Should Airline pilots regularly have their mental health assessed?

Posted on March 27, 2015

The latest theory about the French Alps airline crash is that it was deliberate. Every time one of these incidents occurs - and they are extremely rare - a question arises in media coverage: are airlines taking enough precautions to check the mental health of their pilots?

Screenings are rare in most places. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration mandates that commercial pilots partake in annual or semiannual physical examinations (depending on their age). But they're not required to go through regular psychological checks.

It should be emphasized that we still know very little about the state of Lubitz's mental health before and during the flight. And it's not at all clear whether a screening would have made a difference.

When aircraft-assisted suicides do happen, however, depression can be a factor. In 2010, the FAA did away with a longtime ban on pilots taking antidepressants. According to the official antidepressants policy, pilots can still fly while being treated with Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, or Lexapro. The policy change was aimed at drawing out pilots who may have been suffering quietly or feared treatment would cost them their jobs.

That said, given the costs of even rare failures, some experts believe it's worth asking if more regular screenings are a price worth paying.

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Category(s):Workplace Issues

Source material from Vox