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'Big issue' in aviation industry over addressing mental wellbeing of pilots

The aviation industry needs to do more in terms of addressing mental health issues and the wellbe...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

14.18 23 Jan 2021


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'Big issue' in aviation indust...

'Big issue' in aviation industry over addressing mental wellbeing of pilots

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

14.18 23 Jan 2021


Share this article


The aviation industry needs to do more in terms of addressing mental health issues and the wellbeing of employees within the sector.

That's according to Margie Burns, Managing Director of Aviation Selection Consultants and mental health and wellbeing company Flourishing.ie.

One of the worst-hit sectors since the pandemic has been air travel with the majority of flights being grounded over the last ten months.

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Thousands of aviation personnel have lost their jobs or been furloughed since the coronavirus crisis began.

Speaking to Down to Business with Bobby Kerr, Ms Burns said struggles with mental health among those in the industry, particularly pilots, was an issue before COVID-19.

She said: "We have to remember that even before COVID, pilots were experiencing increasing job strain in terms of their performance because their performance is being monitored not just on their flying but on their flight time and fuel and all that.

"They're expected to operate at 100%, that's the expectation.

"When you demand perfection, it's very difficult for pilots then just to humanise the stress and the anxiety when they've been operating and functioning at a very high level.

"There's a big issue with our industry in terms of addressing the mental health and wellbeing of pilots."

Ms Burns added that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Manual of Civil Aviation Medicine, which provides guidance on dealing with medical assessment within the industry, has a "mere three references to assessing wellbeing".

"To arrive at a pandemic, we're on the back foot because the industries and the regulators all need to do more in terms of mental health," she stated.

She believes that travel, particularly business travel, will return to its original level after the pandemic but that this will "take time".

'Big issue' in aviation industry over addressing mental wellbeing of pilots

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On the same programme, Captain Andy O’Shea, founder of the Airline Pilot Club and Chairman of the EASA Aircrew Training Policy Group, said it has been an "extremely difficult" time for the approximately 7,000 licensed pilots in Ireland.

In response to the pandemic, Captain O’Shea launched a new initiative last year to help pilots who lost their jobs.

"In fairness to the Irish airlines, they have kept contact and kept some sort of employment relationship with the great majority of Irish pilots," he said.

"So for those pilots that remain in the structure of an airline and the training and checking processes that an airline provides, life isn't too bad.

"But there's another category of pilots for which it's very difficult."

Main image: File photo of a plane taking off from Gatwick Airport. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images

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