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We Have No Way to Screen Every Pilot for Mental Illness

THE REVELATION THAT Germanwings Flight 9525 may have been intentionally brought down by a suicidal pilot raises the troubling question of what a man mentally ill enough to kill himself and 149 other people was doing flying an airliner. Investigators still have many questions about just what caused the Airbus A320 to crash into a mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday, but the the focus is squarely on pilot Adreas Lubitz. And it shows that even the most strenuous screening and training procedures cannot guarantee a mentally or emotionally troubled person does not step into the cockpit. And it also suggests that, as rigorous as those procedures are, more could be done. In the US, airlines subject pilots to physical examinations and background checks when they are hired, and the FAA requires annual medical certifications. But those focus on physical issues, not mental. “There’s no formal psychological testing that is done routinely.” says Dr. James Vanderploeg, who performs FAA examinations as part of his practice. This is worrisome, because depression and other mental illnesses can strike at any point in life, and there is no meaningful way of screening the 50,000 or so airline pilots in the US and Canada. You simply cannot line them all up in front of a clinical psychologist each year. More via WIRED.

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