaina as well. It's hard enough to deal with life challenges of losing your home, but when you don't have legs or are blind, the challenges become more so. It's difficult to imagine the challenges so many face. But we can help. 

Three of their athletes live on the mainland and are self-funding their trips to Huntington, but there are s 9 athletes and 1-2 coaches that need support to make it to competition. Anything can help. 

Kayla says: 
We are seeking help in the following ways:

"All of my donations are going to go to the team, 
I'm self funding my trip." 

You can also donate at the team's main fundraising page found HERE: Donate

"Funds will be used directly to help athletes travel and compete at worlds. Anything raised over the goal amount will be used to help our athletes who lost equipment seek replacements. Donations of things that can be used in an online silent Auction in early October. This is typically held in person in Lahaina, but this year will be moved online. Any In-Kind donations or connections in the way of tickets from Honolulu and Maui to LAX, or accommodations in Huntington Beach from Nov 3-12th."

Visit the World's Website to Learn More about the organization

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; 
it’s whether you get up.” 
Vince Lombardi

Let's Do This!
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Safety Culture

When the System is Broken   

The reason Aviation Regulations exist are to protect the traveling public. But when an Airline does not follow regulations and when the FAA tends to look the other way when that happens, and the AIR21 statute does not punish or prevent retaliation against those who report safety, the accident rate will increase. 

Delta has proven this theory to be true. I am not saying this is not ongoing at other airlines, but I am closely familiar what is happening at Delta. 

Safety Management Systems (SMS) was enacted to reduce the accident rate. This risk mitigation tool requires a positive safety culture. A positive safety culture requires a reporting, learning, informed and just culture. I believe everything an airline does reflects its safety culture. 

Unfortunately, Delta Air Lines disagrees. Delta told the Judge, during my trial, that Safety Culture was a vague sort of term

“The word Safety Culture used in this case quite a bit, and that's a vague sort of a term, Safety Culture. I think Ms. Petitt will contend that pretty much everything an air carrier does, from interpersonal relationships to diversity, to compensation, to allegations of unequal treatment, all that impacts Safety Culture in some way.”

Delta’s accident rate is increasing annually, despite their SMS. What is frightening, is that there are only 6 months remaining until the end of 2023 and nothing appears to be changing. There is no accountability at the airline.

Delta mechanic Mark Wheeler's hpurs were cut because he reported that Delta failed to address an AD for over 14 years. Last week Delta lost two different motions to dismiss cases brought against the company. One case was a flight attendant was repeatedly raped by her Delta pilot husband, and the company did nothing to him and retaliated against her. The other was harassment and retaliation of Captain Ratfield. She had the audacity to report a Delta pilot for putting a gun into his mouth and threatening to kill himself, multiple times. The company took no action with the pilot, but they ultimately locked her down in an alcohol treatment center for five months, after she was raped, telling her she would be terminated if she did not comply. 

I know of other events where NDA's were signed, and others where pilots were terminated. But they each began with safety concerns. Yes, Safety Culture is in everything. It's the Culture of the airline. A negative safety culture will impact the accident rate. 


2023: 5
2022: 4
2021: 3
2020: 3
2019: 2

Why is Delta’s accident rate at an all-time high? 

More so, why is this airline's accident rate increasing? Safety Management Systems is a Federal Regulation that was enacted to mitigate risk. Delta has an SMS, so why isn't it working? 

To be effective, SMS requires a positive safety culture. A positive safety culture requires every employee to feel comfortable to report safety concerns free from retaliation. That could be the reason right there.   

I read an excellent an article by Robert Sumwalt: Convinced That You Have a Good Safety Culture?    

“Talk is cheap.
Actions and behaviors 
are what counts.” 

Robert Sumwalt

Sumwalt asserts a healthy safety culture is “where employees feel comfortable reporting safety concerns. To create a robust reporting culture, the organization needs trust and a just culture. Without a robust reporting culture, safety problems can go unresolved.”   

