Pilots Are Rarely Screened for Mental Problems

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Despite U.S. and international regulations requiring that airline pilots be screened for mental health problems, little effective, real-world checking takes place, reports the Associated Press. The crash of a German airliner has raised questions about the mental state of the co-pilot. Authorities believe the 27-year-old German deliberately sought to destroy the Airbus A320 as it flew Tuesday from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

In the U.S., the FAA requires that pilots receive a physical exam by a flight surgeon at least annually. A U.N. agency that sets global aviation standards also requires that pilots receive a periodic medical exam, including a mental assessment. Technically, doctors are supposed to probe for mental problems, but pilots said that’s usually not how it works. Bob Kudwa, a former American Airlines pilot and executive, said, “They check your eyes, your ears, your heart–all the things that start going bad when you get older. But they don’t do anything for your head, no.”

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