Bipartisan Committee Leaders Urge the FAA to Modernize Protocols & Address Stigma Around Mental Health in Aviation

Washington, D.C., February 8, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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Washington, D.C. – Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA) and Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN) led a bipartisan group of House Members in sending a letter to Michael Whitaker, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), encouraging the FAA to modernize its mental health protocols to ensure aviation professionals can obtain mental health care in a timely and efficient manner.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), and 41 additional Members of Congress also signed the letter.

Recent reports about the mental health struggles of air traffic controllers and commercial pilots have raised concerns over the Agency’s approach to mental health and the stigma that still exists across the U.S. aviation industry.

In July, the House passed H.R. 3935, the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, a long-term comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill. Section 328 of the House’s bill focuses on supporting pilot mental health by requiring the FAA to establish an Aeromedical Innovation and Modernization Working Group to improve its aeromedical decision-making and ensure alignment with modern medical practices. The letter commends the FAA for heeding the House’s directive and establishing the Mental Health and Aviation Medical Clearance Aviation Rulemaking Committee, a forum for the aviation community to discuss and provide solutions to the agency to break down barriers that keep pilots and air traffic controllers alike from seeking care and reporting mental health issues.

“The Agency’s backlog of decisions and reviews for aviation professionals that have sought mental health care persists and continues to strain the Agency’s resources. Long medical clearance wait times are not only severely disruptive to an individual’s career but may also be a contributing factor discouraging other aviation professionals from self-disclosing mental health conditions. Such issues have led to distrust, frustration, and uncertainty between the Agency and the aviation community and present formidable challenges to the future of United States aviation.”

The Members emphasized that the perception of mental health in the aviation industry must evolve to foster a supportive environment in which aviation professionals can seek mental health care without fear that doing so could potentially prolong their return to work, or even prevent them from pursuing aviation careers. Such evolution is not only critical to maintaining the highest degree of safety in the National Airspace System, but is also pertinent to reinforcing U.S. aviation workforce pipelines.

We urge the FAA to take decisive actions to reduce the stigma around mental health care in aviation, make meaningful changes to remove barriers without jeopardizing safety standards, reduce aeromedical decision wait times, and ultimately strengthen trust with our aviation workforce.

Read the full letter here.

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Tags: Aviation