Airline Pilots and Mental Health Solutions: Keeping Passengers Safe

Do pilots for major airlines have an obligation to report a pilot if the affected pilot confides in them of mental health problems from the job or personal life that could endanger passengers?

Of course, pilot mental stress can be the result of any problem or mental health issues. For example, work- or home-related stress, personal problems, alcohol, or drug problems.

Airline pilots and mental health. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health/YouTube.

Airline pilots mental stress on job solutions

  • Major U.S. airlines have great programs in place for such a possibility. The program is commonly named the EAP (Employee Assistance Program).
  • Additionally, most airline pilot Unions such as ALPA have their own department within each airline’s local council.

This assurance of help for any pilot in need encourages the individual pilot to self-report. The 24/7 availability of help is available through a strictly confidential phone number.

When an airline pilot needs help

IF a pilot does not self-report, here is what will happen.

Any fellow pilot observing a need for intervention is obligated to challenge the pilot who appears to be needing help.

This is done under complete confidentiality, to try to help and convince the affected pilot to go self-report.

This is an immediate intervention-mandatory procedure.

Real-life example

Here’s an example from real life: Pilot A notices that Pilot B has stress, mental, or alcohol problem, showing up unfit for flight duties (perhaps drunk?) at the hotel the morning of departure.

Pilot A pulls pilot B aside, and says,

«Hey B, why don’t you call in sick for your trip today? You are not doing well. And please call the Union for help too.»

In 9 out of 10 cases, pilot B will «call in sick» to crew scheduling, followed by an immediate pilot Union or EAP call.

What happens after an airline pilot has recovered from a serious mental stress problem?

Following treatment, the pilot may return to flying once found fit by the doctor, the FAA, and the company. But, the pilot will receive mandatory and continuous follow-up to ensure he or she has recovered fully.

If a pilot does not self-report

Any pilot observing the problem is obligated to call the Union or the EAP on behalf of the pilot needing help.

The name of the reporting pilot remains anonymous in the system.Of course, with the exception of the EAP folks and the Union officers. These people are all sworn to confidentiality.

The program has proven effective. It has truly helped a few affected pilots recover fully, in a system of safety checks and balances where everybody benefits, from the affected pilot to the company to the safety of passengers.

How airlines deal with pilot stress, another perspective. YouTube.

Featured Image: Unsplash.

What do you feel about the programs in place at many major airlines on how an airline pilot’s mental stress situation that has gotten out of hand is resolved? For comments or questions please contact us here.

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