Are pilots psychologically assessed?

The lives of many people are in the hands of the pilots at the front of an airliner and, as was highlighted in the tragic Germanwings crash, the psychological state of a pilot can be vitally important in safe guarding those lives. 

So what assessment, if any, is carried out on pilots?

Well as regards this assessment occurring within airlines, this varies from airline to airline and when it is carried out, it mainly happens at the job application stage. During a selection process a candidate may be psychologically assessed using general interview questions or they maybe subjected to more in-depth psychometric testing, depending on the airline. This is not however, a legal requirement and is usually carried out to assess a candidate’s suitability to operate the aircraft itself as opposed to anything more sinister. 

From an aviation authority point of view, such as that of the FAA in the US or the CAA in the UK – they require pilots to undergo regular medical examinations which, although don’t incorporate specific psychological assessments, are carried out by licensed aeromedical practitioners who are obliged to report any abnormalities in a pilot’s mental health. 

Also, in most airlines, an open reporting culture alongside regular training and checking allows for the discovery of underlying psychological issues which may develop during a pilot’s career. 

So yes, pilots are psychologically assessed – mainly through indirect means in the selection, training and medical stages. However, even if there was specific direct assessment carried out on a regular basis, it may not have prevented the tragedy that happened in the French Alps. 

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