Hopeful pilots may have to pass psychometric testsPolicy drafters want to include the requirement after several air crash reports blamed pilot behaviour.
Nepal may require aspiring airline pilots to pass psychometric tests before they are allowed to join a pilot course abroad, according to a preliminary draft of the national aviation policy which is being revised after 13 years.
Psychometrics tests gauge an individual's personality traits, mental competence and suitability for a particular job.
A task force formed to amend the aviation policy recommended inserting the requirement in response to different air crash investigation reports that partly blamed the behavioral attitude of pilots in the face of bad weather for the disasters.
The panel handed over the draft policy to Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai on Wednesday.
In view of the safety measures that Nepal has to adopt in line with its diverse topography, any Nepali wishing to become a pilot should undergo psychometric tests as per international standards, says the draft. They should be allowed to pursue the pilot course only if they pass the test, it says.
“We all know that Nepal has been seeing an increasing rate of accidents involving both fixed-wing and rotor-wing aircraft. And most of them were due to human error,” said Suman Pandey, chief executive officer of Fishtail Air, who was a member of the task force.
“These issues have prompted us to recommend mandatory psychological assessment for candidates who will become Nepal’s future commercial pilots,” he said.
Airlines in most countries have been conducting an psychological assessment of pilots before hiring them.
But there are only a few countries whose flying schools conduct psychometrics tests before enrolling them, said Sanjiv Gautam, former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
“It’s a good move to conduct psychometric tests. But the policy should be clear where Nepalis should undergo them,” he said, adding that in Nepal, a separate institute can be formed like a medical board to conduct the tests. “But since exercising power and nepotism in Nepal is a big problem, as it is now, to pass the test, it may not work properly .”
Another option is issuing a commercial pilot's licence to a pilot who has passed psychometric tests from any flying school that requires candidates to take them before they can enrol in the course, he said. “But these issues need to be stated clearly in the regulations too.”
According to Gautam, human error has been the major cause behind accidents in Nepal with pilots seen making quick decisions and lacking situational awareness.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, 21 fatal accidents have occurred in the country in the past 10 years, including eight crashes involving helicopters. During the period of 2009-18, the highest number of accidents occurred in 2016 when there were four mishaps.
In 2018, the European Commission adopted new rules on the mental health of pilots for the first time, requiring airlines to do a psychological assessment before hiring them. The new rule followed after the Germanwings crash in which a pilot deliberately flew a jet into a mountainside in March 2015, killing all 150 people on board.
Nepali investigators have also cast a spotlight on the history of mental health of pilots in the final report on the crash of the US-Bangla plane at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport in 2018, killing 51 people.
The investigation commission recommended that all airline pilots undergo a psychological evaluation as part of the training or before entering service.
Investigators have also found that the pilot of the Makalu Air plane that crashed in May 2018 had some issues related to his mental health.
According to Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, the panel handed over the draft civil aviation policy on Wednesday and the government will review it before releasing it formally.
The government introduced the national aviation policy in 1993 with the view of involving the private sector in air transport service after Nepal adopted a liberal sky policy in 1992. The government made the first amendment to the policy in 1996, aiming to attract many tourists through the development of civil aviation. It was replaced by the Aviation Policy 2006.