Connecting Pilots to Peers for Valuable Support

Dec 21, 2022 1:25 PM ET
two pilots in the cockpit of a plane

Originally published in American Airlines 2021 ESG Report

American has long offered an Employee Assistance Plan that provides emotional and mental support for our team members around the world. We know that pilots, in particular, face unique pressures every time they enter the flight deck.

For more than a decade, Project Wingman has been providing our pilots and their family members with additional, specialized support whenever they need it. Established by American and the APA, this peer-to-peer 24/7 helpline allows pilots to reach out to other pilots for emotional and occupational support. Because it protects the privacy of its users, Project Wingman also alleviates any concerns pilots may have regarding the stigma of seeking help.

More than 40 pilots currently volunteer for Project Wingman. In addition to bringing a unique understanding of the challenges pilots can face in their professional and personal lives, these volunteers all undergo specialized, intensive training. As a result, they know when to lend a sympathetic ear and provide encouragement or recommend other resources when the situation warrants greater intervention.

Project Wingman is managed by a deputy chair of the APA aeromedical committee, and American employs a pilot at the managerial level on a full-time basis to support and promote it. That includes visiting our pilot training programs to talk about it and meeting with the chief pilots on a regular basis. Given the program’s success, he also advises other airlines on their pilot mental health initiatives. The U.K. and European Union require such peer-to-peer programs, and the FAA recommends them for all airlines.

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