With concerns raised over whether pilots fear seeking treatment for mental health issues, the FAA announced today (Nov. 9) it will establish a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to address the issue. According to the announcement, the FAA “expects the committee to provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the agency.”

Members of the committee will include medical experts and representatives from aviation and labor. In the coming weeks, the charter for the ARC will be finalized and the FAA will appoint its panel of experts.

Noting that work has already been accomplished on the subject, the FAA said the new initiative will build on that foundation. Among the areas given priority are increasing mental health training for aviation medical examiners (AMEs), providing support for industry-wide studies and research into pilots’ mental health, adding more mental health professionals to the FAA staff with the dual goals of expanding in-house expertise in the field and hastening “return-to-fly” decision-making for pilots awaiting FAA action, performing clinical research and amending policies on cognitive testing for pilots taking antidepressant medication, and ramping up efforts to connect with pilot groups to inform them of available resources.

Newly confirmed FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said, “Mental health care has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots.”

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