Peer-to-peer support and development programmes for pilots: time for a holistic approach
Imagine you are a pilot talking to your aeromedical examiner (AME) during routine medical examination. You know that if any significant medical and/ or psychological problem arises the AME will withdraw your medical or will report to the Civil Aviation Authority to take the same action. How willing will you be to openly talk to him or her about any problem you might have? If you have an obvious medical problem you will have to disclose your symptoms because your AME will probably discover the medical condition anyway. However, if you have problems that could be hidden from a medical examination then you have a choice as to whether you disclose or not. Not disclosing problems may help you keep your medical certification for the moment. However, speaking openly may provide an opportunity for you to get support but involves the risk that your medical is withdrawn. AMEs try to keep pilots ‘in the air’ but the pilot’s risk to their medical certification remains. Where the threat to your licence exists, some pilots may decide not to disclose emotional concerns to their AME and try to find different resources to help them, if indeed they do seek any at all. That pilot’s behaviour is independent of the AME’s ability to treat confidential information confidentially and is also independent of the AME’s willingness to keep the pilot flying as long as possible. It is just natural self-protective behaviour among pilots and a system with inherent structural weakness.