'The right stuff': curse of the modern pilot
Capt Dave Fielding
Disciplinary and Welfare Rep, BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association)
The majority of pilots can only aspire to the standards set by Chuck Yeager and the early NASA test pilots, so memorably chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff”. Their character qualities have been for many years the unofficial template for what was required to be a successful pilot, military or commercial. Through a combination of self-selection, actual selection and job training, pilots generally do share a number of characteristics which could easily be classified as ‘The Right Stuff’. These include decisiveness, emotional strength, high-achievement, independent problem solving, the ability to deal with stress, and the ability to set and maintain high personal standards.
The problem with this construct comes when things go wrong in a pilot’s life and long-term stressors start to have their effect. These positive character attributes can rapidly become barriers or even liabilities when it comes to dealing with deteriorating mental wellbeing.
This presentation examines possible reasons why pilots have historically been so reluctant to declare mental wellbeing issues, and outlines the various programmes around the world which are addressing the issue. This is a rapidly-evolving field, and the tragic Germanwings accident of 2015 has accelerated that process dramatically. This is particularly the case in Europe, where it is now hard legislation for every EU AOC to have a Pilot Peer Support Programme (PPSP) in place by August 2020.
This has led to a high degree of energy and innovation when it comes to design and implementation of PPSPs, along with an extraordinary level of international co-operation and resource-sharing. The presentation will detail the very exciting work currently going on in this area, along with a vision of how data collected via PPSPs can have a major impact in the field of Flight Safety.
Patterson Trust Speaker - Capt Dave Fielding