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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, October 25, 2023

A Cry For Help!

Is the Flight Deck Safe

Joseph David Emerson was booked on 83 counts of attempted murder. He said that he had tried psychedelic mushrooms days before he climbed into a jumpseat on Horizon and headed to work in San Francisco to fly his Alaska 737. He said he was awake for over 40 hours. He said he was suffering from depression. He is being tried for multiple counts of murder because he tried to pull the fire switches, but there is something missing in all the reports of this story. 

What is missing are a few logistical facts: 

If David Emerson 
Wanted to Kill the Passengers
Everyone Would be Dead! 

This was a cry for help. If he really wanted to shut down the engines, he would have pulled the fuel control switches and could have immediately and instantly killed both engines and everyone on the plane. The fire switches, however, unless there is a fire, are locked and would take two hands to pull one. One to unlock and the other to pull. Therefore, if he was pulling on both the switches, everyone in that flight deck knew he would not be successful due to that locking mechanism, even Emerson would know that. Furthermore, the jumpseat is directly in front of, and blocking, the door. If he did not want to go out of that flightdeck, those pilots would not be able to force him out unless he was incapacitated. 

The part I believe is that he was depressed, and this was a cry for help. Depression is real among pilots. Delta pilot, Brian Wittke, took his life on June 14, 2022, and is one of many Delta pilots who have done the same. 

How safe is the flight deck? 

Robert MacLean has been fighting for barriers on the doors for years, to no avail. But what could block a pilot who is authorized for entering the flightdeck and has a mental health issue? Perhaps honesty and disclosure by the airlines themselves. Did you know the airlines hide their concerns for mental health from the FAA?

Delta had decided to pull me for a mental health concern, asserting I could be like the Germanwings pilot. Yet the day that decision had been made, I was sitting in on an Alaska Airlines jumpseat. How is that possible? Well, because Airlines and the Unions have agreed to it. 

I never lost my medical during the two years I did not fly. However, Delta finally violated the contract and notified the FAA when the Mayo Clinic found me fit, after I was diagnosed as bipolar, and was issued my medical, once again. So when I was found fit, they reported me. When Delta thought I had a problem, they kept it hidden. 

If you don't know this story, watch MAXIMUS or read the Seattle Times. Following is what the courts learned during my trial as to how Delta Air Lines hides their concerns from their pilots with mental health. Trust me when I say, the Judge was not happy with the following testimony. 

Airlines Hide 
Mental Health Concerns

“Does the FAA have to review collective bargaining agreements? Does the FAA have an opportunity to see what's in it?” Ira Rosenstein, Delta's attorney asked.

“No. The FAA does not see them,” Christopher Puckett, Delta's in house Labor Relations attorney testified.

“Do you know whether the FAA is aware of these policies and programs?” Ira asked.

“I'm certain the FAA is aware of ours,” Puckett said.

“How are you so certain?” Ira asked.

“Well, I can tell you that right now the Federal Air Surgeon used to perform the role at Delta that Dr. Faulkner performs,” Puckett said.

“Who is that?” Ira asked.

“That's Michael Berry.”

“So, the company's former flight surgeon is now responsible for the FAA's—” Judge Morris says.

But Puckett cuts him off and says, “He's our former flight surgeon but he performed medical reviews for … on behalf of Delta in the late '90s. And this issue, these issues have come up periodically. I mean, Delta was in, you know, litigation in the '90s over different things. This is … you know, and it's gone on and on. And of course, in this case, the FAA was made aware of what was going on in this case.”

SIDE NOTE... This "litigation" he spoke of was due to a pilot, Captain Wayne O. Wittier, Captain WOW, reporting pension fraud at Delta, and Delta paying a doctor to call him crazy. That doctor they paid was Michael Berry. The judge told Berry he could not work for the Delta ever again. So, what does he do? Of course he becomes the top FAA medical director. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Back to trial:

“If I understood your testimony correctly, you testified that you became aware that, at some point in 2017, Ms. Petitt had obtained her certificate from the FAA,” Ira said.

“Correct,” Puckett said.

“And were you surprised by that in any way, or did you find that to be completely normal?” Ira asked.

“It was a surprise, because again, she had just received a determination from the CME of bipolar disorder,” Puckett said, with deepest concern.

“And wait a minute,” Judge Morris interrupted, “And so what? You've hid it from them… hid it from the FAA so far so what's the difference?”

