Retired airline pilot says psychological testing only done at time of hire

One retired commercial airline pilot says mental health screenings are not required for pilots once they've already been hired on.

He was a pilot for over 30 years and says mental health exams are not routine. They may have to pass one to get the job, but they aren't required to receive further mental health screenings.

Is the person piloting the plane you're on, mentally fit to fly?

That question may be looming in the back of the minds of passengers, after the latest developments in the Germanwings crash investigation.

"From what we hear, the conversation between the two pilots was very routine, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that made the Captain suspect something is amiss here," said Jim Tilmon.

Tilmon is a retired American Airlines pilot. He spent 30 years in the cockpit and believes the only person to blame in this case is the co-pilot; 27-yeear-old Andreas Lubitz.

"That overreact, that was something that had to be conciously done, that was something there had to be some thought to the implications, and consequences of doing it," he said.

Tilmon says most pilots are only required to go through a mental health evaluation when they're hired.

"Once that is done, that is probably the last time in that person's career that psychological testing will be used," said Tilmon.

During a search of the home, investigators found several torn-up doctor's notes stating Lubitz was unfit to fly. Tilmon says it is not surprising, he would've wanted to hide that.

"Yes, it is a meaningful thing, if you're confronted with a situation that you're unfit to fly, and that is something you wanted to do all your life, in my case I wanted to fly since I was 5-years-old... to shut me down would've been a disaster," he said.

Many pilots say frequent mental health exams might not have prevented the crash, simply because there are not effective ways to screen pilots for mental health issues.

"We have yet to find a way to examine to look into the head and heart of a human being," said Tilmon.

Tilmon said there are many reasons a doctor might declare a pilot unfit to fly for a period of time. Pilots could get grounded because of a simple sinus infection, head cold, or vertigo.
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