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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, January 30, 2024

Alcohol Use Disorder

 The FAA Subjective Diagnosis 

There is NO specific test 
to diagnose alcohol use disorder!

The FAA is supposed to ensure passenger safety. But the history of the agency overlooking aircraft manufacturer standards, allowing airlines to violate federal regulations regarding duty time and SMS, and enabling FAA administrators to retire to airlines' board of directors after they leave the FAA, despite it being illegal for anyone in the FAA to accept any money from an airline, indicates they may not be doing their job. Yet, they are crushing down on pilots directly, without fact or evidence of mental health issues or alcohol use disorder. 

This agency is making subjective opinions about pilots being alcoholics when they are not. Why? Because the HIMS program is a profit center where airline management can control pilots by placing their careers on the line, and the FAA appears to work for airline management more so than the public. The FAA instills fear that without this program pilots will fly drunk. But they fail to inform the public that the agency is overlooking airlines flying pilots fatigued, knowing that fatigue has a similar impact as alcohol. You can read more in Flying Drunk from Fatigue.

I'm hoping that our new FAA administrator, Michael Whitaker, will be different. 

While there is no test for alcohol disorder, there are symptoms as identified by the Mayo Clinic to include:
  • Unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on drinking
  • Too much time spent drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering
  • Strong cravings or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it's causing physical, social, work or relationship problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies to use alcohol.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don't drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms.
If a pilot fits those symptoms and has a problem, there are many alcohol support groups. Yet, those pilots are far and few between. The concern is the pilots who do not have any of those symptoms but are labeled alcoholics and forced into treatment. 

What I know to be true is that that the HIMS program, a company paid program, sponsored by the FAA, to control pilots, is forcing pilots who are not alcoholics into the program. ALPA even encourages pilots who have done something stupid on a layover, to claim they are an alcoholic, so they can be protected from termination in the program. Someone should question why a company would allow a program that supported dishonesty instead of truth and accountability. Alcohol is typically involved in stupid behavior, but that does not mean the person is an alcoholic. But once in the program, the airline owns the pilot. Then they go through treatment hell giving their life to the program. You can kiss your family time goodbye. I know a Captain who quit Delta because it was either the program or his family. He chose his wife and kids.

ALPA even encouraged a FedEx pilot to enter the program because the company was retaliating against his safety claims. This pilot doesn't drink. The ALPA HIMS rep told him that it didn't matter, as exercise was an addition too. They were trying to backdoor his termination, because his being an alcoholic, false or not, would give claim to FedEx. 

I know a dozen or more pilots who have been forced into this program that do not have any of the symptoms as listed, and have never been tested in any manner. When these pilot's tell the doctors in the company-paid rehab programs that they are not alcoholics, their jobs are threatened because they are "in denial." If the pilot conveys they have no issue with alcohol and can quit drinking at any time, they are called liars. Because "all alcoholics are liars," if you say you're not an alcoholic you are, simply because alcoholics are liars, and if you're in denial, that means you are lying and thus an alcoholic. See the logic here?

Captain Ratfield was forced into the program because she was raped. Captain Danford refused to return to the program after he received a false positive PEth test and was thereafter terminated. I know a Delta captain who was forced into the HIMS program by Dr. Altman for having a half glass of wine with a low level DUI. Yet, despite Dr. Altman asking if I drank and I provided him a litany of alcoholic beverages that I've consumed, he did not as much put one word about my alcohol consumption in my 366 page medical report. 

Karlene, Mike Danford, Andrea Ratfield.

Of important significance, Mike, Andrea, and I were at a party together, and I was the only one of the three of us consuming alcohol. They are both in the program, yet despite my admissions, I was never sent there. Neither of these two pilots have any of the symptoms, or cravings, or need to drink. They were never tested or even asked the above questions. While I love a nice bourbon in the evening, or a tequila on the golf course, I don't crave the stuff and wouldn't care if I never drank again. Yet, if Delta hadn't provide directive to Dr. Altman to give me a permanently disqualifying diagnosis, he would have put me in the program despite my not being an alcoholic. 

