Pilots’ psychological testing proposal questioned by union

The UK pilots’ union has spoken out on proposed new rules that could increase stigma around mental health in the sector.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association claims that rules put forward by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a result of the 2015 Germanwings tragedy could be counter-productive.

One of the proposed new rules states that pilots must undergo psychological testing when first employed by an airline.

But Balpa has expressed concerns about the effectiveness of any psychological testing on the basis that there are no tests proven to be reliable for accurately determining the true mental state of a pilot.

While the association supports the need for psychological assessment, the Balpa argues that if pilots feel they are unable to discuss mental health without fear of losing their job, these issues may be forced underground.

EASA’s proposals are due to be presented to member states next month but with no final decision being taken before the autumn. Any new rules are not expected to be be fully implemented until autumn 2019.

Balpa head of flight safety and aeromedical examiner, Dr Rob Hunter, speaking at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, 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 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.”

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