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Flight Crew Breakdown??? Hadn’t thought about this.

I was just reading an article about this and was puzzled that I had never seen this trend coming (as well as the people who oversee these crews apparently didn’t see this coming either) – Pilot Meltdown Article at TODAY  I was deeply concerned because of the absence of a plan to monitor and assist flight staff with stress and other mental health issues.

The basic story is that a pilot had a breakdown in the cabin in front of the passengers and several passengers subdued him.

The thing I find disconcerting was the way the 6 month examination for flight crews was described.  The article states that the examination “includes questions about pilot’s psychological condition.”

My problem with this is that if it simply involves questions about the psychological condition asked by a medical professional there a few assumptions:

  • That the person has had their psychological condition examined fully aware of his/her psychological condition.
  • That if the person was unaware of an impending breakdown etc. the medical professional would be able to diagnose any disorder or troubles using the questions listed.
  • That psychological challenges and disorders are so obvious that a brief check every 6 months is enough to diagnose these things.

Many of us, post 9-11 have some level of anxiety when flying, particularly on long flights.  Some of us more than others.  I have been on flights where there were passengers who had slightly heated discussions with flight attendants and it immediately draws far more of my attention then it ever would have prior to 9-11.

The passenger who looks a bit shady to me gets a watchful eye particularly when standing up or walking to and from the bathroom.

I am usually a pretty level headed person who often talks others down from panicking over such things, but this has stuck with me for many years.

I had not spent much time wondering how similar thoughts could affect pilots, co-pilots, flight attendants etc.  There must be some fear level etc. that they experience also.

What level of psychological care or analysis is necessary for people in these positions to maintain stability with all of the stress and to proactively avoid breakdowns and such.

At the least, regular interactions with psychological professionals that took deep interest in each person’s mental health seems like it would be a must with what would seem to be a fairly stressful job.   

It would seem logical that the longer this kind of stress goes on not being confronted and managed the more we would see breakdowns of this sort.  

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