When Safety Problems go Unresolved,
Accidents Follow

Captain Sumwalt also warned us to, “Beware when someone tells you they have a good safety culture or that safety is their top priority.” He stated, 

“Whenever I hear these phrases,
I want to waive a BS flag.”

Ed Bastian

During his deposition, Ed Bastian testified: 

“Safety is our priority across all aspects of our business.
It is our number one priority.”

James Graham

Endeavor CEO,  James Graham, testified: 

“We always tell our pilots safety is the only thing out there, 
it's the number one priority.”

I’m guessing Captain Sumwalt is waving his BS flag at Delta’s CEO and Chairman of the Board, Ed Bastian, and Endeavor's CEO, James Graham. 

Safety Culture is Essential
for Aviation Safety

Safety Culture permeates every part of the company. I based my doctoral research on the operational procedures at Delta, and the results were jaw dropping. You can read them in Normalization of Deviance, a Threat to Aviation Safety. 

The results of my research were based upon a worldwide population, not just Delta. But Delta was the reason behind the research. Delta Air Lines has proven the impact of a negative safety culture and that the AIR12 statute is ineffective if the airline decides to engage in a war of attrition.

Unfortunately Delta’s Safety record is getting worse, not better. There have been 90 accidents worldwide in the previous 6 months, and Delta has had five of them. This means that Delta had just under 6% of the world accidents in the previous six months.

Until airline management can hold themselves accountable and take the necessary steps to solve safety concerns, instead of retaliating against employees who report them, I’m afraid these accidents won’t go away, but will continue to grow as they have. 

I cannot speak to other airlines, because I do not have the first-hand knowledge that I do with Delta. But I can tell you that if the government doesn’t crack down on the FAA to enforce regulations and ensure accountability, and if they do not change the AIR21 Statute ,with much needed improvements to ensure employees are free to speak out, everyone will be playing Russian Roulette when they get on an airplane. 

The data from the accidents came from an excellent source. Check out your favorite airline and see how they are doing. 

Take Action Now

If you have been harmed,
or are being retaliated against
Join me at

(Get your tickets here)

Washington DC 
September 7-8th  

This conference is a two-day event that focuses on spreading awareness and networking within the safe workspace & whistleblowing community. There will be variety of high-profile attorneys, social workers, and congressional guest speakers who are spearheading the movement, as well as whistleblowers.  I will be the keynote speaker. If you need someone to talk to about your event, this is the place to be.  If your health is suffering from your event, you won't want to miss my talk. 

Speak Out For Safety
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Delta Uses The RLA To Avoid Accountability

Instead of Solving the Problem


Captain Ratfield Will Get Her Day in Court! 

Delta Air Lines utilizes the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to get away with illegal actions. The airline, under the management of CEO and Board of Directors, Ed Bastian, has a history of retaliation and sexual harassment. They also have a history of filing motions to remove these cases from the courtroom and pull them into the grievance process, of which they own both the arbitrator and the process. 

Delta files motions to dismiss these cases based upon preemption. Meaning they tell the court that the airline has a contract and these simple disputes belong in the grievance process. There are many reasons to file a motion to dismiss, but preemption appears to be Delta's favorite tactic when Delta knows they cannot win in the courtroom. Sadly, this "airplane court" is similar to a kangaroo court. This is where Delta can always win. 

While Delta got a little relief on the discrimination charge, the judge deeming it a close call, Delta lost on both harassment and retaliation against Captain Ratfield. Below is a paragraph from the order.

On 8/11/2023 Rules: 

Katherine Menendez
United States District Judge

Rules Against Delta: 

"Delta argues that Ms. Ratfield’s claims under both Title VII and the MHRA are preempted by the FAA, the Court disagrees that her federal claims are preempted by this statute. As detailed above, FAA preemption stems from the Supremacy Clause and not from a statutory requirement. Delta conceded at the hearing that it could not find any case in which a court held that the FAA preempted Title VII claims, let alone claims under any other federal statute. Yet Delta maintained that the rationale for FAA preemption applies equally to state and federal claims. This cannot be so."

Read the order to included details of the case here.

