What controls do airlines have to keep mentally unbalanced tech crew from flying?

13 replies

TheRealBabushka

Member since 21 Apr 2012

Total posts 2,059

What controls do airlines have to keep mentally unbalanced tech crew from flying?

Are there regular and periodic psychological assessments? Are there adequate trigger mechanism to identify and address tech crews that may pose a risk?

521303

Member since 03 Jan 2012

Total posts 60

From my perspective (BA (Psych), B.Psych, M.Psych & PhD + 20 years working career in risk and safety, there are NO psychological assessments that could pick-up every "at-risk" pilot in order to eliminate the risk of a pilot deliberatly flying a plane into the ground. Sorry !!!  People are complex decison-makers and may choose to commit suicide (murder-suicide) for a very wide range of reasons (ideological, mental-health status, economic, political, etc).  In risk & safety, we use the hierarchy of control to work out the best ways to control hazards (in this case, the psychological hazards posed by a suicidal person); it works through a process of elimination, substitution, engineering control, administrative control, and personal protective equipment.  In the current context, airlines are probably going to have to evaluate thier engineering controls (the doors, door lock mechanisms, etc) and the administrative contols (e.g., solo-pilot at the controls whilst the other takes a piss). Clearly, the doors need to keep out the bad guys (terrorists, criminals), but allow access of the good guys (pilots).  There in is the solution which most airlines will probably pursue.  

TheRealBabushka

Member since 21 Apr 2012

Total posts 2,059

Thanks 521303. I agree that is hard to identify and is never foolproof.

I was heartened to learn today via various media sources and the ABC that the US civil aviation authorities have a requirement for there to always be two people in the cockpit at any given time. A tech crew leaving the cockpit is to be replaced by another tech crew or cabin crew. This is not a requirement in Europe or Australia. 

To that end, it has been reported that Norwegian will unilaterally introduce this requirement on its flights.  However I'm curious to know:

  1. Can another person really prevent the pilot from doing harm? 
  2. For this to be effective, does this person need to be a trained pilot? (cost implications to an airline)  
  3. Or is it just tokenism to have cabin crew fulfil this function? Can an untrained person stop the pilot who is intent on malice?

Frank

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 09 Sep 2013

Total posts 94

TRB - I think the answers in order would be:

1 - No;

2 - after 1, now NA

3 - yes and no.

 

gippsflyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 10 Jan 2013

Total posts 162

Putting aside pilots intentionally trying to crash airplanes, I think it's not a bad idea to require another crew member in the cockpit during one of the pilot's comfort breaks, even if they are not a pilot themselves, just to have someone immediately to hand. The pilot in control must stay on the controls, he can't wander back to the door to call the other pilot, so just having someone able to provide another pair of hands in the cockpit is very useful as the pilot in control can direct them as they need (especially since problems can crop up with zero notice - what if the temporary solo pilot suddenly collapses? The other pilot in the john would be blissfully unaware).

Going back to mass murdering pilots, where someone is determined enough I doubt anything could stop them (they'd simply knock out or kill the other person by catching them off-guard), but it might lower the risk somewhat (but then what if this other person used this opportunity to take out the pilot in control to do much the same, so perhaps it's no change in risk at all).

That said, I note cabin crew sometimes block access to the forward galley (stand out looking at the passengers) when one of the pilots pop out to use the toilet already. While this is probably to ensure a pilot isn't approached when out in the common areas, I feel there's more use of in putting that person on the flight deck so that we always have at least two people in the cockpit. I'm sure that's more important than keeping people away from the toilet door.

TheRealBabushka

Member since 21 Apr 2012

Total posts 2,059

I find that we as a society put certain professions on a pedestal be it for historical or cultural reasons. In a way, this breach of trust is similar to the breach of trust when doctors and surgeons behave unethically and put lives at risk. While the medical system and health profession has gone some way towards developing measures to manage and escalate unethical behaviour, I wonder if the same applies for pilots? Would improving the gender diversity of cockpits go some way towards modifying the macho culture, which goes some way towards explaining this possible "lone wolf" behaviour?

Viscount

Member since 12 Mar 2014

Total posts 24

TRB

Totally agree with above, especially your gender bit.  

undertheradar Banned

Member since 28 Oct 2011

Total posts 234

so the search for 'answers' begins...well, if you're looking for a definative 'reason' why various 'events' occur on this planet...here it is...the human race as a whole is fundamentally flawed and all humans are flawed, in one way or an other, and we do our best to 'manage' these flaws...and just like EVERY other 'event' that occurs all over the globe on a daily basis which involves a 'human element', we as humans try to figure out 'why?', we then 'analyise' the 'c**p' out of it, try to 'fix' it,....just to make us 'feel better/safer'...then we move on to the next human iinduced 'crisis'.

we humans are complex creatures, and it's this complexity that is our 'achilles heel'...I often wonder IF the other creatures on this planet look at us and think...'humans are on a path to self destruction'

i apologize for my 'harshness'...but that's my view

TheRealBabushka

Member since 21 Apr 2012

Total posts 2,059

undertheradar,

That is not harsh at all. But it is human to want to control our environment. From the dawn of time, we have endeavoured to do so; from the beliefs in the spirit world, the creation of religions and to the embrace of science, we have sought to mould and harness our environment. That is the essence of our civilisation.

Jedinak K

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

Member since 06 Sep 2012

Total posts 99

Yet the sad thing is that humans THINK they can control the enviroment/ nature. That's the illusion. Every action that we do will have consequences regardless of whether it is for our benefit or not. There is no right or definitive way to control nature and not expect unprecedenced ramifications. Trying to predict which person has suicidal tendencies is almost useless because all humans are capable of suicidal tendencies.

Stuart Jackson

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 15 Mar 2015

Total posts 84

Even if there are 2 pilots in the cockpit and one is intent on destruction and death chances are the latter will win out. I've never landed a large passenger aircraft before but i would think one wrong move is all it would take for something fairly messy to happen. As passengers we put our lives in their hands all we can hope for is the pilots have proper training and the airline has put administrative controls in place to minimise the risks. That's why some of us wont fly with certain airlines the perceived risk is just too high for us. This wont stop me from flying its still one of the safest means of transport.

undertheradar Banned

Member since 28 Oct 2011

Total posts 234

ahhh....the blanket of 'mental illness'....the modern day chestnut that society/lawyers/courts will use to 'justify' someones actions...i'm sick of mental illness being used as a scapegoat....this EVIL act is a DELIBERATE act...but once again the media are 'sensationalizing' this recent event..because gets the most 'views'..and some airlines are changing proceedures as a kneejurk reaction..to 'appear' to be safer....are we now going to feel unsafe on EVERY mode of public transport..." is my train driver mentally stable'?? is my bus driver mentally stable?"..is my taxi driver mentally stable..... and also is every person around me mentally unstable and has the potential to kill me??? 

ANY event where lives are lost, attract  the most media attention......but after a few months....the 'frenzy' dies down....AND OUR LIVES GO ON..thats human nature.

airlines will 'adjust' certain aspects...but NOTHING can predict HUMAN BEHAVIOUR.

TheRealBabushka

Member since 21 Apr 2012

Total posts 2,059

undertheradar, I fear that is a very myopic way of perceiving things. It is not about predicting behaviour. Change is inevitable. Question is are the changes appropriate and addresses the root causes.

undertheradar Banned

Member since 28 Oct 2011

Total posts 234

and your 'point'  is reactive....not proactive....all i'm stating, is that humans create problems...then find 'solutions' ....which create other problems..and the cycle of problems/solutuions/problems etc will continue....but that's LIFE!!

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