The Federal Aviation Administration has announced the creation of a new committee to help pilots and their mental health issues.
The committee will focus on breaking down barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to government agencies.
The new committee will be called the Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and will include medical professionals and aviation and labor representatives.
“Mental health care has come a long way in recent years, and the FAA takes these advances into account when evaluating pilot health,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement on the agency’s website. I would like to confirm.”
Pilots must report certain mental health conditions to aviation medical examiners. Aviation medical examiners are trained to determine a pilot’s fitness to fly.
The agency plans to finalize a rulemaking committee and appoint a panel of experts in the coming weeks.
We will focus on several initiatives, including:
- Strengthen mental health training for medical examiners.
- Support industry-wide research and clinical research on pilot mental health.
- We will hire additional mental health professionals to expand our in-house expertise and reduce wait times for return-to-flight decisions.
- Revised policy to reduce the frequency of cognitive testing for pilots who complete clinical studies and use antidepressants.
- Increase outreach to pilot groups to educate them about available resources.
The FAA also said it will work with the ARC to address the recommendations of the July 2023 Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General report on pilot mental health issues.
KIRO 7 spoke with John Nance, a former Alaskan aircraft commander and former Air Force pilot with more than 50 years of flying experience.
He said many pilots and crew members he had worked with had suffered from mental health issues.
“Our biggest problem with the whole aspect of flying as pilots, and even flight attendants, is depression. If we do anything about depression, especially if it involves medication or any kind of disruption, it’s important that we do it right away. “They must be reported to the appropriate department at the FAA,” he explained.
He said many pilots face internal challenges surrounding the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues. But further complicating the issue, he said, is that asking for help can affect a pilot’s career.
“This is a very difficult subject because we want to support flight attendants, flight attendants and cockpit crews in every way. But equally, we want to support flight attendants, cabin crew and cockpit crew in every way. There are situations where ‘the very act of asking for help puts you at risk,’ he said. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on people who aren’t doing well, or who are depressed, or who just feel bad from time to time, because no matter how good a person you are, if you turn yourself in, you just turn yourself in, so to speak. Because I know it will.” Ask for help, that help will interfere with their vocation. ”
Because of the perceived stigma surrounding mental health issues, many pilots don’t know when to seek help, Nance said.
“Most of us aren’t psychologists. Most of us aren’t trained in the field. Put the emergency brake on something that’s bothering you, even if you know it will affect your career.” When exactly? We don’t have a lot of guidance on these things,” he said.
Nance said the new commission is a big step in the right direction to address this problem, but it will take some time to find long-term solutions to solve the complex problem.
“The FAA is doing exactly what we want the FAA to do. There is no need to panic about this. “We have decided to investigate the situation without notice,” he said. “Complex problems require complex solutions. They (FAA) are at their best at guiding this industry, not rule-making, and that’s when they really shine, and that’s what they’re doing right now. That’s what I see them doing.”
We spoke to people near Paine Field Airport about the new commission.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Roxanne Miller said.
Miller, who served in the U.S. military, said he understands the experience of working in a high-risk job, including being a pilot.
She said many pilots face tremendous pressure on the job.
“People’s lives are in their hands every day. There’s a lot of pressure on them. Even the slightest mistake, going left instead of right, can cost lives,” she said. Ta. She said: “Knowing that people will come forward[through the new committee]will give them more peace of mind versus not coming forward later or at all.”
Jonas Dow also supported the new commission.
“We are confident that greater awareness will improve the safety of flights in the long term,” Dow said.
But he believes pilot mental health is one of the fundamental issues and would like to see the FAA focus on addressing the public stigma surrounding pilot mental health.
“They also need to deal with the stigma attached to pilots who voluntarily come forward and admit to having mental health issues, and who admit to having a problem and potentially get kicked out, not retired, or not allowed to come back. “I think that’s the risk they put themselves at in their careers by not working after they go for such treatment,” he said.