Listen to this episode below:
Karen Kahn piloted her first flight at the age of 19 and then 9 years later, in 1977, was one of the first woman hired by a major airline. Karen now retired from a thirty six-plus year airline pilot career with Continental now United Airlines. A speaker and author of the self-help book “Flight Guide for Success: Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot”, Karen is committed to excellence. She is a Master CFI, FAA aviation safety counselor, director of the California Pilot’s Association and a current four-term Airport commissioner in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California in the United States.
- When she was 19, a friend suggested that she should take introductory lessons if she wanted to learn how to fly. Interestingly enough, the rate that time was only 5 US dollars.
She was very eager when it comes to flying, it was only what she wanted to do, and made it her goal to gain more knowledge about aviation and be able to do it while getting paid.
Initial Training Challenges
- Karen’s parents were totally against her flying, even stating “She might as well have committed suicide.” Although Karen lacked the encouragement and support from her parents, she stuck with it because aviation was her real passion. Her parents were the proudest when she got accepted at Continental airlines.
The Aircraft Types (GA only)
- PA-28-140 Cherokee
- PA-28-180 Cherokee
- Cessna 150, 172, 182
- Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza
- Beechcraft Musketeer
- Mooney M20
- Ford Trimotor
- Beechcraft Model 18
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Turboliner
- Mitsubishi MU-2
- Piper PA-31 Navajo
- Beechcraft A36
- Beechcraft 55 Baron – Karen currently owns this aircraft and is closest to her heart.
Best Flying Advice
- “Keep good records because someday, you’ll be needing to remember those things so that you can tell the stories that will help someone else.”
- Karen worked in her local airport in 1969, acquired her PPL after 8 months and worked for the FBO to acquire enough time to get her CPL.
- She applied to work as a Cessna 182 pilot for an aerial photography job with a local newscaster.
- Decided that she needed more training to get her multi-engine and CFI so she did, as well as spent some time flying gliders which she highly recommends to get that “sense of feel” when flying air crafts in general.
- Worked as a CFI in Oklahoma for a weekend ground school teaching pilots how to pass written exams. Unfortunately, the company filed for bankruptcy two months after she was hired.
- Karen and a friend put up a similar business so she could own and fly a plane that will practically pay for itself. She bought a Beechcraft 1961 V35 “N” Bonanza.
- After getting her ATPL in 1977, she applied for a job at Continental and received a call two days later for an interview. Karen was the 4th woman to be hired as a pilot where she worked as a flight engineer for the Boeing 727 and went up the ranks becoming a 2nd Officer and then 1st Officer.
- There were a series of setbacks (furloughs and strikes within the company) for Karen but she eventually became Captain in 1988 of the MD-80 for 15 years and the Boeing 757 and 767 until she retired in 2014.
Proudest Flying Moment
- Helping people get to where they wanted to go.
Future Plans & Aspirations
- Karen enjoys sharing her love of aviation to other people through her book, aviation career counseling services, and speaking engagements. She also wanted to continue flying for 20+ years!
Flying Internet Resource
- FltPlan.com: A website for flight planning that provides a lot of information all for free!
Best Aviation Books
- Weather Flying by Robert Buck
Weather Flying is regarded in the industry as the bible of weather flying. Robert Buck, a general aviation and commercial pilot with tens of thousands of hours of flight time, explains weather in a nontechnical way, giving pilots useful understanding of weather and practical knowledge of how to judge it and fly it. Covers weather flying psychology, en route weather changes, radar and how to use it, taking off in bad weather, and much more. Winner of the Flight Safety Foundation’s Publication Award; recommended by the FAA.
- North Star Over My Shoulder by Robert Buck
In North Star over My Shoulder, Robert Buck tells of a life spent up and over the clouds, and of the wonderful places and marvelous people who have been a part of that life. He captures the feel, taste, and smell of flying’s great early era — how the people lived, what they did and felt, and what it was really like to be a part of the world as it grew smaller and smaller. A terrific storyteller and a fascinating man, Bob Buck has turned his well-lived life into a delightful memoir for anyone who remembers when there really was something special in the air.
- Instrument Flying by Richard Taylor
The fourth edition of the perennial best-seller. Fully updated, with everything the private pilot needs to know about flying IFR, such as handling emergencies, filing flight plans, understanding IFR communications, navigating, and flying more efficiently. Polish and improve your instrument-flight skills with the proficiency exercises. Glossary of aviation terms included.
Favourite Cockpit Gadget
- HUGlight: The HUGlight is a flexible foam rubber flashlight-type apparatus that can be worn around your neck. It can also be bent and positioned to illuminate hard-to-reach areas, making it more useful than just a simple wearable flashlight.
Check out Karen’s book “Flight Guide for Success: Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot” on Amazon