Industry, FAA should take action on pilots’ cockpit mental competency before Congress mandates something

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News Article: Turbulence in the Cockpit Is a Growing Challenge

The ability of a pilot to manipulate the controls of an airliner is difficult to measure objectively at a moment in time. The recent Jet Blue Captain’s apparent mental break down suggests that there may be a need to assess the mental competence of the flight crew to perform their duties. The high visibility of this incident has captured the attention of our elected officials. As the response to the February 2009 Buffalo crash suggests, Congress is not reluctant to impose a solution through new legislation.

Assessing mental health over time is a complicated issue. As the human factor experts will attest, even the definition of symptoms would fill a lengthy textbook. Simple answers, the likely output of Congressional compromises, are blunt measurement instruments and will result in both false positives and missed identification of real problems.

Considering these circumstances, ALPA, A4A and RAA should strongly consider taking the initiative and engage the appropriate experts and propose realistic and reasonable solutions. One initial step might be guidance published via an Advisory Circular, which can be issued quickly and readily modified when (not if), the industry learns from the resulting interventions.

This path is far more likely to create results quickly; the NPRM process, which may provide the basis for implementation of a well tested regime, will take longer. One example of an industry Initiative was Crew Resource Management (CRM) which addresses interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit, which the FAA eventually mandated. JDA is poised to help on defining measures of HF: email JDA at



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