Dr. Altman was the head HIMS psychiatrist prior to forfeiting his medical license for accepting $74,000 from Delta to give me a false mental health diagnosis. Dr. Riccitello, from AMAS, said, "Dr. Altman is the big gun for the FAA." Dr. Altman even testified in trial that, "Dr. Charles Chesanow, who is the chief psychiatrist at the FAA, told me that I've done more evaluations of pilot than anyone else at this point in time." I feel heartbroken for all those pilots who lost their careers at the deception of this man and the FAA allowing him to continue for so long, when the agency had knowledge of his behavior. 

Delta terminated Danford for not reentering the program. Yet, there is life beyond Delta and Mike still flies. Congress was willing to allow Captain Danford out of the program, but the FAA got involved and said that he had a "lifelong condition". (See the email below).  I know Mike. He does not have a lifelong condition that prevents him from abstaining from alcohol. This assertion was subjective and without knowledge or merit and exemplifies the overreaching arm of the FAA on individuals, when they should be focusing on manufacturers and airline violations. 

Captain Danford was never tested, because there is no test. And Captain Danford has given up drinking without any support system. He regularly is around others who drink and has no cravings and never consumes alcohol. He has NONE of the symptoms listed above. Yet, someone at the FAA has denied him without any justification. 

On Jan 4, 2024, at 10:11, Ball, Lauren (Hagerty) <> wrote:

Hello Mr. Danford,

I have received a response from the FAA and copied it below.

“He requested your assistance regarding his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman medical certification.

Mr. Danford does not meet medical standards due to history of substance dependence, a lifelong condition requiring sustained abstinence-based recovery. The FAA requires continued monitoring under the Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS) program to hold a special issuance medical certificate. We are unable to release Mr. Danford from the HIMS program, but we have modified the requirements of special issuance authorization to reduce the frequency of blood alcohol testing, HIMS evaluations, and peer support group meetings.”

If you need any further assistance please let me know.

Thank you,

Lauren Ball
Constituent Services Representative for U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty
900 Georgia Ave, Suite 260
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: 423-752-533

Fax: 423-752-2504 

I invite everyone who is interested in this injustice, to please reach out to Ms. Ball and tell her so.

Or better yet, reach out to our FAA administrator, Michael Whitaker on LinkedIn or write him a letter: 
FAA Administration: 800 Independence Ave SW #300, United States.

This situation is not unlike the unjust treatment with subjective assertions about pilots' mental health. Something must be done, before further destruction of pilots' lives. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Flight Safety Envelope

Whittled Away...

Captain George Jehn Retired

George Jehn is a former airline pilot who has over thirty years’ experience flying for two major airlines. He served six years on the Board of Directors of the Air Line Pilots Association [ALPA], was an arbitrator on the Eastern Pilots System Board of Adjustment that adjudicated pilot grievances and has written two airline-related books, one novel and one nonfiction book. George is one on my first readers of my most recent novel. As a safety advocate and accomplished author, his words are well respected and heartfelt. 

"In Flight For Justice, Karlene Petitt has written an excellent, intricate novel, but it could very well have been a nonfiction book as the story is, unfortunately, a fairly common one in today’s airline industry.

Since the onset of airline deregulation, virtually all the responsible parties, the governmental agencies with oversight responsibilities, the aircraft manufacturers, the airlines, the media and yes, even the unions that are supposed to protect and defend pilots who have come forth with legitimate flight safety concerns, have, in many cases, abdicated their sacred responsibility to put flight safety first and foremost, ahead of anything else. Unfortunately, despite what we have heard and read, the almighty dollar has replaced that time-honored covenant.

You might wonder what allowed this to happen. The answer is quite simple because the traveling public has been spoon-fed erroneous information, which in turn has allowed the flight safety envelope to be whittled away, which in turn has allowed the price of an airline ticket to be lowered by a few bucks here and there. You might want to start by asking yourself, “But, is this worth it?”

