FAA reviewing ways to remove barriers preventing pilots from seeking mental health support

John Hauser was an aspiring pilot who loved flying, but his parents said they didn’t realize he was suffering in silence until he took his own life by crashing his plane in 2021.

Last year at a mental health in aviation summit, his mother, Anne Suh, shared a message John wrote before his death.

“Get the FAA to change the rules on pilots seeking help with their mental health. I know it would change a lot of things for the better and would help a lot of people out, love you John,” said Anne Suh in December of 2023.

Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration appointed an expert panel to help address the barriers preventing pilots and air traffic controllers from seeking help.

Many of them been afraid to come forward in fear of losing their jobs.

Now the panel has released 24 recommendations. One of the key findings – the FAA should create a way for them to disclose conditions and treatments, without punishment.

“It puts away the fear that they have that, that they’re going to lose certification for them to be able to work,” said Suh.

But pilot Frank DePiano believes it may be difficult to find the right balance.

“Take an extreme case, I have a fantasy about going up in flames. Well, you know, the FAA certainly would be irresponsible not to take that person, at least temporarily out of the cockpit,” said DePiano.

“So, it becomes punitive, without a meaning to be punitive. It’s meant to protect a greater part of society and sacrifice, maybe this one person’s livelihood, career, whatever it might be, to protect what might be hundreds or even more people, keep them safe,” he said.

Other recommendations include allowing pilots and air traffic controllers to go to talk therapy without disclosing it, developing peer support programs, and reconsidering FAA’s policies about using anxiety medications.

John’s parents said these are all steps they hope will make a difference.

“Our whole goal with this, if it’s one pilot, if it’s one air traffic controller, it’s one job, it’s a family that we somehow have an impact and help even save, it would be worth everything we’ve done,” said Suh.

“I think John would be very proud of us, he’d be very proud of my wife, and we hope that he’s looking down on us now and that he approves,” said Alan Hauser, John’s father.

In a statement, the FAA said it will determine next steps after reviewing these recommendations.