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Behind the Wings ®
The Podcast – S4, Episode 37

For Mental Health Awareness Month, we explore the critical challenges pilots face while suffering from mental health issues and discuss possible individual and organizational solutions.

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Our guests are United Airlines Pilot, Troy Merritt, and Neurologist and Aircrew Brain Health Researcher, Dr. William “Billy” Hoffman. Troy discusses his personal experience of grounding himself due to mental health issues and explains the pilot mental health paradox. Dr. Hoffman draws on his research and medical experience with mental health in aviation to help us understand the efforts being made by researchers and the broader aviation community to bridge the gap for pilots and the industry as a whole. There is a lot to learn in this episode!

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Key Takeaways:
  • Pilots have two options; disclose their mental health issues to the FAA and become grounded or keep them secret and continue flying while untreated. Many pilots will face this paradox at some point in their flying career.
  • Troy suffered from anxiety and depression and chose to ground himself in 2022. He found a doctor who prescribed SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and is already on the application pathway to fly again.
  • Special Issuances are given to pilots who are approved to fly, despite their current health problems.
  • Troy encourages all who are suffering from mental illness to seek treatment. Even talking to a therapist as a “life coach” is a great first step that doesn’t alert the FAA.
  • Billy continues to research with pilots and participate in conversations on how to better approach mental health problems in aviation.
  • This paradox isn’t limited to mental health. Many pilots also keep physical ailments to themselves or seek treatment without alerting the FAA.
  • The FAA has set up a mental health rules committee to research and possibly change some regulations.
Behind the Wings Season 4

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Behind the Wings Season 4

Peek into the cockpits of rare warbirds and spacecraft, hear from aerospace experts and more in our episodic documentary series!

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