Mental health issues among pilots – Trinidad and Tobago News Daily

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Addressing pilots’ mental health issues. Photo courtesy of Flight Safety Foundation –

On December 5, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the establishment of a rulemaking committee to review its rules regarding the mental health of pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC). The committee will identify and remove any remaining barriers that prevent pilots and air traffic controllers from reporting and seeking care for mental health issues.

It must submit recommendations to the FAA by March 2024.

On December 6, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a mental health forum to review changes to pilot mental health rules. Under U.S. law, the National Transportation Safety Board is responsible for investigating all aviation accidents and major incidents that occur in the United States.

During the forum, pilots told the panel they were concerned about reporting mental health issues because they could be grounded, in some cases permanently, by the FAA and therefore unable to earn a living.

The move follows years of calls from industry and government leaders, as well as the highly publicized case of an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who allegedly tried to crash a commercial flight last October, claiming he suffered from mental health issues. Attention.

Commercial airline pilots must hold a valid Class 1 medical certificate to be eligible to fly and undergo a medical evaluation annually until age 40 and then every six months until age 65 to ensure they remain fit to fly and Keep its certificate.

Medical standards set by ICAO identify medical and psychological conditions that may invalidate a medical certificate, such as heart disease, neurological conditions, psychosis and diabetes.

Pilots are responsible for maintaining valid licenses and medical certificates throughout their careers. They are also asked to disclose any physical and mental conditions, as well as any medications they may be taking.

Pilots undergo a thorough proficiency evaluation in a simulator every six months. Failure in an assessment can result in additional training or loss of license, and these repeated assessments are a potential source of stress, as poor results can result in a pilot losing his or her livelihood.

The FAA says it encourages pilots with mental health issues to seek help because most will not disqualify pilots from flying if they receive treatment.

However, certain conditions do disqualify a pilot from flying, such as psychosis, bipolar disorder and certain types of personality disorders, according to the agency.

The British Psychological Society (BPS) describes pilots as a professional group who experience unusual psychological challenges.

According to the BPS, professional airline pilots are assessed repeatedly throughout their careers to ensure they are fit to fly. Few professional groups receive the same level of scrutiny, with the evaluation process starting at the recruitment stage. Pilots who apply for airline jobs undergo extensive testing, including psychological testing, to ensure they have the cognitive skills (thinking, reasoning, memory), flying abilities and other abilities needed to do the job.

Although psychologists play a vital role in the selection process, personality tests are often administered in addition to tests of cognitive function. The mental health of airline pilots is not routinely assessed at this stage.

The working conditions and environment in which pilots work are physically and psychologically challenging. It is important that the aviation industry recognizes the different sources of workplace stress that affect pilots and seeks to reduce these stresses.

Pilots are confined to the small working space of the cockpit for long periods of time. They need to perform multiple tasks at 39,000 feet while withstanding the noise, vibration, reduced oxygen and cosmic radiation of high altitudes.

Pilots must work irregularly and deal with frequently changing schedules and shifts, resulting in circadian rhythm disruption. Pilots must work with different colleagues on different routes each time they report for duty and may have to respond to demanding situations such as in-flight emergencies.

In addition to dealing with the unique pressures of flying aircraft, pilots must also deal with terrorist threats, work in an increasingly challenging economic environment, which has implications for job security and in some cases require zero-hours contracts, putting pilots in An unenviable position: job uncertainty.

Personal stressors occur outside the workplace and can impact job performance. Like most people, pilots have obligations, responsibilities and challenges outside of work, just like others in the general population, such as illness, bereavement and marital and family difficulties. If left unaddressed, these issues can lead to the development of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Constant absence from home makes it difficult for pilots to establish and maintain sexual, marital, and social relationships. Family disputes and relationship difficulties can cause emotional stress that affects a pilot’s ability to concentrate or make decisions while flying.

Stress can also disrupt sleep, lead to increased fatigue, and impair social and cognitive abilities.

Some studies have found links between relationship problems, financial difficulties and occupational stress, as well as pilots’ mental health and fatigue.

On October 31, 1999, EgyptAir Flight 990 was operated by a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft on a scheduled flight from Los Angeles to Cairo International Airport, approximately 60 miles south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. It crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 217 passengers on board. and the ship’s crew.

The accident was jointly investigated by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority. The NTSB’s final report, NTSB/AAB-02/01, stated in the “Probable Cause” section, “The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the EgyptAir Flight 990 accident was the aircraft’s deviation from normal cruise flight and subsequent collision with the Atlantic Ocean.” Result of rescue copilot flight control inputs. The reason why the first officer took rescue action has not yet been determined.

Investigators suspect the 59-year-old first officer, who was bypassed for a promotion, suffered from depression-related mental health issues because he did not have sufficient English to sit for the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) test, which is Requirements for becoming captain.


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