You also might wonder who pays the price for this. The answer to that is the ones that come forward and point out flight legitimate safety faults and defects. These usually take the form of pilots and/or aircraft mechanics and engineers that attempt to point these out to their bosses and in turn are “rewarded” with the loss of their livelihood, income and in some cases even their lives, due to related difficulties.

As you read Karlene’s excellent “novel,” ask yourself why this is happening and why is this allowed to continue?"

It's allowed to continue because profit overrides safety and without public awareness, passengers are left in the blind. I know you will enjoy this novel as much as George did. 

The books are printed and now we are awaiting delivery, so pre-order your autographed copy on this site. I will also have a booth at the Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show. Drop by, say hello and get your autographed copy. Retirement does not mean I have given up my fight for safety. It simply means that nobody can silence me with a false mental health accusation. It's time for the truth to be revealed. 

You're Invited 
to the 

Northwest Aviation

Conference & Trade Show

Showplex, WA State Fairgrounds

Puyallup, WA

February 24-25, 2024

Booth 124

Enjoy the Journey!

XO Karlene 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Dark Side of Aviation

Truth in Fiction 

The Best of All the Series

There is more truth than fiction in the Flight for Series. Years ago, I speculated the degradation of our industry would impact pilots’ mental health—it did. I envisioned airline management’s cutting training would increase airline incidents and accidents—that, too, has occurred. I later watched the FAA look the other way when airlines violated federal regulations and learned that airlines own the FAA at the highest level. The FAA also enables manufacturers to produce less than airworthy aircraft, and nobody speaks out because of fear of retaliation. The AIR21 statute purported to protect the employee, more so protects the company. Unions like ALPA, lack unity and look the other way to help management’s bottom line, the pilot be damned. As the series unfolds, you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did—obliteration of the pilot job. 

Fifteen years ago, I surmised what would happen if airline management degraded the pilot job, as to what impact that would have on pilots’ mental health. Three years after I published my first novel, Flight for Control, a Germanwings pilot intentionally crashed his plane, killing everyone on board. All accidents in Flight for Control were based on actual airline accidents. How the planes crashed were true, but why they crashed was fiction. Yet the truth is that mental health of our pilots today is in a rapid decline. 

When Northwest Airlines merged with Delta, I observed how training had shifted from learning the plane, to the “be the monkey, push the button and get the banana” mentality. I wrote about substandard B757 and A330 training in Flight for Safety. Shortly thereafter we saw Air France 447 fall into the ocean in the same manner as to the events in the novel. What the reader may not know, was the merger between airlines Coastal and Global, was the Northwest and Delta merger. The atrocious training events in Flight for Safety, were ongoing at Delta. More so, both Delta and the FAA knew of the faulty equipment that took down AF447 but did nothing until 228 people died. My writing a post about this accident, and how to fly out of a stall, became a central theme in the challenge of my mental health years later. 

I enrolled in Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to earn a PhD, to better understand aviation safety, and the ensuing novels, Flight for Survival and Flight for Sanity, were inspired by Delta’s actions in trying to silence me for all that I learned regarding Safety Management Systems (SMS). More than silence me, Delta management attempted to destroy me and remove me from the industry permanently. 

I fought back, just as Darby did in the novel Flight for Truth. The journey from a false mental health accusation, and how I returned to the flight deck, mirrors that of Darby Bradshaw in this novel. Ironically, shortly after Delta pulled me from duty and grounded me, I spoke as a guest with a doctor regarding mental health on a live interview. That interview is in this novel. Most importantly, Darby’s ability to beat the mental health challenge and not allow the process to drive her crazy is exactly how I survived. 

Flight for Discovery included what we learned in my discovery for my trial, and how Delta attempted to bury me, with verbatim deposition testimony. I used the exact testimony in the novel, and nobody believed there was any way possible Coastal Air Lines would go to trial. Yet not unlike the real world, Delta Airlines decided to fight an indefensible position. Why? Because their insurance company paid for their defense and the size of egos surpassed all reason. 

