FAA Will Not Require Pilots to Undergo Psychological Testing

Published: 06-16-2016
The FAA will instead encourage voluntary self-reporting and provide programs to assist pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration has abandoned the idea of mandatory psychological testing of airline pilots, instead shifting their focus on creating mental health programs where pilots can voluntarily seek treatment.

This decision was made just a year after the agency announced that they would be taking a deeper look at the mental and emotional health of pilots in response to the Germanwings tragedy.

The FAA’s administrator, Michael Huerta, told reporters that because psychological tests do not properly capture the long-term effects of a pilot’s mental illness and fails to accurately assess its risks, the agency decided to go another route.

Currently, pilots are not required to undergo psychological testing, but are evaluated based on their medical health and ability to handle stress. The FAA is looking to change its approach by encouraging pilots to self-assess and report their conditions, and is offering programs for pilots to comfortably seek help from professionals and peers.

“U.S. commercial pilots undergo vigorous and regular medical screening,” Huerta said in a news conference. “While some conditions automatically disqualify someone from flying, many pilots have treatable conditions. We need to do more to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness in the aviation industry so pilots are more likely to self-report, get treated, and return to work.”

The FAA will also ramp up its efforts to properly train medical examiners in the airline industry in order to quickly spot mental illnesses, and will continue to conduct further research to create a nationwide standard for patient confidentiality under extreme circumstances.

The report from the Germanwings tragedy concluded that the pilot who intentionally flew into the French mountainside had been previously treated for depression and suicidal tendencies, but Germany’s regulations didn’t allow the pilot’s doctor to inform the airline of his conditions.

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