Calls for better assessment of flight crews' mental health in wake of the disappearance of flight MH370

Experts also say more attention must be paid to the behaviour of airline employees, airport workers and passengers to improve security

travel correspondent

Three months after the mental health of the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet was seriously called into question, aviation security professionals have called for better assessment of flight crews.

At a conference at Heathrow, Philip Baum - editor of Aviation Security International - said that pilot suicide was only one of many possible causes of the loss of flight MH370 while on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. But the Dispax World conference was told of five suspected or confirmed cases of suicide by pilots of commercial aircraft in the past 20 years.

Mr Baum told The Independent that more attention must be paid to the behaviour of everyone on an aircraft: “Looking at people, how they behave on any particular day. It's not about their history, it's about how they are in the here-and-now. We can do it with airline employees, we can do it with airport workers, and we can do it with passengers.”

“We've got to be thinking about the mental health of the flight crew. In certain parts of the world there are cultural issues that come into play that make it difficult for junior crew, such as a first officer, to challenge senior officers such as the captain.”

Malcolm Cheshire, chief executive of the Thirdmargin consultancy, said more attention should be paid to “the intuition of colleagues, based upon gut feelings”.

“The cost of employing a team of mental health specialists to look at is negligible compared with the potential risk.”

An aviation medicine specialist, Professor Michael Bagshaw from King's College, said: “Pilot medicals should concentrate more on mental health.” He also said that not enough attention was paid to passengers' mental issues. One in 40 of the population is believed to have a profound fear of flying: “How many of those people have a latent psychotic illness and a fear of flying is enough to push it over?”

Bill Hagan, the British Airways captain involved in a flight-deck attack on a flight from Gatwick to Nairobi in which a Boeing 747 stalled twice, plunged thousands of feet and nearly crashed, said: “I firmly believe it was an attempted suicide by a paranoid schizophrenic.”

Mr Baum also raised the possibility that an intruder had managed to get in to the cockpit of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing: “We have seen that air crew can become extremely complacent, particularly with regard to the flight-deck door. The reality is that that door opens far too many times. So it is possible that someone gained access to the flight deck.”

Flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March with 239 passengers and crew aboard.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?