How do airlines monitor the mental health of pilots?
点击量： 时间：2019-02-28 13:06:11
By Jon White (Image: Jansson/plainpicture) Following the crash of a German airliner in France on Tuesday in which all 150 passengers and crew died, speculation about the mental health of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz has been growing. Jon White spoke to professor of psychology and aviation mental health expert Robert Bor about how the industry monitors the health of flight crew. Who oversees pilot safety in the aviation industry? At the regulatory level, various bodies such as the Federal Aviation Administration in the US and the European Aviation Safety Agency are responsible for ensuring safe piloting of aircraft. They will require each airline to carry out its own checks. How often do pilots have health checks? Every airline pilot has to have medical checks carried out by an authorised medical examiner once or twice a year, depending on the kind of licence they have. Aside from medicals, what other checks do pilots face? The airlines themselves are responsible for the safety of their passengers and aircraft. They carry out a huge amount of surveillance and are very vigilant. Pilots are being watched all the time. There is always a pilot and co-pilot on all commercial flights. These crew have to follow standard procedures and, if they deviate from them in any way at all, the pilot next to them is going to notice that. They also have checks in flight simulators, they sometimes have checks by an additional pilot brought in to sit on the flight deck and observe what they do. In addition, airlines also sometimes download all of the data from a flight, a bit like the information from a black box flight recorder. Experts go through it later. How does this scrutiny and surveillance compare to other safety critical jobs? For airline pilots it is at the very highest level. It is no different to people working, for example, on a nuclear submarine. Their mental stability is hugely important and any strange behaviour would be picked up rapidly. Does being mentally ill bar a pilot from flying? The criteria are stringent and, from the regulatory point of view, there are very clear exclusions for airline pilots who might have psychological problems. For example, if you have a history of self-harm, personality problems, major depression and so on, you will never be able to hold a pilot’s licence. You will be excluded forever. It is not as though you can get better and start flying again. In this pilot’s case, and obviously there’s a lot still to learn here, we need to know whether he had a history of mental illness or just a bout of low mood that might have been treatable by being away from the job for a while. Low mood is common in the general population. At any time perhaps 1 in 10 people might say their mood is low. That’s not the same as clinical depression, and doesn’t necessarily mean they have a history of psychiatric care and so on. That is what is going to be looked at very closely. Were his problems latent but not visible to other people, or was it something that just very suddenly changed, in a split second, and was therefore impulsive and unpredictable? We don’t yet have that answer. Are there other professions that have faced increased scrutiny after tragedies? One example is the medical profession after British doctor Harold Shipman was found guilty of murdering 15 of his patients. Ever since the Shipman case we have instigated much closer checks on doctors. Every year they have to complete a series of assessments. But we don’t know if that has made medicine safer, if there are still people at large that may do harm, because we are talking about such rare events. Whatever changes we bring about as a result of this latest tragic incident, we may not necessarily know if they improve safety around suicide because it is such a rare event. In the case of aviation, we are talking about half a dozen cases in 25 years. Robert Bor is a professor of psychology, founder of clinical and corporate psychology consultancy DCC and co-author of 2008 book Aviation Mental Health (Ashgate) More on these topics: