Need tests to check mental health of pilots: DGCA panel

  • Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 18, 2015 23:06 IST

Three months after a mentally unstable co-pilot crashed a Germanwings Airbus 320 aircraft into the French Alps killing 150 people onboard, an expert committee set up by the Indian aviation safety regulator has recommended repeated psychometric tests for pilots, including for those studying at flying schools.

The report by the three-member Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) panel came hours after a similar study commissioned by Europe’s aviation regulator seeking introduction of check-up for pilots became public. Although some domestic carriers such as Air India have added psychometric tests to their selection process, the recommendations by the DGCA panel could soon make it mandatory. “We will soon put out a draft based on the recommendations, which will eventually culminate into a directive over the next two months,” said a senior official, who was part of the panel.

The report recommends assessment of the mental health of pilots on three levels – before enrolling to a flying school, at the time of joining an airline and during command training. Tests should also be conducted following any near-mishaps or air accident, states the report.

As part of the study, the panel held a meeting of aviation doctors across airlines. Dr PK Shrivastava from Air India came out with the final recommendations on the proposed psychometric tests. The report advised all airlines should engage an independent panel of psychiatrists to gauge pilots’ mental health.

“During the aptitude tests, airlines test confidence levels, leadership styles, state of psyche, skill levels and reasoning abilities. It assesses personality attributes, integrity, motivational attributes, attitude and anxiety levels,” said another senior DGCA official.

“The psychological tests are helpful, but there is a high chance that people can fudge them. Instead there should be a regular reporting system to screen pilots before they fly,” said Dr Dalal Mirchandani, a psychiatrist.

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