The FAA is establishing a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) “to provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the agency,” according to FAA officials.
“Mental health care has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker.
Pilots must report certain mental health conditions to their aviation medical examiners (AME), who are trained to determine a pilot’s fitness to fly, FAA officials noted.
The ARC will include medical experts and aviation and labor representatives. The FAA will finalize the charter for the rulemaking committee and appoint the panel of experts in the coming weeks, FAA officials said on Nov. 9, 2023.
According to agency officials, the committee will build on previous work the FAA has done to prioritize pilot mental health, including:
- Increasing mental health training for medical examiners
- Supporting industry-wide research and clinical studies on pilot mental health
- Hiring additional mental health professionals to expand in-house expertise and to decrease wait times for return-to-fly decisions
- Completed clinical research and amended policy to decrease the frequency of cognitive testing in pilots using antidepressant medications
- Increasing outreach to pilot groups to educate them on the resources available
In addition, the FAA will work with the new committee to address recommendations from the July 2023 DOT Office of Inspector General report on Pilot Mental Health Challenges, which found that the agency has “comprehensive procedures to evaluate pilots’ psychological health.”
You can see videos and listen to an FAA podcast about pilot mental health featuring Dr. Susan Northrup, the FAA Federal Air Surgeon here.
You can see the FAA’s fact sheet on pilot mental health oversight here.