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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Tuesday the formation of a new committee focused on reducing stigma and removing barriers that prevent pilots from seeking help for mental health issues.

The Mental Health and Aviation Medical Clearances Rulemaking Committee (ARC) is expected to provide recommendations by March 2024 on ways to address these challenges for pilots and air traffic controllers. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker stated that the committee would consist of experts from both the aviation and medical communities, with member announcements forthcoming.

This initiative follows a July 2023 report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which highlighted the FAA’s thorough procedures for evaluating pilots’ psychological health but identified barriers to addressing mental health issues effectively. The report found that pilots are often reluctant to disclose mental health conditions due to stigma, potential career impacts, and fear of financial hardship. “The FAA’s ability to mitigate safety risks is limited by pilots’ reluctance to disclose mental health conditions,” the FAA charter for ARC noted. Addressing these barriers is deemed crucial for aviation safety.

The establishment of ARC aligns with one of the OIG’s July recommendations, which urged the FAA to collaborate with industry experts to identify and overcome hurdles preventing pilots from seeking treatment or disclosing conditions. Another recommendation was for the FAA to develop and implement policy revisions based on the assessment.

This comes in the wake of a recent incident where an off-duty pilot attempted to disable a plane’s engines mid-flight. The pilot, struggling with depression and having consumed psychedelic mushrooms, was subdued, and the plane landed safely in Portland.


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