Delta Does It AGAIN 

"Jane Doe" was a Delta Flight Attendant repeatedly raped by her husband, a pilot for Delta. She reported this to Delta and despite Ed Bastian, CEO and Chairman of the Board's 2020 memo to the employees: 

"As your leader, I take ownership of that performance and am committed to correcting our course as we become a more just, equal and anti-racist company."

Ed did not follow through, and has not taken any ownership to solve the problem. Nor did he protect this women. Instead, after Josephine reported the rapes by a Delta pilot, he was subsequently promoted to Captain and she was removed from duty and sent to a mental health evaluation. A tactic I know far too well. 


A different state, a different court, and a different judge denied another of Delta's motions to dismiss on the same day. 

On 8/11/2023

United States District Judge


During an Aural Argument 

Delta's Motion to Dismiss was: Denied

When You See The Rats
The Problem is Out of Control

The problem with these legal actions against Delta is that they do not cost Delta anything. When someone takes action against the airline, Delta's insurance pays. Nobody is held accountable. This was the reason Delta had engaged in a war of attrition against me. Delta knew that attorney fees for a complainant under the AIR21 statute are "reasonable" fees, not all the fees, but typically 90%. Delta has unlimited funds due to their defense being financed by insurance. They knew there would be a point that even when I won, I would lose. They just underestimated me. They have also underestimated Josephine and Andrea. 

Typically Delta buys the silence of the employees when they lose. They tried to buy my silence when they offered the settlement, I refused. There are more of these cases ongoing than the public knows. And Delta is not the only airline doing this. But, I know of many cases at Delta. 

Where is the accountability of Ed Bastian the CEO and Chairman of the Board? He is aware of the retaliation and he approves this litigation. The strength of an airline is only as good as the leader. Leadership and ethics are tied directly to safety.  

I cannot believe that the case of the drunk Delta Passenger molesting a mother and her daughter on a Delta flight is not a result of Delta's culture, and lack of leadership. 

If leadership does not protect their employees, 
what makes you think the employees 
will protect the passengers?

Delta will most likely battle this out in court because insurance covers their legal defense, and there is no accountability at the leadership level. If I were Delta, I would simply apologize and pay them without forcing them to go to court, and make the necessary changes. 

People Make a Difference
Do Not Fear Speaking Out! 
Your Voice Will Be Heard!

If you have been harmed, 
or are being retaliated against 
You Need to Join me at 

(Get your tickets here)

Washington DC 
September 7-8th  

This conference is a two-day event that focuses on spreading awareness and networking within the safe workspace & whistleblowing community. There will be variety of high-profile attorneys, social workers, and congressional guest speakers who are spearheading the movement, as well as whistleblowers.  I will be the keynote speaker. If you need someone to talk to about your event, this is the place to be.  If your health is suffering from your event, you won't want to miss my talk. 


Never Fear Speaking Out
Your voice will be heard
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727


Monday, August 7, 2023

Supplemental Training Material

How Good Is Your Training?

Last week I shared a book by David Kern, Introduction to Fly-By-Wire Control Systems, to help pilots understand the fly-by-wire aircraft. There became quite a debated on who is responsible for training, that began with the following comment: 

"Writing books trying to explain or teach airplane systems should be the sole business of the manufacturer, the airliner operator and the official training provider."

Who is Responsible?

During my research I queried pilots on performance, training, passion, manual flight and safety culture. I had asked the pilots surveyed if they used supplemental training information such as study guides, notes from friend and or on-line training material beyond company provided materials, and was it necessary.    

As it turned out, of the 7,490 pilots spanning the globe who responded, 80% stated that they had used supplemental training information during their initial checkout, and 50% of those pilot’s said that supplemental information was necessary. 

What would happen if those pilots relied on the company training manuals and aircraft system's manual if those weren't enough? 

Is it the responsibility of the pilot to get what they need on their own if the airline's training is substandard and the systems manuals don't improve understanding? And if pilots are not writing these books, where will the pilots find the needed information? Level of understanding is the key to operational performance... more so in a Fly-By-Wire aircraft. I want to applaud all those who help fill that void with your writing. 