“Well, because the difference is, for the pilot, a pilot has to disclose that information,” Puckett said.

“So, you're relying on 6153, on the pilot,” Judge Morris countered. “What about 121.383 for the operator?”

“I'm not familiar with that one, Judge,” Puckett said.

“So, you don't believe that the company has any obligation to report when there's a diagnosis, a disqualifying diagnosis—” Judge Morris said.

“According to this contract—” Puckett said cutting him off again.

“I'm talking about the FAA, the regulations,” Judge Morris said.

“That's…yes. Because at that point, it's still… it's still… as part of this process, it's still ongoing and has not been finalized. So, I would 1 say that the company would not, at that point, have an obligation until the process has run its course,” Puckett said.

“But that same rationale does not apply to the pilot?” Morris asked.

“I think the pilot has to disclose on that form that they have that diagnosis and give the FAA the opportunity to explore that,” Ira said.

“And what makes you think that… what gives you a basis to believe that they didn't disclose and the FAA decided to issue it anyhow?” Judge Morris asked.

“That was the point, Judge. Nobody knew the answer to that question. So, that's why Dr. Faulkner felt like he was in a difficult position and needed to find out what was going on,” Puckett explained.

“Do you understand the optics that I'm seeing here is that it's okay when it's beneficial for the company not to disclose information to the FAA, but when it's not beneficial to the company, it is being disclosed to the FAA,” Judge Morris said.

“Well, I think the difference is, is that the pilot was under no obligation to go get a medical at that point. There is nothing to say, ‘Yeah. I have to go renew my medical because’—"

“Where does it say that?” Judge Morris asked.

“Well, it doesn't say it anywhere but she’s not able to operate an airplane for Delta,” Puckett said again.

“With a first class medical, can't you operate as a GA pilot?” Judge Morris asked.

“I would assume you can,” Puckett said.

“Okay,” Judge Morris said. “You need to have a medical. You need to have at least a basic medical. And if there's something disqualifying, you have to have a special issuance. So, explain to me this inconsistency.”

Puckett said, “By consistency, I mean, what's on the forms for the FAA when the pilot goes in and gets a medical, they are voluntarily going and doing that. They're saying, ‘I'm here and I'm going to go do this, and I'm going to be honest and upfront on all of these forms.’ And that's fine. If all of that is disclosed, the FAA gets to look at it and makes its decision. The company, on the other hand is… has no… I don't think, an obligation until we went all the way through this process. We were trying to follow the process and get to the end of it. And if we could have gotten to the end of it, then, at that point, then we have an obligation. That's when our obligation is triggered. Now that's the best that I can explain it where I believe that… where our requirements are under that.”

“And you understand the consequences to a pilot if they lie on their medical application. Don't you?” Judge Morris asked.

“I do,” Puckett said.

“What are they?”

“Well, you can permanently lose your license and you can lose your liberty,” Puckett said.

“Well, that's not quite true,” Judge Morris said.

“It's criminal. It's a criminal law,” Puckett said, his face now a shade redder that when this argument began.

“It’s a one-year revocation. There's a couple of exceptions for life-time revocation which this wouldn't apply but go ahead,” Judge Morris said.

Who is Responsible to Tell the FAA?

NOTE: Dr. Michael Berry retired within days of my winning this case against Delta. Yet, this process has not been changed at Delta. I am unaware if other airlines have the same provisions.

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

Friday, October 20, 2023

Kicking Over the Checker Board

Because We Didn't Win

On October 7, 2023 I posted an article about an Alaska Mechanic who won his grievance after testing positive for THC: Airlines And Random Drug Testing. He was truly a victim of circumstance. 

This 22-year mechanic has never taken drugs, has never had any work related issues. He's a family man with two children. He is also involved in his community. He attended a block party one day, with many tables of food. It was at this event he inadvertently and unknowingly consumed THC because some idiot put it in their food. He had no idea. He was not impaired. The next Monday he went to work. He happened to get a random drug test. 

During the Grievance Alaska Airlines Stipulated:

1) A positive THC result does not demonstrate impairment.

2) There is no evidence that the mechanic was performing his job in an unsafe manner at or around the time of the drug test at issue.

3) The mechanic completed his SAP evaluation and education program satisfactorily and there is no regulatory bar to his re-employment.

4) The medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington State.

Alaska Airlines is by far my favorite airline. I was so proud of them for not buying off the arbitrator. I have observed that action far too many times at Delta. Even DALPA reps will tell you that sometimes you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The pilot be damned. (Note, the only union on Delta's property is a pilot union).

