today we decided to talk to you about Pilot Peer Support. As you may have heard, after the Germanwings crash in 2015, EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency) decided that all the European commercial air transport operators will need to have a Pilot Peer Support Programme in place. As we approach the implementation deadline of February 2021, we take a practical example from one of our Technical Task Force members who is in charge of such programme at Brussels Airlines.
So what is a Peer Support Programme (PSP)?
A PSP is a place for pilots to turn, whenever they feel the need to talk to someone ‘just like them’, meaning another regular pilot. It’s a system totally protected by confidentiality, where pilots do not have to fear talking about any kind of concerns they might have.
Why do we need such programmes?
As strange as it may sounds, it is often difficult for the general public to understand that pilots are just human beings, and can go through difficult times during their lives. This can also happen within the airline itself, with the result of pilots feeling ashamed or in denial about personal issues (often because in fear of repercussions on their career). Peer Support has proven to be a great way of making sure that pilots can talk through their concerns with a fellow colleague and get appropriate help, keeping the safety standards high.
How is this done?
In the example of Brussels Airlines, a pilot can contact the Programme via a web platform to request a confidential talk with a peer. The peer will soon get in touch, and together they’ll find the best way to tackle the concerns. If required, the pilot in need can also get professional psychological support. Selected psychologists, especially with aviation background, are fully involved with the Programme.
What does the future hold?
While Pilot Peer Support Programmes are mandatory, EASA recommends their implementation for cabin crew and maintenance personnel too. At Brussels Airlines, cabin crew will have access to the same programme (with cabin crew members peers) in spring 2021.
For aviation, especially during such difficult times, Peer Support is proof of a cultural change, which requires time and trust from all involved parties.