Pilots Need More Training, Not Less
When a Computer is Involved

What do you think?

If you're interested in the results and more... check out:

Normalization of Deviance A Threat to Aviation Safety! 

Fly Safe! Never Stop Learning! 
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727

Friday, August 4, 2023

Fly By Wire

A Total Understanding

Friday's Fabulous Flyer 

Anyone who knows David Kern also knows that he enjoys both writing and reading books, especially books about aviation. We recently connected and I had the opportunity to read his book, Introduction to Fl-by-Wire Control Systems

David wrote this book because he wanted to improve aviation safety through a better understanding of  modern aircraft controls. He did just that in his book.  And you will benefit from his effort. It's an easy read, not a heavy book. It's fly-by-wire made simple. 

I wish I'd read this before my first
fly-by-wire type rating!

Flying modern aircraft equipped with fly-by-wire systems has become the norm in our industry. While these systems have many advantages, they also bring unique complexities that demand thorough understanding for safe and effective operations. 

This book was written for pilots, not engineers, and actually simplifies the intricacies of fly-by-wire flight control systems. Safety, professionalism, and integrity have always been my top priorities throughout my career. I also cannot overstate the importance of having a higher level of understanding. Understanding the nuances of fly-by-wire systems could help even the most experienced pilot make better-informed system management decisions. It could also prevent an accident. 

This week Ben Schlappig, on One Mile at A Time, brought to our attention that a United A320 had a tail strike and kept flying seven more flights. He questioned how they could keep flying. Answer... that's a culture issue. But what's most amazing is "how" those pilots turned a perfectly stable approach at 1000 feet into a tail strike. But it's not really surprising if the pilots lacked an understanding of the fly-by-wire technology. Clearly they did. I saw this coming the moment the FO pushed his nose down to "watch his speed" at 60 feet. I was cringing as I waited for impact. Why? How did I know? It's the technology of fly-by-wire. Had those pilots read this book, I do not believe they would have had a tail strike in the first place. 

My advice to United, and all airlines who fly any Airbus, you would be money ahead to require all your Airbus pilots to read this book. 

What I appreciate most about David Kern's writing was his ability to simplify and explain the technical information, making it understandable to pilots of all experience levels. He makes the concepts relatable with practical examples, bridging the gap between theory and real-world application. 

From control laws to envelope protection and system redundancies, Introduction to Fly-by- Wire Flight Control Systems covers a lot in a quick, easy read. This book provides valuable insights into how these systems function, and how they can interact with  decision-making and aircraft handling. 

David has a unique background as a USAF fighter pilot and test pilot, with flying stories from a wide and diverse fleet of aircraft. He had told me that he wrote the book simply because there wasn’t anything else available on the subject of fly-by-wire that’s been written for pilots, just complicated engineering textbooks that didn’t really explain why the systems are designed this way. 

Get your copy of Introduction to Fly-by-Wire Flight Control Systems on Amazon today.

He also teaches an online short course on fly-by-wire systems for pilots at DAEDALUS AEROSPACE

In our profession, knowledge is power, and deeper knowledge of our aircraft systems directly translates to safer flights. As we strive to maintain the highest standards of professionalism, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. As David say's 

"Fly safe, stay curious, 
and never stop learning!" 

Connect with David
on twitter (@David_Kern),

Fly Safe! Never Stop Learning! 
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Whistleblowers at Delta Air Lines

Cannot Be Silenced

Judge Finds Delta Took Adverse Action
Against Whistleblower Aircraft Mechanic

Back in 2019, Aviation Maintenance Technician, Mark Wheeler communicated to his supervisors, and then the FAA, that Delta Air Lines tooling equivalency process was not compliant with Federal Standards. One of Mark's communications concerned Delta’s failure to comply with an FAA Airworthiness Directive for over fourteen years. His reports concerned the maintenance of aircraft engine wiring harnesses, which are related to the electrical systems that control airplane functions. 

The FAA Agreed! 

