FAA to consider new mental health rules for commercial pilots

A panel will meet to come up with recommendations within six months

In the wake of airline catastrophes involving Germanwings and Malaysia Airline carriers, the Federal Aviation Administration is calling for a study on the mental and emotional health of commercial airline pilots.

The FAA announced Wednesday that it is working with an industry group that includes pilots and medical experts to come up with recommendations for new rules within six months.

The study comes in response to the deaths of 150 people in the crash of Germanwings flight 9525 in March. The copilot, who had been treated for suicidal tendencies, is believed to have deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps.

A year earlier, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared somewhere over the Southern Indian Ocean, carrying 239 passengers and crew.

The panel assembled by the FAA will "examine issues including the awareness and reporting of emotional and mental health issues, the methods used to evaluate pilot emotional and mental health, and barriers to reporting such issues," the FAA said.

Groups representing pilots and airlines said they will cooperate with the study.

"Safety is the industry’s top priority," said the International Air Transport Assn., a trade group for the world's airlines. "IATA is pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this important initiative on pilot fitness."

The Air Line Pilots Assn, which represents 51,000 pilots at 30 airlines, issued a statement, saying: "We look forward to working alongside other key stakeholders in evaluating the extensive procedures and processes currently in place that provide a thorough monitoring of crewmembers in the United States.”

The panel meetings will not be open to the public.

The FAA has already established mental health standards for pilots and copilots, including restrictions on pilots who have a history of personality disorders, psychosis and chemical dependency.

U.S. airline pilots undergo a medical exam with an FAA-approved doctor every six or 12  months, depending on the pilot's age.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

The story has been updated to include comments from a pilots association and an airline trade group.

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