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U.S. to Review Pilots’ Mental Health Assessments

Worried that your pilot might harbor suicidal thoughts?

In the aftermath of the Germanwings disaster, in which the pilot apparently intentionally crashed his plane into a mountainside, and lingering questions regarding the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, it’s only natural that flyers view their pilots with a heightened level of wariness.

With this week’s formation of the Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the FAA is signaling that the issue has reached critical mass among regulators as well.

The ARC (Aviation Rulemaking Committee) will examine issues including the awareness and reporting of emotional and mental health issues, the methods used to evaluate pilot emotional and mental health, and barriers to reporting such issues.

Based on the group’s recommendations, the FAA may consider changes to medical methods, aircraft design, policies and procedures, pilot training and testing, training for Aerospace Medical Examiners, or potential actions that may be taken by professional, airline, or union groups.

The FAA stressed that pilots are already subjected to “robust medical screening.” That includes annual physical exams, or twice-yearly check-ups for pilots over 40. Pilots must also fill out a questionnaire designed to assess mental stability. Of course, such self-reporting is unlikely to detect or deter someone whose goal is to use a commercial aircraft to destroy himself and others.

The Committee is due to present its findings and recommendations to the FAA within six months.

Reader Reality Check

Has the mental health of your pilot become a top-of-mind issue when you fly?

This article originally appeared on

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