NTSB Plans Summit On Pilot Mental Health Next Week


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will conduct a roundtable discussion next Wednesday (Dec. 6) on the issue of concern over pilots’ mental health issues. The summit, titled “Navigating Mental Health in Aviation,” will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST at the NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center in Washington, D.C., and will be open to the public. To register, go to NTSB Aviation Safety Summit: Navigating Mental Health in Aviation.

The event will not be livestreamed, but a recording of the proceedings will be available a few days later, according to the NTSB announcement.

With recent criticism of aviation’s stigma imposed on pilots seeking mental health treatment, the spotlight is on efforts to eliminate the fear of losing flight privileges for getting appropriate care.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said, “Everyone should feel safe speaking up, getting the mental health care they need, regardless of their profession. Aviation should be no different, and yet it is different. Current federal rules incentivize people to either lie about their needs or avoid seeking help in the first place—and that’s not safe for anyone.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Or when one is honest, they either hold it against you or blab about it. Hipa laws don’t apply. Or they get disregarded…

  2. There needs to be a really strong and solid backing from the powers that be for any concerned pilot to volunteer anything about his/her mental health concerns imho. If a pilot knows that the FAA, NTSB and their employer has their back at all levels, this has a chance.

    The judgements, eye-rolls and peer pressures found in the lounge or hangar would have be ignored knowing you can rely on the above three for support, but it has to be rock solid. I know I know what are you smoking Miller – more like dreaming probably…

  3. Dave, I stand with you. Upon initially reviewing the briefing, I was left with a sense of unease, overshadowed by mistrust and cynicism. Is this another program benefiting the administration while undermining the pilots, or is it a legitimate and warranted initiative?

    You stressed the importance of strong backing from the powers that be as a primal condition to enhance trust and protection for those entering the NTSB’s mental health project. Initially, I was skeptical, believing that no one “in their right mind” would volunteer. But then I discovered that there are pilots who have broken their silence and advocated for mental health and support within the aviation community. Here is a list of names of individuals in aviation who, despite facing mental health challenges, accordingto what I’ve read, and if true, lead fulfilling lives and contribute to the well-being of their peers.

    Matt McNeil: Former airline pilot, diagnosed with anxiety and depression, founded LiftAffect, providing mental health support to aviation professionals. LiftAffect has been working with pilots and pilot assistance programs since 2007, helping more than 3,500 professional pilots since 2010.

    Captain Michael Kussman: openly shares his struggles with depression, challenging the prevailing stigma in aviation. His candid narrative provides guidance and encourages mental health conversations.

    Captain Karen Johnston: Diagnosed with ADHD, Captain Karen Johnston advocates for neurodiversity in aviation, promoting understanding and acceptance. She exemplifies how diverse cognitive profiles thrive in aviation.

    Captain Robert DeLong: an aviation safety expert, discusses battles with anxiety and depression, encouraging the prioritization of mental well-being for a safer aviation environment.

    Captain Sarah Marshall: author of “The Aviator’s Mental Health Handbook,” equips pilots with resources for navigating mental health challenges, acknowledging unique stressors in aviation.

    Captain Tom Bunn: Captain Tom Bunn, a vocal mental health advocate, emphasizes the urgent need for improved support systems in aviation. He fosters a culture where seeking help is encouraged.

    Captain James “Jim” Lovell: NASA astronaut overcame anxiety and depression post-Apollo 13, demonstrating resilience in the demanding world of space exploration.

    Captain Sully Sullenberger: Emphasizes the importance of mental resilience in aviation. His advocacy highlights effective stress and anxiety management.


  4. Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are not signs of weakness. They are signs of being toi strong for too long.

    It’s time to move past the stigma of mental health issues and realize that in such a demanding field depression can be an occupational hazard that needs serious consideration. We are only beginning to look into treatment and ways to respond to pilots suffering from mental health conditions, but we need to move more towards prevention. We now live in a world where almost everyone should be seeing a therapist on a regular basis, not to treat issues, but to head them off before they become severe. Depression does not happen overnight. It is a slow building condition that one day takes you by surprise, despite the facts that signs have been present all along. If we can abandon the stigma around depression and acknowledge the value of preventive therapy we can be a happier and healthier society.