EASA issues Pilot Mental Fitness Rules with two BIG exceptions with the FAA’s recommendations

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EASA welcomes new rules on mental fitness of air crew

Requires Psychological Assessment before hires in EU

Allows EU to test foreign flight crews for Alcohol when in EU

Sets up support Program

 

The EASA response is a little underwhelming as to the basic remedy. The FAA issued, June 6,2017 issued the following recommendations, which were immediately applicable:

  • In January, the FAA began enhanced training for Aviation Medical Examiners so they can increase their knowledge on mental health and enhance their ability to identify warning signs.
  • Airlines and unions will expand the use of pilot assistance programs. The FAA will support the development of these programs over the next year. These programs will be incorporated in the airline’s Safety Management Systems for identifying risk.

  • The FAA will work with airlines over the next year as they develop programs to reduce the stigma around mental health issues by increasing awareness and promoting resources to help resolve mental health problems.
  • The FAA will issue guidance to airlines to promote best practices about pilot support programs for mental health issues.
  • The FAA will ask the Aerospace Medical Association to consider addressing the issue of professional reporting responsibilities on a national basis and to present a resolution to the American Medical Association. Reporting requirements currently vary by state and by licensing and specialty boards.”

The experts also commented that:

“Certain medical conditions, such as a psychosis, bipolar disorder and severe personality disorder automatically disqualify a pilot from obtaining an FAA medical certificate and prohibit them from flying. However, many pilots have conditions that are treatable. Several U.S. airlines already have reporting and monitoring programs that provide pilots with a path to report their condition, be treated for it and return to the cockpit once the FAA has determined – through a thorough evaluation – it is safe to do so. The FAA addresses the medical certificates of those pilots on a case-by-case basis.”

Also, in the past year, there have been several, significant advances in research which could have further enhanced the EASA rules.

It is rare, given the US torpid regulatory process, but the FAA appears to have delivered actionable recommendations a year ago.

The EU proposal has two significant differences”

  1. The FAA, however, did not mandate pre-employment psychological evaluations because their experts found no convincing data to conclude that adding psychological testing to the hiring process or to the routine medical examinations enhance the ability to assess the mental fitness of the pilot workforce. Or as the press reported–“[p]sychological tests are ineffective because they reveal a pilot’s mental health for only a moment in time without providing insight into whether the pilot will suffer problems later.”
  2. The EU’s announcement added

As an additional safety barrier, alcohol testing of pilots and cabin crew for all European and foreign airlines who fly into the territories of the European Union, has been added.

 

Plain meaning[1] would suggest that a US airline crew flying into territories of the European Union would be subject to random testing!!! Given the agony involved in testing foreign nationals for drug and alcohol at Part 145 facilities located beyond the US borders, this may be a most bold extension of the EU over American pilots and flight attendants.

 

According to  AINonline, as to the applicability of the EU rules to its members:

 

European Cockpit Association (ECA) secretary general Philip von Schöppenthau told AIN the lobby group, which represents more than 38,000 European pilots from national pilot associations in 36 European states, “fully supports EASA’s new air safety rules and hope they will be implemented in a uniform and consistent manner, across Europe.”

 

 

 

[1] The 2,600 word amendment uses references, citations and language with which I am unfamiliar; so it may be that this is not the correct interpretation.



 

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