Women in Aviation: Karlene Petitt, Author, Aviator, Blogger, & CNN Rock Star!


In honor of those heroes lost on 9/11 and the war on terror, ALL Cap’n Aux posts and social feeds will be blacked out for 24 hours.


Previous 9/11 posts and links

2014: http://capnaux.com/911-in-memorium/

2013: http://capnaux.com/911-we-remember/

2012: http://capnaux.com/911-we-remember-2/

(Some hotlinks in posts may be outdated)

Ladies and Gentlemen, our Women in Aviation series continues, exploring more Careers in Aviation, in and out of the cockpit!

Monica Vargas; women in aviationLast week, we featured B-777 Captain Monica Vargas, who continues to shatter those gender barriers worldwide.

Jessica Cox; women in aviationEarlier this week, we featured Jessica Cox, shattering not only gender barriers, but barriers for the disabled and physically challenged, worldwide.

Karlene Petitt; women in aviation

Karelene Petitt, A330 Pilot

Back home, there’s still more barriers to break, and this week’s featured pilot is doing just that!

Our next guest is an international A330 pilot for a major U.S. Airline, author of 2 novels and a motivational book entitled, Flight to Success, Be the Captain of Your Life. Her beloved fictional character, airline A330 Captain Darby Bradshaw, is the hero of her novels, and tells a harrowing story of a flight through a thunderstorm in my latest book, “There I Wuz! Adventures From 3 Decades in the Sky Volume 2.”

Ms. Petitt has been featured on no less than CNN as an aviation consultant, battling those other self-proclaimed “aviation experts,” and helping to bring a little common sense and actual, bonafide, correct aviation facts back to the airwaves.

Folks, I give you, Ms. Karlene Petitt!

“Nothing we ever do is a waste of time.”Karlene Petitt

Each story has an inciting incident that propels the hero of the story into an adventure. Yes, we are all writing the stories called life. My inciting incident occurred at the age of nine, when I was told that I couldn’t become a pilot because “girls couldn’t fly”. Who told me that? A nine-year-old girl, no less. My friends and I were playing a game called Careers. We all wanted to become hostesses—a flight attendant of the good ole days. However, I could not land on the hostess spot and my friends did, thus I declared that I would become a pilot instead! (Not a game option).

Karlene Petitt; women in aviation

Just another Layover!

My friend said that I couldn’t fly because her dad, an airline pilot, told her that. She believed him—I didn’t. The argument ensued. After I kicked my friends out of the house, I made the decision to fly. Over the next seven years I told everyone that I was going to become a pilot. At sixteen I took an introductory flight, and as our Cessna 172 lifted into the air my first thought was—“They’re going to pay me to do this?!?” I was hooked. After that flight the course of my life was in motion and headed toward the sky.

Next stop—the career counselor’s office to tell them I was going to be a pilot, and learn how to make that a reality. Of course the counselor told me that I couldn’t fly in the military because I was a girl and advised me to think of another career. Back to the airport I flew and dumped a bunch of hard earned babysitting money on the table and said, “Teach me!” And thus the adventure began.

It’s hard to believe how time has flown over the previous 44 years after that first declaration. But I can tell you that after working for 8 airlines and earning 7 type ratings—B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727 and A330—the aviation portion of my life has been exciting. I have also had the opportunity to write training programs for various airlines and instruct pilots in Boeing aircraft for over 21 years. I also see a trajectory of where this industry is headed, and know there is something I have to do. However, life is more than career and despite how much we as women love our jobs why can’t we have it all?

Karlene Petitt; women in aviation

Family and Education

On the personal side of my life I have raised 3 daughters, have been married for 34 years and now have seven grandchildren. Who says we can’t have a career and a family too? Oh, there were many who said that—but I didn’t listen. Was it challenging? Of course. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that we do not have to be super heroes—finding life balance is a key to success with anything we do. My life was not really balanced, just full speed in multiple directions.

