The goal of returning professional pilots to the flight deck as soon as it is safe to do so focused the 2024 HAWC Symposium, a gathering of more than 70 pilot mental health advocates and experts last week in Columbus.

Hosted by the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) and members of its Health and Wellness Committee (HAWC), the three-day gathering was a consequential training and resource-sharing event. An independent labour advocate, NJASAP represents the 3,300-plus pilots who fly in the service of NetJets Aviation.

“The HAWC Symposium was a gathering of esteemed leaders who are committed to removing the stigma associated with mental health,” NJASAP Vice President Capt. Paulette Gilbert said.

“It is tremendously encouraging to watch a new awareness unfold for this vital topic, which has ushered in a season of progress toward eliminating barriers that have prevented pilots with a controllable diagnosis from returning to the flight deck.”

Pilot representatives from the labor unions representing American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines joined their NJASAP peers to hear from the nation’s leading authorities on pilot mental health, including FAA Director of Medical Specialties Division Dr. Penny Giovanetti, University of North Dakota Assistant Professor Dr. William Hoffman and Psychologist Dr. Sky Overbo, Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS) Dr. Jon Riccitello and pilot mental healthcare consultants Dr. Tania Glenn and Dr. Jessica Auslander.

Attendees also received an update from Allied Pilots Association Aeromedical Committee Chair Capt. Rondeau Flynn, who served as part of an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) tasked with developing recommendations to help remove barriers that prevent pilots and air traffic controllers from reporting mental health issues; the ARC delivered its 164-page recommendation to the Administration on April 1. Flynn also serves as chair of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA) Aeromedical Committee; CAPA is a trade association representing more than 35,000 passenger and cargo pilots.
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