The New ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.

4 min read

The largest elephant in the cockpit: Pilots’ Mental Health. Very few want to ask and even few are willing to tell.

Why is this important: For decades one of the best-kept secrets in aviation has been pilots’ mental health. We can talk about compensation, the pilot shortage, and the industry in general, but it’s hush-hush when it comes to mental health. One wonders if – along with other things of course – this might be due to a perceived masculine motif of being a pilot.

Continue reading to learn more about the latest on one of aviation’s best-kept secrets.

Get Involved: Do you believe that pilots’ mental health is a serious issue that requires immediate attention? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Pilots, families call for reform to mental health support within aviation workforce

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is taking a hard look at mental health in the aviation industry. It comes after a former Alaska Airlines pilot was accused of trying to cut the engines during a flight back in October.

This week, during a mental health roundtable with NTSB, aviation professionals and their families described their experiences with anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

“I am the face of someone who is seven years into recovery from alcoholism,” said Stephanie Day, flight attendant at Horizon Air.

“We did not know he was suffering from feelings of emptiness and sadness prior to this death,” said Anne Suh, parent of a pilot.

By Kirstin Garriss | Yahoo News

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US must do more on mental health of aviation professionals -safety official

Joseph David Emerson, 44, an Alaska Airlines pilot who was riding in the cockpit “jump seat” and is accused of trying to disable the engines of a Horizon Air jet, appears in Multnomah County court in Portland, Oregon, U.S. October 24, 2023. Dave Killen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The United States must do more to prioritize the mental health of pilots, air traffic controllers and other aviation professionals, a top safety official said on Wednesday, after an off-duty Alaska Airlines (ALK.N) pilot allegedly tried to crash a commercial flight in October.

The pilot was charged with trying to disable the engines of a jet in flight and told police afterward he was suffering a nervous breakdown. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said at a day-long forum on the issue that regulators must empower people to get help.

“There is a culture right now that you either lie or you seek help. We can’t have that. That’s not safety,” she told reporters.

By David Shepardson | Reuters

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NTSB chair warns ‘culture of silence’ around mental health is affecting safety

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy speaks during an interview on December 5, 2023.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board warned that aviation workers who need to “think twice” before reporting their mental health issues to the federal government have created “a culture of silence that is affecting safety.”

“No one, no one, should have to think twice about their job before seeking help and yet here we are today because that’s not currently the case in aviation,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said at the opening of a daylong summit exploring the issue, explaining that current Federal Aviation Administration rules cause people to either lie or not seek help.

“In aviation, you are in effect punished for following the rules around disclosure,” she said.

By Ross Levitt, Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace | CNN

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FAA announces new pilot mental health committee ahead of NTSB summit

The FAA convened a committee that could suggest changes to pilot mental health rules after an Alaska Airlines pilot’s alleged attempt to shut off engines mid-flight in October.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced a special committee Tuesday that could suggest changes to pilot mental health rules.

The announcement comes one day before the first National Transportation Safety Board summit on the stigma – where pilots with easily treatable mental health issues go without any help at all – that has dogged the FAA.

The FAA says the new Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee will “provide recommendations to the FAA on ways to identify and break down any remaining barriers that discourage pilots from reporting and seeking care for mental health issues.”

Wednesday’s NTSB roundtable will bring together experts from the fields of aviation and medicine. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy announced the summit first to CNN, calling the FAA’s system of certifying pilots “arcane.”

By Pete Muntean | CNN

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in the content shared in this digest are for informational purposes only, are solely those of the original content creators, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of On Aviation™ or its affiliates.

Thank you for reading this week’s On Aviation™ digest. Do you believe that pilots’ mental health is a serious issue that requires immediate attention? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.Remember to check out our On Aviation™ Podcast and continue the conversation on our Twitter and Instagram.

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