According to the researchers, airlines are ignoring the mental health and well-being of pilots and other aviation workers in order to re-fly aircraft.
Many aviation workers experienced anxiety, stress and depression during the COVID-19 lockdown, but they feel discouraged from admitting to problems or seeking help, creating potential safety hazards and health problems.
Warning from this week Live Experience and Wellbeing Project Well – A Trinity College Dublin hub that studies aviation worker well-being and the impact on performance and flight safety – Airlines around the world increased flights and began to redeploy pilots and crew.
A total of 1,841 flights were scheduled from UK airports to France, Spain, Italy and Greece for two weeks starting May 17. increase of over 300% compared to the previous fortnight. Airlines in the US inaugurated hundreds of new routes last week.
Paul Cullen, a commercial airline pilot and research associate on the Trinity College team, said aviation workers would welcome the chance to recoup their pay and restart their careers, but survey data shows that the cockpit and Many people will feel empty when they return to the cabin.
“We can’t sweep it under the carpet or dress it up. The data says a certain number of pilots were struggling pre-Covid, but would not disclose the mental health issue to their employer because of stigma and fear of losing their licenses and perhaps losing their pay. “
Cullen said that just as airlines have procedures in place to ensure that mothed aircraft are airborne, so too do humans need to pay attention. “You also need to do the same for the crew to make sure they are airworthy.”
The team surveyed more than 1,000 pilots worldwide in 2019 and found that 18% had moderate depression and 80% had moderate burnout. More than three quarters of respondents said they would not disclose such issues to employers and 81% said they do not feel valued by employers.
A second survey in August 2020 of more than 2,000 aviation workers – mostly pilots, cabin crew, air traffic controllers and engineers – found they suffered more than the general population during the pandemic. A fifth of the pilots and 58% of the cabin crew reported moderate depression, compared with 23% for the Irish and UK populations as a whole.
Many aviation workers lost income during the pandemic, and some faced having to withdraw to their homes or cars, Cullen said. “Once back to work those workplace hazards that were an issue pre-Covid will return. But the resilience of individuals will not be as strong as before, and this could potentially impact flight safety.”
After the pilot Andreas Lubitzo intentionally crash In 2015, after a Germanwings plane carrying all 150 people on board, the European Commission ordered airlines to psychologically assess pilots before hiring. rules Try to prevent a similar tragedy by giving pilots access to an assistance program in case of mental health problems.
IndustryTrinity team principal investigator Joan Cahill, however, said it does not collect data on well-being and some pilots are afraid to report mental health problems or accept assistance, eg peer support programs, lest they fly. Lose your license for
Well-being is a factor in secure performance and employers need to do more than just offer gyms and yoga, it said. “They need to provide support for their employees – mental health awareness training, peer support, access to counseling. The rules are not meant to compel airlines to do this, and it is for pilots with underground welfare issues.” driving.”
He said flexible roster and crew pairing procedures, along with practices to encourage openness, can protect crew well-being and airline safety. “Given current licensing requirements and cultural norms, aviation workers are unlikely to acknowledge problems and seek support/help. When someone is sick, we want them to raise their hand and acknowledge that Get more help.”
Niven Phoenix, a commercial pilot who heads kura human factor, a company that trains pilots and advises airlines, said some people were “deliberately blind” to wellbeing because it was inconvenient.
“There’s a whole host of evidence that organizations don’t want to hear. Aviation is very, very safe but it is so unforgiving.” He said that more focus on the well being of the employees would save licence, livelihood and life. “Awareness is the key to change.”
Janet Northcott, spokesperson European Union Aviation Safety Agency, said industry and regulators worked with aviation psychology representatives and other experts to enhance workers’ well-being and help them tackle any “well-being decline” before they become a safety threat .
Northcott said peer support groups, training and awareness activities take place regularly across Europe and the agency had flagged the potential erosion of skills during the pandemic as part of a return to normal operations project.
“It has also focused on the impact of COVID-related events (isolation, losing loved ones, becoming unwell or having sick relatives) on the well-being of crew members, and suggested ways to reduce these potential risks. ”
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