When the arbitrator is bought during the grievance process, or told which way to rule, there is no justice for the employee. But this is the system that the airlines and the unions have contractually agreed to abide by. When the employee loses, they have no option and often find themselves without a job. 

What happens when they win? 

I thought the airline was required to reinstate the employee. Well, they are. But this time Alaska Airlines is arguing against the ruling and taking this mechanic to Federal court! 

Because they lost the ruling, the mechanic won, the airline is now going to stomp its feet and not accept it? That's exactly what happened. 

I see three major problems here:

1) The grievance process is worth nothing if an employee wins and the airline does not have to accept the ruling.


2) That an airline will go out of its way to destroy a person's career for something that they did not intentionally do, of which did not impact safety. 


3) Alaska's policy even allows for flight attendants and pilots to return to duty even if they intentionally smoked Marijuana or take any drugs of any kind. But a mechanic with who didn't know it was happening, is terminated. 

I want to believe that Alaska Airlines
Is better than this...

Should the company have to honor the grievance process when they lose? The employee does. This is simply wrong on so many levels. Is this just being a bad sport? I don't think they will win, but it makes me feel like a Delta tactic when they engaged in a war of attrition against me. If you think Alaska should reinstate the mechanic please tell them at:

Twitter @Alaska Air on

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

Monday, October 16, 2023

Aviation and the Law

Motion(s) To Dismiss

Captain Janning, as a First Officer, had to live through the horrific experience of her captain completely disrobing and masterbating in the cockpit then throwing his semen soaked napkin on her. You can read the story at The Landing or read the full Complaint Here. But last Thursday, October 12, I joined them in court as attorney's from SWAPA and SWA came together with Judge Eric Netcher. This was a public trial in the ninth circuit via Webex. As a last minute thought, I posted the invite on Twitter with the call in number, and as a result people who were not able to attend, asked me what happened. 

Before you read this, if you're unaware of this case, watch the Maximum Video Here . This is priceless. 

  This was a sporty hour!


At the beginning, Katie Molloy the SWA Attorney confirmed that the Christine added to her complaint that Captain Haak said he was going to crash the airplane and she therefore felt fear for her life and the lives of her passengers. Then SWA attorney Katie Molloy argued that: 

"Going out with a bang' is not an intent to commit harm 
and therefore no assault has been pled." 

In view of what happened with the Germanwings pilot who crashed his plane, killing everyone on board, because he knew he would never fly again, I might believe a statement made by a naked captain playing with himself in the flight deck, who had just bolted the door. His comment could be construed with intent to commit harm. His behavior was so outrageous, fulfilling his threat to cause harm was not out of the realm of possibility. 

The FBI uses reg flag words that identify a probable threat, and I suspect if they heard this statement, "Going out with a bang" on an airplane, by a pilot, would be enough for an investigation. 


Molloy then argued that being struck in the arm with the napkin covered in seminal fluid had no essential element of “intent to harm” for a successful battery claim. She said his intent was to throw it into the garbage and he accidentally hit her with it.

I'm wondering if a kid was standing by a garbage can and an adult threw their scalding cup of coffee at the garbage can but missed, hitting the little one, would that person be exempt from causing harm? Interesting enough, I did a little research and learned that in jail it's illegal to throw body fluids at someone. Why? Because they are detained and can't get away and just being exposed to bodily fluids (without actual contact) is considered a third degree felony of battery in the state of Florida. I would suspect a flight deck is in sense could be considered similar to a prison being the pilots are locked in and cannot flee. 

I'm also not sure about other pilots, but never in my 40 years of aviation experience have I ever been hit with garbage that was intended for the garbage can. Those bags are to the side, but actually behind the pilot. I would assert, based upon my experience, that he was not aiming for the trash. 


The SWA argument is that Haak locked the door from the inside to prevent others from coming in, not to confine Janning or prevent her from leaving. That bolt lock was at the top of the door. Haak moved from his seat to the jump seat with his naked legs blocking the door, he then stood naked, and blocked the door. He just didn't masterbate in his seat, he was all over the place. Regardless, the SWA argument is suggesting Janning could have gotten up and left. I'm not even going to justify that with an argument of my own. But I will say this: 

SWA, You Should Thank Christine
Not defend Haak's behavior. 

