The SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has come out strongly against newspaper reports casting doubt on the mental health of South African pilots.
“The articles are regrettable and simply intended to be sensational,” it said in a statement adding it was “implausible” there about 17,000 South African pilots are unfit to fly because of mental conditions.
“It is unfortunate and disappointing certain individuals who are privy to less than a handful of cases can simply generalise and conclude the entire country’s pilot community suffers from mental ailments. It is also reckless to assert there are no regulations or guiding tools to assist in identifying aviators and pilots that may suffer mental or physical illness that may render them incapable of discharging their duties,” the statement said.
It goes on to elaborate on five aspects which relate to mental health and flight crew. These include South Africa’s adherence to international standards and that operators (airlines) can prescribe regulations higher than standards set by the industry internationally as well as pointing out enforcement action can be taken against non-compliant licence holders.
The Authority points out any new standards should be supported by scientific evidence and admits the recent French Alps crash has indicated “the need to have a closer look at the composition of the flight deck crew”.
SACAA is engaging local operators on policies and procedures and has asked for risk assessment measures regarding minimum number of crew on flight decks at all stages of a flight to be submitted to it.
“Based on the regulator’s (SACAA) assessment of the risk and mitigating factors in place, the local industry will be advised on the way forward,” the statement said.