Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Let Us Be Safe Not Sorry

The recent crash of flight 9525 in the French Alps has brought into sharp focus the issues of pilot screening for fitness. The aviation industry has not been the same since September 11, 2011 when terrorists hijacked and crashed commercial passenger planes in the World Trade Center killing thousands.
Initial reports regarding the crash have pointed to pilot suicide as the cause for the crash of the Germanwings airline which crashed on March 24, 2015 killing all 150 passengers and crew on- board.  Audio from the recovered black boxes suggests that the co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cockpit after he returned from the bathroom.
As a global community we have avoided for too long the issue of mental health so much so that those afflicted with this serious illness tend to hide their problem and pretend all is well for fear of discrimination.
While this is by no means an excuse we must and should be honest with ourselves and deal with the issue of mental health in a serious and meaningful manner in order that those who suffer from this serious illness will feel comfortable to come forward and seek medical attention.
The fact is more and more of us will experience bouts of depression during our lifetime. According the World Health Organization (WHO) depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Suicide results in an estimated 1 million deaths every year. Barriers to effective care include a lack of resources, lack of trained health care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders.
When the flying public decides to travel they put their faith in the competence and mental acuity of the pilot and supporting crew. When one’s mental sharpness is compromised there must be a sense of responsibility to do what is right and not the lives of others in danger.
However, we do not live in a perfect world and there will always be those who will do just that.
The time has certainly come for airlines to do much background checks on their employees including pilots to ensure the safety of the flying public. The tragedy involving the crash of Germanwings flight 9525 might have been avoided. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Wayne Campbell
Twitter: @WayneCamo