The provision of pilot peer support in commercialaviation is a recent recommendation following the Germanwings pilotsuicide–murder crash in 2015. Conducted in a South African aviationcontext, this study explored the phenomenon of peer support and its role andcontribution as an effective response to addressing the emotional well-being ofpilots. A qualitative phenomenological research design was followed using Rubinand Rubin’s in-depth, semi-structured interview technique to understandlived experiences of peer support. Nine interviews were held, six with airlinepilots – a combination of peers and flight operations managers –and three with mental health professionals (MHPs). Braun and Clarke’sthematic analysis (TA) method elicited themes in relation to peer support andthe mental health and well-being of pilots. Four themes emerged relating to (a)the conceptualization of peer support, the role of the peer, and the principleson which the process is founded; (b) pilots’ experience of theirworkplace as emotionally “unsafe” and deficient in acknowledgingthe nature of different emotional stressors; (c) the well-being of pilots andmedical certification of fitness for duty; and (d) the multidimensionalcontribution of peer support and factors critical to integrating successful andsustainable peer support. This study underscores the importance of developing amore integrated definition of safety in aviation that incorporates supportingthe mental health and well-being of pilots. This paper addresses the role andcontribution of peer support and considers some of the challenges to itsintegration as a safety initiative.
Aviation Psychology and Applied Human Factors – American Psychological Association
Published: Jan 1, 2019