Karen Perry was our guest speaker.  Karen is a 32-year veteran flight attendant for Delta Airlines, a commercial pilot and flight instructor, and the mother of three young children who perished along with their father, Karen’s ex-husband, when they crashed into the side of the Superstition Mountain four years ago.
Karen’s life was not easy, but she pursued it with passion. She became a pilot when the field was a boys’ club; she had three children when she had been told she could not have children; her daughter was severely affected by epilepsy, and one of her sons was autistic; she battled breast cancer twice within a decade and beat the odds. None of this compared to losing her entire family on the night before Thanksgiving, 11/23/2011.
The flight took off during a pitch black night. The six occupants of the small plane could not see anything outside the windows, but the pilot had flown the route many times, including just two nights before. On this particular night, though, before turning him loose, air traffic control had given him different instructions than he was used to. He didn’t question it, although it was odd. Six minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed into the side of the Superstition Mountains, going 200 miles per hour. Everyone on board was killed. “They missed clearing the peak by a few hundred feet. If they had been one or two degrees to the left or the right, they would have made it through safely and never known how close they had come to tragedy.”
The FAA changed the controlled airspace around Superstition Mountain in 2006, lowering it to 5000 feet in order to accommodate the increased air traffic going into Mesa Gateway and Phoenix Sky Harbor. The change forces private planes to fly lower than the peaks of the mountain. After the accident, an internal memo leaked to the public, acknowledging that the airspace was “deficient” in that area and needed some changes. To date, no changes have been made.
After the accident, Delta Airlines employees rallied around Karen, donating vacation days so that she could take a year off to deal with the trauma of her loss. Karen teamed up with a local author, Landon J. Napoleon, to write a book about her story (Angels Three, available on Amazon.com in Kindle as well as paperback). It took two years to complete, but was a cathartic experience for her and a reminder to readers to cherish every day with their loved ones.
“The beauty of this tragedy is that so many good things came from it.” In addition to the book, Karen started a non-profit, Three Wings of Life, dedicated to helping children. Services offered include Equine Assisted Therapy and weekly programs. “I am determined to honor the memory of my children by dedicating my life to improve the lives of all children.”