Mental Health EuropeProposals on new operational rules to better support pilots’ mental fitness are welcome, but clarification is needed on what ‘mental fitness’ refers to, to prevent any future measures that would lead to employment discrimination, a mental health organisation has said.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recently published proposals to the European Commission on new operational rules to better support pilots’ mental fitness. This proposal is part of the EASA’s Action Plan following the Germanwings crash and will serve as the basis for a legislative proposal by the European Commission in 2017. 

But Mental Health Europe (MHE), an umbrella organisation which represents associations, organisations and individuals active in the field of mental health and wellbeing in Europe, has said it will closely monitor this proposal to ensure that psychological assessment does not lead to discrimination based on mental health status. MHE also hopes these assessments will not be used to solely diagnose people but rather to offer appropriate support. 

The proposal calls for preventive measures such as psychological assessment of the flight crew before commencing line flying, ensuring access to a flight crew support programme, and performing systematic drug and alcohol testing of flight and cabin crew upon employment.

MHE is pleased to see that support programs are recommended as important preventive measures and welcomes this proposal. MHE president, Nigel Henderson, said: “It is now widely acknowledged that to prevent mental ill health, early interventions and preventions programmes are critical.” 

Recent OECD reports also make a strong economic case for intervening early and developing mental health support programmes for all employees. 

MHE said it is hopeful that these proposals will encourage better mental health awareness and support for pilots and flight crew.