Boeing forecasts global demand for commercial airline pilots to top 700,000 during the next 20 years. Airbus

FAA Announces Pilot Fitness Study

A joint FAA and industry group called the Commercial Aviation Safety Team recommended the study based on two recent major losses, the disappearance on March 8, 2014, of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and the apparently deliberate crashing of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps by its co-pilot on March 24, 2015.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced May 27 that is now working with the commercial aviation and medical communities to study the emotional and mental health of U.S. commercial pilots. A joint FAA and industry group called the Commercial Aviation Safety Team recommended the study based on two recent major losses, the disappearance on March 8, 2014, of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and the apparently deliberate crashing of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps by its co-pilot on March 24, 2015.

FAA announced that the Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee will provide recommendations within six months. This group will include U.S. and international government and industry aviation experts, including a working group of medical professionals who specialize in aerospace medicine. "U.S. pilots undergo robust medical screening, but recent accidents in other parts of the world prompted the FAA to take a new look at the important issue of pilot fitness," according to its announcement. "The ARC will examine issues including the awareness and reporting of emotional and mental health issues, the methods used to evaluate pilot emotional and mental health, and barriers to reporting such issues."

Once the recommendations are in, FAA may consider changes to medical methods, aircraft design, policies and procedures, pilot training and testing, training for Aerospace Medical Examiners, or other actions that could be taken by professional, airline, or union groups. The committee's meetings will not be open to the public, according to the agency, which said U.S airline pilots undergo a medical exam with an FAA-approved physician every six or 12 months, depending on the pilot's age.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau continues to lead the search for the MH370 aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean. Last month, the search area being checked by ships was doubled from the original 60,000 square kilometer area to 120,000 square kilometers. ATSB said expert advice indicates the highest probability of locating the aircraft is within that 120,000 square kilometers, adding that continuous search operations will continue during the winter.

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