British Pilots Union says new mental health rules could force issues underground

Can Pilots openly discuss mental health issues?

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) have said that new mental health rules for pilots could force the issues underground.

The new rules proposed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a result of the Germanwings crash in 2015 including psychological testing for all pilots when joining an airline.

BALPA has said there are no proven tests for reliable and accurately determining a pilot’s mental state and if pilots feel they are unable to discuss mental health without fear of losing their job, these issues may be forced underground.

BALPA Head of Flight Safety and aeromedical examiner, Dr Rob Hunter, said: “If pilots feel they can’t be open with their mental health through fear of losing their job it will only serve to push the problem underground.

“The general stigma around mental health issues is still prevalent in all walks of society and we need to get better at talking about these issues openly.  

“Therefore, we need to ensure these new rules support pilots and don’t demonise them, and offer the appropriate support where needed.

“We are currently working with airlines to ensure there are robust peer intervention programmes in place.

“BALPA and the ECA (European Cockpit Association) have also continued to point out to EASA that the use of psychological testing would, sadly, almost certainly not have prevented the Germanwings tragedy.  

“It is wrong to assume that anyone suffering with depression is suicidal and furthermore, homicidal, such as was the case with the Germanwings co-pilot.”

Wreckage of the Germanwings A320 (Image: Reuters)

Wreckage of the Germanwings A320 (Image: Reuters)

In 2015, A Germanwings Airbus A320 was flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it crashed in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence of France.

Investigators ruled that the co-pilot had deliberately crashed the aircraft into the mountains killing all onboard.

The crash sent shockwaves through the industry when it emerged that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had previously been treated for “suicidal tendencies” and had been declared unfit for work by his doctor.

Under current legislation, the doctor was had no obligation to inform his employer and as Lubitz didn’t disclose this information he was allowed to fly as normal.

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About the Author

Lisa Parkes
Lisa is an aviation and engineering journalist who has written for several headline news outlets. Originally from the US, she now calls Swansea her home and keeps a keen eye on the growing aviation industry in Wales.

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