Airline CEOs fret over pilots' mental health

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Miami – The psychological evaluation of pilots was one of the hot topics during a panel discussion among CEOs of various airlines at the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association.

The issue has been placed in the spotlight after a pilot deliberately crashed a plane in the Alps earlier this year.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said during the panel discussion that the psychological analysis of a pilot’s state of mind, especially relating to depression, is no easy matter.

“This is an issue the industry as a whole should look at and not just individual airlines,” said Spohr. “No matter how hard we work in the industry, one cannot say any more that there is 100% safety.”

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan believes the answer lies in airlines having a culture with a good early alarm system to identify pilot problems in the early stages.

Christoph Mueller, CEO of Malaysia Airlines which experienced the disappearance of one of its planes, agreed with Hogan that there should be a good peer monitoring system in the pilot community as there is a limit to what experts can detect.

He said research shows that relationship problems are most frequently the reason for depression, followed by drug problems and online gambling issues.

Spohr said it is not merely a matter of depression, since one cannot put all people who suffer from depression in the same basket – not every pilot suffering from depression would deliberately crash an airplane, for example.

He said Lufthansa has now decided to track its aircraft every five minutes and although this is costly, the company has decided it is worth it.

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