Now we have Flight for Justice. While I changed the names, the trial deposition testimony is verbatim. The only character’s testimony that differs slightly is Neil. His testimony was my husband’s, except for the job offer. The FAA’s complicit behavior is fact. The FAA administrator’s owned by Delta is fact. ALPA’s participation and events are fact. The legal system and transferring of judges and purchased arbitrators are fact. A doctor forfeiting his medical license is fact. The only fiction appears to be the names of the characters, and the plot. Yet even the plot may not be that far fetched. 

The central theme of all the novels is the destruction of the pilot job with autonomous planes on horizon, and the effort to fight for the pilot job and improve training and aviation safety. While many do not believe autonomous aircraft to be a reality, when you read about the non-interruptible autopilot, the patents, and the Airbus ATTOL system in Flight for Justice be aware that all of that is fact. The training events and near-death experiences listed in this novel all occurred at Delta Air Lines. Even the pilots falling asleep on short final was true. Despite winning my legal battle in Petitt vs Delta, nobody was held accountable at the airline; therefore, I ended up walking away from my airline career. 

Perhaps the death of my airline career and Darby living my story inspired the ending to this novel. But the lack of accountability at Delta and the FAA’s complicit behavior inspired the next. Flight for Revenge is coming soon and will be the first completely “fiction” novel. For all those involved, or looked the other way, be it Delta, the FAA, ALPA, AMAS, and/or the legal system, you should be incredibly grateful that I am not crazy. Because, when there is no justice there is revenge. 

 Pre-order your 
Flight for Justice today! 
(Top left of the Blog)

 The actual delivery date is an unknown due to inclement weather.

Enjoy the Journey
XO Karlene 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Safe by Accident

But Time is Running Out

A catastrophic accident is knocking on the door. The question is, will you be on the plane and will you survive? 

I'm uncertain if passengers or the media truly understand what would have happened if there had been a couple bolts installed that held this door in place until cruising altitude. Had this door blown at 35,000 feet, this would have been a catastrophic ending for many people. Seats, passengers, and anything nearby would have been sucked out to oblivion. Death and despair would have resulted.

I appreciate the Boeing CEO's impassioned speech to his employees. He praised everyone. He appeared sincere. He showed up at the Boeing factory in Renton. Unfortunately, words are one thing, actions are another. From those who work there, his words fell short. Perhaps I've heard it all before, and know the truth to what is happening behind the scenes... both at Boeing and the industry. 

I suggest you listen to Ed Pierson, a Boeing Whistleblower, who says he wasn't surprised that this happened. It boils down to quality control. He's correct when he says "this is completely unacceptable." The heart of the problem is "Lack of Leadership" and he believes that the factory is in worse shape that before the MAX crashes. He will not fly on a Max, and he even walked off a plane once he learned that it was a MAX.  He believes that the CEO and board of directors need to go. Ed also said: 

"The FAA is asleep at the wheel!" 

"Airlines should take responsibility" 

The problem is that CEOs and executives alike are focused only on their bottom line, safety be damned. And the FAA looks the other way. I observed this exact behavior at Delta. The reality is, we cannot force CEO's to live by their empty words. We cannot control the FAA administrators who roll in out out of bed with airlines. We cannot even control those leaders at ALPA who are vying for that almighty management position, forsaking safety and those members they should be supporting. 

What can we do? Change the law to protect employees to be the voice of safety. By providing real protection, employees like Ed can and will speak out. Unfortunately the Whistleblower law is broken. The AIR21 statute is designed to protect corporations, not safety. Not passengers. Not employees. We must empower our employees to speak out. Your safety depends upon it. Please, help change the law to provide protection for those who see a problem can shutdown the operation to save your life. 

Enjoy the Journey
Be safe! 
XO Karlene