Pilots' mental health checks: DGCA begins discussions on norms
New Delhi, Apr 5: Aviation regulator DGCA has initiated comprehensive discussions with Directorate of Medical Services for formulating new norms for assessing the mental health of pilots which may include regular checkups.
The move is triggered by the recent Germanwings airline plane crash in the Alps, in which allegedly a mentally disturbed co-pilot crashed the plane killing all 150 people onboard.
"We have flagged the issue (psychometric tests for pilots). We are already having detailed discussions with the authorities concerned in this regard," a source in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.
The regulator is in consultations with the Directorate of Medical Services for Civil Aviation on framing new norms which may include regular assessment of a pilot's mental health, the source said.
The DGCA was now waiting for the DMS to revert on the issue, the source added. "An official announcement in this regard could come as early as next week," the source said.
As of now, nine domestic carriers airlines, which employs over 3,000 pilots, carry out such tests on their pilots at the point of induction but there are no subsequent appraisals of their mental state.
They, however, undergo physical fitness tests every six months. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma had last week told PTI that repeated psychometric tests were a must and his ministry would take up the issue with the DGCA.
"It's an important issue. I think this is a must. We should carry out such tests (psychometric) from time to time. We are going to discuss the issue soon," Sharma had said.
India, however, already has a regulation in place since 2010, which does not allow the cockpit to be handled by one person, in case one of the two pilots leaves the cabin for washroom.
A DGCA air safety circular makes it mandatory for all Indian airlines to have a cabin crew member in the cockpit, when either of the two pilots leave it.
"In case one of the crew members has to leave the cockpit during the non-critical phases of flight, the cabin crew is required to be inside the cockpit and occupy the observer seat. (But) In no case the cabin crew will occupy the seats meant for Cockpit crew," according to the DGCA Air Safety circular 3/2010.
The formulation exercise assumes significance given that the 27-year old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz of Germanwings was battling against severe mental health issues and even had treatment for suicidal tendencies before obtaining his pilot's licence.