Along this family path, while flying and teaching, I also earned two masters degrees. Why? Well, why not?  The education behind my Masters in Human Services and MBA degrees have worked their way into my life in many ways, and helped me through some dark days, opened my eyes to life possibilities, and have helped me with current and many endeavors. Everything we do in life sends a ripple effect to the next part of life, and when the inspiration attacks, I say go for it! Nothing we do is ever a waste of time.

Glass Half Full

CoverFlightToSuccess; Karlene Petitt; women in aviation

It’s hard to believe that 7 of my 8 airlines are out of business. But I often wonder if those doors closed to push me to the next adventure in life. So for all those who have said they were sorry that I kept shutting down airlines and losing seniority, I am actually thankful for the many experiences. If you would like to read the entire adventure, pick up a copy of Flight To Success, Be The Captain of Your Life.

More than the first half of my life there are many stories that could assist anyone in dealing with fear, life choices, perception, failures, and how to achieve success, plus so much more. Stories of many friends who were confronted with those proverbial thunderstorms in life, and how they dealt with them are included. But this was not my first book, and not the reason why I began writing.

Changing the World

FFDO Karlene Petitt; women in aviation

Nice groupin’, Tex! Tight, center-mass cluster at FFDO school.

Years ago, an airline manager called me an activist. I thought that was a strange comment. Me an activist? Seriously? All I was doing was standing by my students and rewriting procedures to improve safety.

However, those words stuck with me and today I realize that he may have been right about my future. And while writing Flight To Success, Be The Captain of Your Life I also realized that each airline job was a place of experience opening my eyes to a behind the scenes world where change was needed. When one door closed, another opened and I moved onto the next lesson and experience.

Flight For Control Karlene Petitt; women in aviationThus when inspiration struck to write my first novel, Flight For Control, this was a combination of research on mental health, and the question of what could happen if mentally unstable pilots ended up in the flight deck. Two months after publication a captain was locked out of the flight deck for mental instability. What are the odds? Then another major airline closed its doors, I was bumped off my Boeing 747-400 and checked out on the A330. At the same time an Airbus A330 was pulled from the bottom of the ocean, training departments were shifting from classrooms to pilots teaching themselves, and inspiration for Flight For Safety came alive. During the editing phase, Asiana crashed in San Francisco, mirroring an accident in my novel. What are the odds?

Karlene Petitt office A330; women in aviation

Karlene’s Office: the A330.

Future of Aviation

flight for safety Karlene Petitt; women in aviation

Karlene’s 2nd novel. All her books can be found in hardback or paper, as well as personally signed, at karlenepetitt.com

Thus, here I am today flying an A330 around the world, while working on a PhD at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Aviation Safety. Building a portfolio of education and experience to have a solid foundation to create the necessary changes. I have an idea on how to support the great people joining me in this fantastic aviation career. Be it flying, airport management, maintenance, training, etc., there are many opportunities in the world of aviation.
But, as good as the industry is, we need someone who is an airline pilot, educated, has lived in the system and knows what’s happening behind the scenes, and not afraid to be an activist to create change to support our industry, everyone working within the framework of aviation, and assure passengers the safest travel possible.

Karlene Petitt CNN 1Where will the future of aviation carry me? Perhaps a few more type-ratings, definitely a captain upgrade, and may more novels. When my flying career ends, I will not fly into the sunset. I will be the ground support of all of you pursuing a career in aviation. For those millions of passengers flying daily, they too will have assurance someone has their backs.

To read more of my plan, go to the Flight To Success Blog and read One Wish for Aviation 

Enjoy the Journey!

Thank you, Karlene, for those inspiring words!

Folks, it’s true: you’ll hit barriers, you’ll be labeled an “activist”—or worse—when you stand up for yourself and others, and demand nothing but the best for yourself. But, as Ms. Petitt says, “Everything we do in life sends a ripple effect to the next part of life, and when the inspiration attacks, I say go for it! Nothing we do is ever a waste of time.”


Women of Aviation Series Posts

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Our Women in Aviation Series continues!