Aviation Mental Health: Evaluating Pilots for the FAA

Florida Tech alumi Dr. Allison Waterworth, Psy.D. and Dr. David Prewett, Psy.D returned to Florida Tech for a special 3-hour seminar on the field of aeromedical psychology and the importance of the mental health of aspiring and established pilots. Dr. Waterworth graduated from Florida Tech’s clinical psychology doctoral program and is a nationally recognized expert in learning disability and attention deficit disorders. She currently has a private practice in San Francisco where she applies her expertise in these areas to aeromedical psychology. Dr. Prewett also graduated from Florida Tech’s clinical psychology doctoral program. Today he practices in Atlanta, Georgia with a specialization in substance use disorders and consults with airlines nationally and internationally regarding pilot wellness. He also works for the Skyline Program at Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta.

Dr. Waterworth and Dr. Prewett’s presentation primarily focused on the complexities related to determining a pilot’s fitness to fly an aircraft and the special role a psychologist can play to help determine this. The field of aeromedical psychology is blend of both clinical and neuropsychological practices to ensure a pilot exhibits mental wellness appropriate to be a pilot. “Operating an aircraft is a privilege, not a right, and pilots must demonstrate a minimum standard of health to do so,” said Dr. Waterworth. The presenters explained there are multiple pilot characteristics that may be flagged warranting a pilot evaluation. These include a history of mental health difficulties, including ADHD, a substance abuse history, observed concerning behaviors, or a physical incident such as a stroke or heart condition. An aeromedical psychologist’s job is to then conduct an evaluation that contains neuropsychological and personality measures in combination with test called the CogScreen, a neuropsychological test developed specifically for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Dr. Prewett also discussed the heavily researched personality factors associated with pilot success and safety including a unique blend of perfectionism, confidence, and amiability.

Pictured: Dr. Waterworth, Dr. Prewett, Dr. Follett (Clinical Program Chair)

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