Business News

DGCA proposes measures for mental well-being of flight crew, air traffic controllers


NEW DELHI: India’s aviation regulator, Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA), is set to issue guidelines to airlines and airports to formulate standard operating procedures (SOPs) on mental health issues amid concerns about the well-being of crew and air traffic controllers (ATCOs), people familiar with the matter said.

An expert committee set up by the regulator earlier has identified three major domains where intervention was recommended: mental health assessment during medical assessments, peer support programme (PSP) and pre-employment psychological assessment.

“DGCA will issue a circular on May 31 asking the airlines and Airports Authority of India (ATCOs fall under AAI) to implement the committee’s recommendations for their mental well-being,” a DGCA official said.

“A separate, standalone and customised training by a trained clinical psychologist for the flight crew or ATCOs to recognise and manage the adverse effects of mental health conditions will be recommended,” the official said.

The regulator added that the organizations (scheduled and non-scheduled operators, FTOs and AAI) will introduce a ‘Peer Support Programme’ (PSP) for their employees.

“This non-punitive programme will assist and support flight crew/ATCOs in recognising, coping with and overcoming any problem, which might negatively affect their ability to safely exercise the privileges of their license,” it said.

DGCA, however, said that the personnel who are enrolled in the support programme will be handled in a non-stigmatising and safe environment and will be supported by a mental health professional.

The basic elements of the Peer Support Programme will include trust between the management and crew, education of flight crew/ATCOs regarding self-awareness and facilitation of self-referral, assistance provided by professionals, defining the process of ‘returning to duty’ and management of barriers resulting from fear of loss of license, referral system to DGCA medical directorate (MD) and defining the initial and recurrent training of the peers.

Whenever concerns arise regarding the mental state of a flight crew or ATCO that has a direct or indirect effect on their performance and ability to operate safely (such as after an incident or accident or as assessed by the peer support programme), a detailed clinical mental health assessment needs to be undertaken at one of the Indian Air Force Boarding Centres. Such cases will be referred by the organisation to DGCA Medical Directorate for permission for ‘Special’ medical examination, a DGCA statement said.

Based on international best practices, some of the air operator permit holders in India undertake a ‘psychological assessment’ of all pilots prior to their flying duties.

“In order to help pilots and ATCOs to perform their best in the particular environment of the respective organisations and to have better quality and cost-effective recruitment decisions, it is recommended that each organisation should have their own customized ‘Psychological Assessment’ process using validated and reliable tools to match its organizational requirements and the available resources,” the statement added.


Leave a Comment