Aviation psychology

What is aviation psychology?

Aviation psychology, also referred to as aerospace psychology, studies behaviour, emotions, actions and the cognitive processes within the aviation field. It is a subspecialty of psychology where workers in this field use their knowledge of human emotion and behaviour to improve aviation standards and conditions, provide mental health support to pilots, aircrew and airport staff and address any problems, anxieties, or job-related stress.

What does an aviation psychologist do?

There are many roles that an aviation psychologist can have within the aviation field.

  • Provide counselling to pilots and flight crew – they may help prepare members of staff for potential threats and teach them how to deal with high-stress situations. After times of crisis, such as an aviation crash or a terror threat, a psychologist may offer emergency counselling to pilots and airline crew, as well as to passengers who experienced any type of traumatic event. Mental health support can also be offered to the family members of those who might have died during a flight.
  • Research and investigation work - they may assist in the investigation process after an unexpected event, helping authorities to understand the behaviour of pilots, flight crew and any threat that was on board prior to the event. They may also conduct studies related to aviation safety and report it back to airline companies.
  • Design training programmes – an aviation psychologist can help in the design and planning of training programmes for airlines to improve the performance of their staff.
  • Work with engineers – sometimes they will work alongside engineers when designing the cabin and cockpit. They would ensure that all the features and mechanisms are user-friendly and safe for passengers and crew to use.
  • Mental health and wellness services – a psychologist may provide guidance and coaching to staff members to improve their performance, to help deal with jet-lag and to maintain their general well-being.
  • Administration or policy-making positions - Sometimes, they can work with government agencies or airline companies ensuring that employers are complying with health and safety regulations. Research work can also be conducted to improve laws and safety within the field.

The amount of people wanting to fly is rapidly increasing and because of this, it’s putting extra pressure on pilots, flight crew and airline companies. This extra pressure, as well as the need to control human error and improve airline operations, results in more job-related stress, and therefore the need for more aviation psychologists working within the field.

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