My PAN Story.

What would you like to do?

I had been a pilot for over XX years going through my bi-annual checks with few problems. Then I

started feeling unhappy and flying became a job. I found it difficult to motivate myself to do any

studying of the manuals and I tended to just skim any notices that were published. This, needless

to say, had a detrimental effect on my performance in the sim.

Over the next 18 months my performance settled at somewhere between PC 3 and 4 which saw

me placed into informal MOP. Then in the summer of XXXX, check E, I was poorly prepared and

feeling slightly overwhelmed. Even though I passed, just, the LPC day 2 did not go well and it was

decided that my status should be changed to formal MOP stage 1. I received a phone call from

the fleet FTM to advise me of the change and he was understanding and supportive. The FTM

explained that he needed to send me a letter formalising the process and that this letter was very

formal and legal and might be a bit worrying because it states that if you don’t meet the required

standard your employment could be terminated. After this is a meeting between yourself and the

FTM or his deputy and someone else to take notes. The letter also advises that you can have

representation at the meeting and provides contact details for various organisations, I chose to

contact BALPA.

BALPA assigned a rep to work with me. He was very helpful in informing me of the options

available and where I stood legally. More importantly he was concerned with my well being and

state of mind. We talked for long periods and he was keen to make sure I wasn’t rushing myself,

so he suggested I talk to someone else.

Fortunately just a few weeks earlier PAN had started operating and I had their details to hand. I

made the initial contact via email and was called within 24 hours. I explained my story to a very

sympathetic audience who understood how I was feeling and what lay ahead of me. At this time I

could not talk to anyone about this without being on the brink of tears and being choked up. My

PAN counsellor let me talk and explain how I felt and what was happening which helped a great

deal.

Looking back I believe both my PAN counsellor and BALPA rep thought I was rushing but I didn’t

want to seem to be not trying or even thought to be using the situation.

At the MOP meeting we decided that I should have two support sims followed by check E again.

The support sims went well enough but I was still tense and anxious when I went for the LPC and

so I didn’t perform well enough making some errors which I’ve never made before. This meant I

was now being put into MOP 2.

This did not help my mental state at all. I had long conversations with both my BALPA rep and

PAN counsellor. Both were concerned for my well being and were recommending I consider

taking some time. The PAN counsellor told me that they had counsellors who were SPO trained

and were thinking of a package to use to help pilots who found it nerve wracking in the sim. It was

suggested I should try this. The counsellor went off to speak to other members of PAN to see

about arranging this. Next time we talked, later that day, he told me he had also had a

conversation with Professor Bor, the clinical psychologist overseeing PAN. Prof Bor had asked

how I sounded and the counsellor described how I was on the verge of tears. It was suggested

my counsellor recommend I talk to someone at BAHS, I think he’d wanted to do this anyway. So

when we next talked after talking about the sim practice he did tell me what Prof Bor had said and

told me he thought it would be a good idea. I suppose I had thought about seeking help but it

wasn’t until my PAN counsellor recommended it, they aren’t allowed to do it on their own, that I

finally accepted I did need help.

I had a phone consultation with a BAHS doctor then a few days later I went in to see him. At this

appointment we agreed I needed a break and some help. So I was declared temporarily unfit and

referred to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with mild General Anxiety Disorder, with reference to

sim details and given a course of 6 sessions with a psychologist. The treatment also included the

use of guided meditation using the app Headspace which I have found useful and still use. Both

the doctors treating me were known to BAHS and had treated pilots before and understood the

situation. Before this I had never considered myself to be subject to anxiety or nerves. There is no

history of mental illness in my family and I had a happy and loving childhood and upbringing.

After a few weeks still speaking regularly with my counsellor and BALPA rep I used the PAN SPO

scheme to get back on the horse in as stress free an environment as possible. By now I was

losing the flow, even though I’d been hitting the books hard, and was having to think about the

most basic flows. So it was good to be able to sit in the seat with no pressure and practice. I used

a couple of 2 hour sessions to get more comfortable. The panel operators were PAN counsellors

and very supportive, helpful and it was almost fun just being allowed to fly an aircraft again. It was

also an incentive to get back to work and a useful stepping stone before starting the formal

support training package.

During my time off the company, both the BAHS doctor and attendance team, kept in touch to

make sure I was ok and improving. At no time did I feel any pressure to rush back to work. The

training team were also helpful and mindful of my situation. The FTM offered an informal MOP

meeting to give me an idea of what to expect on my return, with permission from my therapist.

Then when my therapist suggested I test myself in the sim she was happy I had the chance to

start with the PAN SPO's and then use the skillbyte sessions to build up to going back to work.

The FTM was happy to give permission for me to use these sessions as long as it didn’t affect my

recovery and ensured I had permission from my therapist before he signed off on it.

I was declared fit and so had my formal MOP 2 meeting which confirmed what had been said

previously. This included 6 sim details, including 1 recency sim 1 support sim an LPC/OPC hybrid

and finally I also needed to do my LOE. This was quite hard work but utilising the tools I had

learned I was able to get through it all and at last get back on line, well line training. I am back on

normal operations now and happy to be there.

Without the help I had available from PAN and BALPA I’m certain I would have just gritted my

teeth and got on with it. I’m also certain I would not have made it back to work in my present

capacity. I also want to say that the training managers and instructors I had when I came back to

work were very supportive, understanding and helpful.

My wife was very supportive and concerned through this process but never having been in the

industry had a limited understanding of what was happening. This is where someone like the PAN

counsellors can be so helpful. You have probably flown with one or more already.

The counsellors at PAN and BALPA can give lots of anecdotal evidence of pilots who haven’t had

support and subsequently were demoted or even left the company. I’m sure I would have been

one of these without the help I received. These sorts of problems are far more common than I

realised and it is good to have someone to talk to who understands what you are going through

and more importantly how that might affect your future.

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