Interview with Karlene Petitt who currently is an A330 international airline pilot living in Seattle. She is type-rated on the B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727 and A330 aircraft. Karlene holds MBA and MHS degrees, and is currently working on her PhD at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Aviation, with a focus on safety. She has flown for Coastal Airways, Evergreen, Braniff, Guyana and Tower Air. She has instructed at America West Airlines, Premair, Guyana, and has also flown and instructed for a northwest airline on the 747-400 and 747-200. She has spent 21 years training pilots, and has been instrumental in training program development at multiple airlines.
Sylwia Książek: What comes to your mind when you think of ‘Airport Safety’?
Karlene Petitt: A safe airport is one in which good people manage the operations, runways and taxiways are well lit with good markings, and clear of debris. We have clear charts, and can easily find our way to the gate and to the runways.
Sylwia Książek: Tell us 3 the most important rules in keeping safety in aviation.
Karlene Petitt: 1) Always search for the right answer, and never accept being mediocre—be your best.
2) Be willing to listen and learn from everyone you meet. They could save your life.
3) Never get so committed to the mission that you forget the goal of being safe.
Sylwia Książek: How often do you hear of acts of unlawful interference? Were you witness of any act?
Karlene Petitt: Never.
…and green laser? What is frequency of accidents related with green laser in your region?
Karlene Petitt: I have never experienced any. But in my city, there have been a few with the other airlines.
Sylwia Książek: You are a woman and international pilot of Boeings and the A330 with amazing experience. Have you experienced non-standard operations? If yes please let us more details.
Karlene Petitt: In the old days, they did not have standard operating procedures; therefore everything was non-standard. Each pilot did what they did to fly safely, but the crews all did something different. However, today airlines have standard operating procedures called SOPs, and this is important, to not only build habits, but also allows the other pilots to be aware and prepared if a pilot does not do something, they will check on them and determine if they forgot or needed help.
Sylwia Książek: Differences between flying Airbus and Boeing? Which one do you prefer?
Karlene Petitt: I enjoy both aircraft. My favorite plane is the B747-400, but I enjoy flying the A330. The Boeing is flown more with skill, and cables. The A330 is a fly by wire aircraft, and needs more brains than skill.
Sylwia Książek: Recently we hear about accidents of Airbus. What is your opinion? Why it is happening? Is it human factor or technical?
Karlene Petitt: The accidents are not the planes fault, but pilot error. Even when the plane breaks… something not working… the plane is still flyable. But pilots who fly the plane into storms, or mountains, no plane can survive that.
Sylwia Książek: Karlene, you spent 21 years training pilots. What would you like to tell people who want to be pilot in the future?
Karlene Petitt: Oh, there are so many things to hand on, that’s why I wrote the book, Flight To Success, be the Captain of your life. I want people to learn how to push through fear. How to listen and learn, focus on what they are doing, and to not think about the person behind them while flying, but always thinking about the task at hand. And never give up flying the plane—meaning: Don’t quit!
Sylwia Książek: Quite so …You are an author of two aviation thrillers, Flight For Control and Flight For Safety. What are they about? These books are only in English, isn’t?
Karlene Petitt: Yes, they are only available in English. These novels are called true fiction. I took real crashes, real industry events and wrote fictional stories around the events. But, one day I will write the truth after I finish my PhD in Aviation. The goal is to entertain with fiction and create awareness, and then tell the truth to make a change. As of now, people are having fun with the fiction, but there is a purpose for the books.
Sylwia Książek: I can wish you all the best and keep the track of your way. Karlene, how it is to be a person who flight so high, who 'flight to success'?
Karlene Petitt: The trick to achieving success is to always dream, decide to take action, follow-through, and never give up. You might have to change plans, so learn be flexible. But changing plans because you decide you want something different, and quitting because it’s too hard, are different things.
Sylwia Książek: That’s the idea! I like it…You have been instrumental in training program development at multiple airlines. Please tell us a little more…
Karlene Petitt: Yes, I put Guyana Airways 757 into service by writing all training manuals, and syllabus. I trained the pilots in the classroom and the simulator, then released them to the flight line. With that experience I took that to Northwest Airlines and wrote training programs on the B747.
…training programs on the B747? Really great step!
Karlene Petitt: When I wrote training programs, I would look at accidents, see what errors were made and work those issues into the program for learning opportunities. We can learn from accidents and hope they never happen again.
Sylwia Książek: Thank you for the metting. It was pleasure to meet you.
Karlene Petitt: Thank you, I hope we will talk soon.
More information about Karlene you can find here: Karlen's blog