Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why is it?

I keep hearing in the news media about "low time pilots". As in, " oh those low time pilots at regionals are dangerous", "regional airlines are full of low time pilots" and the like. I'm sure you've heard it too. What they seem to NOT take into account is that a) with all of the furloughs that happened, most regional pilots now have at least two years and several thousand hours under their belts (except maybe Gulfstream, but they are a whole other mess) and b) there are plenty of senior pilots at regional airline that have MORE seniority than pilots at major carriers. Consider the pilot who chose to make their career at a regional due to the shorter trips and seniority afforded great schedules and had been there 10 years vs. the guy who spend 3 years at a regional and recently bumped up to a major. Sure, the bulk of the pilots at regional airlines have less time, but there aren't any 250 hour wonders out there anymore. And who can quantify how many hours makes a "safe" pilot anyway? It's not like it happens when the tick of a particular hour goes by.

Are all pilots hypersensitive about mental health or is that just my perception? It seems like every pilot I've spoken with or seen post about tries very hard not to appear to ever have any kind of mental health issue. I know that a prior ADHD or depression diagnosis can end a pilot's career, but by refusing to acknowledge that some counseling might be useful aren't they actually doing themselves a dis-service and potentially making things worse. I've talked with people who won't talk to anyone regarding their mental health in fear that it will go on a record and eventually be used against them by the FAA in the future. Really? Is the FAA going to revoke your privileges because you talked to a therapist about your divorce or your child's chronic illness or your wife's infertility? Does talking to a mental health counselor make others preceive you as so weak or unstable that you won't be able to command a cockpit in an emergency?

6 comments:

Jamie said...

In regards to your "therapy" comments and how they may affect a pilot's career, I agree that the pilots may be a bit paranoid about talking about the subject, but consider this: The "Higher UPs" who notice that a pilot saw a counselor may not bother investigating far enough to discover just WHY they saw a counselor/therapist, they may only care that one was seen. In some cases the employer provides a counselor, however that counselor may be dealing with specific head cases like drug addiction, or domestic violence, and even if neither of those is the reason that the pilot saw that particular counselor, it's still on record that they did. The FAA doesn't necessarily care WHY a counselor was seen, just that one was. It's sad and unfair, but more than likely often the true case. What's even more unfortunate is that this sector of the work force needs counseling more than most in my opinion considering the time they spend away from home, the infidelity that runs rampant (on both sides) throughout, the stress of the job, and other factors. it's no wonder that even though Pilots may desperately need someone professional to talk to, they don't because, YES it can affect their career. It does.

Someday said...

But if an employer cannot look at a employee's medical records, how would they know that a counselor was even seen? Employers don't know when employees are seen by a doctor, mental health counseling is no different. Not using the Employee Assistance Program is an easy way around that. Most health insurance plans also provide some kind of mental health services. Or seeing a clergy member or other person who wouldn't be linked to medical records would be another option.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I have to leave this post anon due to the very nature you talk about. The FAA can find out about the counseling because they are telling health care companies to fork over ALL records relating to MEDICAL EXPENSES. Yeah, the FAA, the State of California, and other states are becoming very paranoid.

Normally I would actually leave who I am but I am a pilot and know people who have seeked out counseling for one reason or another. The regulations to getting a new pilot certificate state that a pilot must "be of good moral character". Because this is such a subjective statement how often do you think the public would like to hear the pilots up front talking about how they have to go to see their therapist while cruising at 39,000 feet? I will check back for comments later.

Anonymous said...

And then there's this; how about the pilot who's been ACCUSED of domestic violence as an agenda by the wife who simply wants to push her husband out of the house so she can gain control of his money, his posessions, his house, then divorce him. Think it doesn't happen? Think again. My husband was accused of DV FOUR (yes, 4) times by his ex-wife who took out a restraining order to get him out of the house he'd owned for 10 yrs prior to her coming into his life.

It took my husband 3 years and more than $30,000 in legal fees plus countless hundreds of hours to clear his name (by proving her agenda had been the same in 2 previous marriages).

Can you imagine the hell he'd have been put through had his employer been made aware of the DV charges? It wouldn't have mattered that he said (and later proved) them false ... he'd have been sacked, and no amount of hand-wringing would've gotten him his job back.

I TOTALLY understand AND SUPPORT pilots wanting to keep their private life private. Until we as a society, and more importantly, the Chief Pilots offices learn and live by the "innocent until proven guilty" philosophy, secrecy will have to be the party line.

Someday said...

It just doesn't make sense to me that it's OK for a pilot to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism and then go through the HIMS program and there is no stigma (or is there?). I'm pretty confident that there is counseling going on while one is going through that program. But to turn to counseling BEFORE turning to alcohol is not ok.

Does the issue only come up after there has been an incident? Like after a crash they go back and see a pilot had had some counseling after his divorce so it is then concluded that he must have been distracted and the incident is labeled Pilot Error even though that is not necessarily the true reason?

I guess I just don't understand the reasoning (and possibility legality) of the FAA combing one's medical records looking for reason's to disqualify someone without a valid reason. As far as I know, there is no "random medical records check" that they do.

littletower31 said...

I know that this is an older post, but I just wanted to say that I too kind of struggled with this question this year. My husband is furloughed and he's doing ok, but there have been some low moments this year when I thought it would have helped for him to seek some counseling to get through things. It was the most depressed and upset I've ever seen him and there were times he could not get out of the funk at all. He refused to seek any counseling based on the reason that it might affect this aviation career. I find it ironic that a pilot who is upset about their aviation career being in the toilet due to furlough can not seek counseling because of something caused by his profession because it might affect his future with the profession. I even went to my own employer's EAP counseling to talk about him and get advice. He's doing better now, thank god. It's a screwed up system though...