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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Suicide By Plane

Last week I was Googling in search of a Piper FBO in the Seattle area. What should pop up? A post by Charles O'Rourke, Suicide by Airplane.  Thirty plus events of pilot suicides by planes. What this list did not include were the vast number of Airline pilot suicides. Stress can break even the strongest person. We only hope that the pilot doesn't break on the plane like the JetBlue Captain.

Six months have passed since that JetBlue Captain experienced a mental breakdown during his flight. We should not allow is for this event to be buried and forgotten. Mental health of our crew-members is essential for the safety of the flying public.

For those who have not heard the story, (and recently I have met many who haven't) this is a great recap:

JetBlue pilot subdued by passengers during mid-air rant (3:33)

Stress is in the Air:

Public Stress grows prior to, and during, the U.S. presidential elections. This has everything to do with the slam campaigns and focus on the negative, instead of what we can do for our country and the world. People become angry. Arguments ensue. Union busting is a hot topic. Blame as to why companies can't make it. Unemployment. Housing market. Pay cuts. Pension loss. Taxes. The list goes on. This type of commentary is mostly propaganda to create anger and instill feelings of doomsday, instead of proposing ideas of change for the positive.
Pilots are not exempt from this added stress. 

What do you think we can do during these challenging times to eliminate stress? How do you avoid stress? How do you deal with the election year, to keep yourself mentally healthy and protected? 

This protection is not about avoiding hard topics. It has everything to do will looking at the issues and dealing with what you can, and finding solutions that work. But the reality is... this type of talk creates added stress. 

Most pilots keep the political and religious discussions out of the flight deck. But they can't keep the destruction of their jobs and what is happening in their industry, impacting their families. How should pilots stay protected?

A glimpse inside the world an airline pilot lives can be found in Flight For Control. The theme of my first novel: Mental Health. How far can you push a pilot before they break?  While the story is fiction, truth lays within the pages.


  1. There's an old rule amongst fraternal brothers, (and hopefully sororal sisters as well) that political and religious discussions are strictly forbidden.

    It should be that way in the workplace as well.

    1. Yes... it's an unspoken rule. But every once in awhile someone slips over the edge. And I agree with you... they should stay out of every workplace.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Your comments are right on. I get so tired of negative propaganda propagating (!) problems! My answer for stress, other than sleep and B vitamins, was to talk to a professional.

    Pilots are discouraged from talking to counselors, afraid that a mental health diagnosis might damage their career, but I found counseling to be a huge benefit. Of course you have to shop for the right one, and there are plenty of quacks. But they always had good ideas to manage my stress, tools I could use. My medical covered "family" or "marital" counseling without worry of any negative repercussions.

    Giving in to "flight deck therapy" usually made it worse....

    1. Kathy, so true! Be vitamins... smile. Just got mine. And counseling can be so helpful. I think there is a stigma, and persona that pilots try to live up to that they are strong and don't need help. I loved it when airlines encouraged mental health care. Now, we ignore it.

      I feel there is so much more stress in the air, and on the ground right now. Making the help more necessary.

      Thanks for the great comment!

  3. It's so important to keep these kinds of issues visible when they are not going away any time soon. It's a good way to encourage positive change. I never doubt that you will do that. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Linda. We must encourage positive change. Have you seen what is going on at American with all the issues? I hope that Louise isn't watching.

    2. I haven't--I'll have to look for that. Yep, hope she's tuning it out!!

    3. Me too! 4 incidents in a week.

  4. Oh.... so much to discuss in November..


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