The FAA thanked Mr. Wheeler for his report, in the letter below, and concurred with his determination of Delta's non- compliance. They (FAA) even advised him that they would take “appropriate action to address the matter.” 

From: FAA Hotline (

To: (Mark Wheeler Email redacted)

Date: Monday, December 9, 2019, 01:48 PM EST

Dear Mr. Mark Wheeler:

The FAA’s Delta Airlines Certificate Management Office has completed their investigation of your safety allegations in case S20190916002. The investigation found that current procedures and policies are not adequate for the manuals where a nondescript designation of calibrated test equipment is to be used. Accordingly, the FAA is taking appropriate action to address the matter.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.


Reporting and Data Analysis Branch
Federal Aviation Administration Office of Audit and Evaluation
800 Independence Avenue SW, Room 911 |Washington DC 20591

Delta Did Not Thank
Mark Wheeler For His Report

Instead, when his fellow aircraft mechanics were recalled from a COVID-related furlough, Delta refused to restore Mark to his regular forty- hour work week. Mark filed an AIR21 complaint. 

In a decision issued July 28, 2023, Federal Administrative Law Judge Theodore W. Annos held that Aviation Maintenance Technician Mark Wheeler had engaged in protected whistleblower activity by communicating to his supervisors and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that Delta Air Lines’ tooling equivalency process was not in compliance with federal standards. 

Judge Annos found that it was “undisputed” that Delta had taken an adverse action against Mr. Wheeler. The issues of Delta’s liability and damages remains to be determined in a full trial pursuant to the AIR 21 whistleblower statute.

Bret Oestreich, President of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), which represents aviation maintenance technicians at numerous airlines, including Southwest, Alaska, and Spirit, commented: 

"Failing to comply with an FAA Airworthiness Directive for over fourteen years is jaw- slackening. If there is any non-compliance related to an aircraft’s electrical system, that plane is un-airworthy, period. That plane should not be in the National Air Space; it should be on the ground getting fixed.”

 “Delta needs to overhaul its maintenance culture.”

Bret Oestreich

Note: Delta Mechanics are not represented by a union, leaving them unprotected. I would like to see AMFA on Delta's property to help these mechanics survive the threat of termination when they attempt to improve safety by doing their jobs correctly. 

Samuel Seham, Mark Wheeler's attorney, states:

“An aircraft mechanic who identifies violations of FAA safety standards should receive a commendation, rather than suffer an adverse action.” 

Having lived an Air21 battle with Delta I was hoping the culture would have changed, but it has not. The problem is that the AIR21 Law does not have punitive damages, there is no accountability, and insurance finances the airline's legal bills. Without appropriate punishment against the individuals involved inappropriate behavior will continue and safety will be in jeopardy. 

We could ask Ed Bastian, Delta's CEO and Chairman of the Board to comment on this situation. But, after sitting through his deposition, I'm uncertain if that option will provide anything of value. Below is the shortened version of his deposition, to include only his responses. Note: There are actually 62 memory lapses, not 30 as the depiction indicates. 

If you are an airline employee who has been harmed because you are attempting to improve safety, you need to reach out to Seham, Seham, Meltz & Petersen, LLP. 

Mark Wheeler's representation is Samuel Seham, the son of my attorney Lee Seham. Both are brilliant, honest, and have a full understanding of employment law.  But this huge win against Delta's high-powered outsourced attorneys goes to Samuel Seham. Well deserved. 

Seham, Seham, Meltz & Petersen, LLP   

The continuation of bad behavior is the very reason we need AIR21 reform. If you have not read the proposed AIR21 changes, or signed the petition, I ask you to do so HERE. I was told this would be on the FAA 2023 Reauthorization Bill. But instead, they included a $25,000 fine for the statue. That's nothing more than 2 Delta First Class tickets on an International flight--- a slap on the hand. When Delta can spend $20 million defending a case and the employee might get 90% of their attorney fees reimbursed, this is not justice, nor does it solve the problem. Compensatory damages, no accountability, and a paltry fine won't change the behavior. Your voice might make a difference. 

Speak Out For Safety
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727