Had Christine got up and left that flight deck, after he was back in his seat, we could be reading a completely different story. Close to 80 people could have perished on that flight, along with those on the ground, if Haak followed through with his threat of going out with a bang. The passengers on SWA Flight 6607, on August 10, 2020, from Philadelphia to Orlando, should also thank Christine for enduring what she did on their behalf. If they knew what was ongoing in that flightdeck, I believe they would have a multi plaintiff lawsuit as well. 


The Conspiracy to Retaliate was argued by both SWA and SWAPA attorneys, Katie Molloy and Ellen Belfer, respectively, in that there could not be a conspiracy to retaliate because of an inter-corporate conspiracy doctrine, because they are all the “SAME corporate identity” and “there is no third party.” 

Regardless of this argument, a union and a company are two completely different companies. But I find this argument humorous because both SWAPA and SWA are admitting they work together as one. Would that mean that ALPA is the same entity with United, Delta and all others they represent? I find Christine's argument of conspiracy brilliant, because, from my experience, even when the union and company admit to being on the same side, you can't win a DFR.



By the time Ellen chimed in, she stated that not everyone at the hearing had stated their appearance. She said, "I see there is George G a Karlene Petitt and a B." This reminded me of my first day of my trial when Ira Rosenstein, Delta's attorney, said, "Your honor, who are all these people. We don't know who they are." Judge Morris told him that this was a public trial and it was not necessary to know. 

Well, this, too, was a public hearing, but Judge Netcher said he was fine with that, and he started with Carly, who was Belfer's partner. Then Netcher told us he got notification that B left the meeting, and couldn't tell us who B was. He said, "They left after learning that they were going to be identified, so we have somebody monitoring us apparently." I'm curious what monitoring means, if you are watching a public hearing. 

Then Belfer identified all client representatives for SWAPA and said, "Petitt and somebody else just left, so it looks like the only one unknown is still in the meeting."  The judge asked me if I wanted to make an appearance and I said, "Hi, I'm Karlene Petitt." He then asked if I was representing any parties. I told him I was not representing any parties but just observing the case . Then Netcher said, "OK this is a public proceeding so I will mute you and we will proceed." They did not ask any of the additional phone numbers that had called in as I think there were phone numbers listed, without names. 


The entire point of this hearing was that SWAPA and SWA are trying to block discovery. They want to dismiss the claim before discovery is obtained. Of course they do. 

When Janning's attorney discussed the conspiracy charge, Judge Eric Netcher called it a "stretch". He said that, "Even if people have gotten into a room and said hey if we send this letter I bet he’ll get a misdemeanor and then if she files a lawsuit she won’t be able to get summary judgement."

Frank Podesta, Janning's attorney argued that intent was not necessary, what mattered was what had occurred.  

The Judge argued that it was a conspiracy claim. Then he went on to say that people would have to go in a room, make a decision to do something that would negatively impact Janning. Frank responded that the distinction he was trying to make was that they intended to falsely provide information to the FBI to protect Michael Haak, as a conspiracy, to protect male pilots and that had a negative effect on Janning. 

Judge Eric Netcher then said in a mocking tone that they.... duped a federal judge into excepting something... and he tried to explain that there is a whole process to prevent that and the reason for criminal proceedings.  Frank Podesta said that they plead it and could prove it in a summary judgement but they are not being allowed evidence. 

Why would someone not be allowed evidence?

Judge Eric Netcher 
Circuit Judge at the 9th Circuit
Orlando Florida

Prior to being a Judge, Eric Netcher was a partner in the law firm, Dean Ringers Morgan & Lawton, from Nov 2018 - Jan 2020. What's most interesting is that he conducted all workers comp claims in Florida on behalf of SWA. I'm quite surprised that he did not recuse himself. However, if that he doesn't believe in conspiracies, perhaps he's not part of one, and will do the right thing. I pray he will do the right thing because I'm beginning to believe there is no justice. 

Being that this was a Public Hearing, the Judge was located in Florida, and there was no confidential information disclosed, and a court reporter, employed by SWA, was typing away, and the Judge did not state he did not want a recording, I did just that. 

If you would like to have a listen to the hearing if you were unable to make it to this public trial, you can listen hear: Public Hearing Motion to Dismiss The hearing lasted one hour. 

The only way Justice is served is if discovery is allowed. I pray this will be the case. 

