UK CAA publish Pilot Support Program guidance

The UK CAA has outlined a framework for an operator’s Pilot Support Programme (PSP). The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published an Opinion that will require all commercial operators to have a PSP in place by approximately August 2018

As part of a PSP, the UK CAA say that all pilots should receive education from medical professionals, with topics to be covered including:

  • self-awareness;
  • ranges of ‘normal’ behaviour and reactions;
  • work-related and other life stressors;
  • coping strategies; how to maximise personal resilience to adverse life events;
  • the importance of seeking assistance early before mental ill-health or psychological issues present a risk to a career or the safety of others;
  • destigmatising mental ill-health;
  • the availability of further help pathways eg self-help information, referrals to health professionals, pilot representative organisations, emergency organisations and other support associations;
  • signs and symptoms of mental ill health; early recognition of the most common mental ill-health conditions eg depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder;
  • drugs and alcohol; potential effects and early signs of misuse;
  • medication (prescription or available ‘over the counter’ or internet), potential effects and early signs of misuse;
  • when it is appropriate to flag concerns about a colleague to them and when to report concerns to others without a colleague’s consent;
  • making families aware of the facility for reporting concerns;
  • the scope of programme (eg grievance, industrial, managerial issues are not within scope).

The CAA says that it is looking at developing educational material that could be made available to all commercial pilots to facilitate the introduction of this aspect of the PSP for UK operators.

The CAA is also exploring the setting up of a UK national Pilot – Peer Assistance Network (P-PAN) which could be available to all UK commercial pilots.

A P-PAN is a facility for a pilot to contact a trained peer on a confidential basis when they require help, advice or assistance with a developing social, personal or health issue. Access to a P-PAN may be web based, by e-mail or telephone. Access to the pilot peer support network should ideally be available 7 days a week, preferably with a 24 hour phone service available for urgent issues and advice on an exceptional basis. Ideally the P-PAN would also have a facility for families to report concerns and access support, with appropriate procedures to guard against system misuse.

All volunteer peers should receive training appropriate to their role. Periodic meetings should be arranged to share experiences and discuss anonymised cases. The roles of professional medical and healthcare advisors such as clinical psychologists, aviation medical specialists, psychiatrists and counsellors in the P-PAN should also be defined.

The CAA say that the P-PAN should be independent of management and independent of the regulator. Smaller operators will be encouraged to join together to provide pilot support via a co-operative network to encourage pilots to seek advice from peers independent to their organisation, therefore encouraging reporting by enabling the neutrality and confidentiality of reporting to be maintained.

Full details of the CAA guidance can be found in Information Notice IN–2017/005.

Author: Adrian Mahovics

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