The official air carrier of India this week announced it had to turn down the majority of pilot job applicants because of its new, strict psychological requirements put in place after the recent, deliberate Germanwings plane crash. Air India in February launched a job search to find and hire nearly 200 qualified pilots to safely guide its fleet of planes. But after the prospective candidates underwent psychological examinations as part of the hiring process, the airline was only able to hire 78 pilots, the Economic Times reported.
An official from Air India who wished to remain anonymous told the Economic Times that the company sought help from the country’s military to conduct the psychological evaluations. “This is the first time we had psychologists from the Air Force on the interview panel. About 40 candidates were rejected on concerns raised by psychologists."
Thirteen of the accepted pilots remained on a standby list, which means their employment with the airline was not certain. As a result, even fewer pilots were ultimately hired than the already less than half of the target number of 197 pilots, Business Standard reported. It was unclear what exactly goes into Air India's psychological exams.
The issue of checking the mental health of pilots became a touchstone topic in the aviation sector, after it was determined that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz -- who in March intentionally crashed a plane into a mountainside, killing all 150 people on board – had been diagnosed as being clinically depressed, a factor experts have said played a role in the intentional crash.
Air India’s hiring process took those events into consideration, according to the Business Standard report. “The candidates were predominantly rejected on recommendation of the psychologist,” Business Standard reported sources as saying. “A pilot found unfit in the psychologist test, even if he had passed the simulator test, was not selected.”
Mohan Ranganathan, a member of the Indian government agency, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, said the high level of rejection among the candidates should be a red flag about the mental state of India’s pilots. “If 25 percent of them have been red flagged by psychologists, it is a serious concern and should be looked into seriously. All the pilots working with airlines should be tested psychologically to ensure that the flying is safe. Just because nothing has happened does not mean something will not happen.”