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

Friday, October 13, 2023

Aviation Safety and Distraction

The Pending Government Shutdown Creating Unsafe Skies

October 22, 2009, a Northwest Airlines crew overflew Minneapolis St. Paul Airport because the pilots were distracted by the new bidding practices, as a result of the Delta Northwest merger. The same day a Delta crew landed on a taxiway in Atlanta because the captain was sleeping off his "illness" and ATC was trying to help the two first officers who had flown all night, without a break, by changing runways. These pilots were distract by the new taxiway lights that looked like a runway.

Distraction attacks in many forms. But as professionals we train ourselves to focus on the task at hand, so we don't think about those "other" things that could impact our performance. However, the more automated our planes become, our brains require less focus. It becomes difficult to sustain constant focus on instruments when nothing is happening. The mind wanders, and that in itself is distraction. It doesn't feel like distraction, thinking about stuff is simply a method to stay awake. These highly automated aircraft lead to complacency.


The New York Times investigation brings to light multiple errors with ATC in their article, How a Series of Air Traffic Control Lapses Nearly Killed 131 people. If you're unable to read the New York Times, check out the Star Tribune. Starting the year off, on January 15th, 2023, a Delta flight had to abort due another ATC error when they crossed another plane in their path. These errors will cause a major accident, it's not if, but when.

Why Are There So Many ATC Errors?

I hypothesize that these controllers are distracted with how they are going to feed their families and pay their mortgages when the government shuts down. The last time the government shutdown was December 22, 2028 to January 25, 2019. Air Traffic Controllers were required to work for free. Many called in sick. The flight operations during that time were challenged. This time, the shutdown has been delayed until November. This pending doom is a huge distraction, and has been all year and will only get worse.

What nobody is paying attention to is the distraction that this pending shutdown causes. How effective you would be at your job if you knew that you could eventually be without a paycheck? Not only that, but you would be required to work for free. The government is negatively impacting your safety.

Don't Blame the Controllers like you blame pilots
Look at the Contributing Factors,
If you want these errors to stop before someone dies,
END the threat of a Government Shutdown Today!

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

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Airline's and Random Drug Testing

 Mechanic is Reinstated after Testing Positive for THC

An Alaska Airlines Mechanic tested positive for THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. It was undisputed that he had THC in his system, and Alaska has a zero tolerance policy for drugs. He lives and works in Washington State, where THC is legal, but he testified that he only drinks beer and has never consumed drugs. But the Director who terminated the mechanic, never conducted an investigation to determine the validity of the mechanic's claims. 

Does a company have to reinstate an employee despite company policy? 

This arbitrator said yes!

This mechanic had a few things on his side: AMFA (his union) and he was represented by Lee Seham (AMFA's attorney), and the truth. He also have the benefit that the airline did not purchase a decision by the arbitrator, and there was a fair and just ruling. This speaks volumes for any airline. 

This mechanic attended a block party and ate off many different tables, so more than likely there was something in his food and accidental ingestion. His testing was in response to a random test, he was not impaired. He was doing his job safely. Thereafter, he completed his SAP [Substance Abuse Professional] evaluation and education program satisfactorily, and there is no regulatory bar to his re-employment.

The arbitrator ruled 
he should be reinstated!

This leaves many questions of our industry:

Should accidental ingestion of drugs or alcohol, if the pilot follows all compliance requirements with the FAA, not enable reinstatement? Should it not be required by Airlines to investigate if a pilot states they did not drink or take drugs? 

Those who believe company policies are all ruling... Think again. Extenuating circumstances do prevail, such as this case when a 20 year employee, who never tested positive before, stated he did not use drugs, there was a high probability of accidental consumption, and he followed all the ensuing DOT rules. 

This was a huge win for Lee Seham and AMFA, and for this mechanic. 

I'm curious if companies have the right to tell employees what they should do on their day off. If there is a no-smoking policy at work, and yet the employee smokes on their days off and tests for nicotine at work, would that be grounds for termination? If state law says you can legally smoke marijuana... should the company be testing for that in a random test? They don't test for nicotine, despite policy. Or should they only test if the person appears impaired? Or should there be an impairment level? Alcohol is legal, and a pilot could get a random test, but there is a limit that is allowed, indicating it had been ingested, but not causing impairment. I suspect it's time to revisit policies. 

For anyone who underestimates the power of union support, this is one of those times that an airline employee would have lost his job, despite never having consumed drugs, even though he always followed company policies, and was an exceptional mechanic would have lost his job. Without his legal team, he would have been a victim of circumstance. 

Be Safe. Make good choices. 

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