The airline industry is a 24/7 operation that requires a high level of competence and trust between team members. Due to the complexities and high-risk work, airline employees are faced with many additional stressors that are unique to their profession. Maintaining a work-life balance can sometimes be tricky. Many airline employees are exposed to an exciting yet challenging lifestyle that feature inconsistent schedules along with frequent encounters with fatigue and extended periods away from home and family members.
American Airlines provides a plethora of onsite and online resources for physical, emotional, mental, financial and work well being. Team members around the world have access to resources and support at any time of the day or night.
In particular, leaders at the American Airlines Flight Department and Allied Pilots Association (APA) Aeromedical Committee recognized that our pilots and their family members needed a specialized support mechanism and an effective pilot peer-to-peer resource to provide help. In June 2011, Project Wingman was established by APA and AA in order to create a safe and confidential place for pilots to speak to fellow pilots without masking or hiding their problems. Pilots are a unique group that undergo numerous stressors to include: off schedule operations, weather variances, passenger misconduct, unexpected maintenance issues, federal oversight, annual evaluations, circadian rhythm disruptions, and many other excessive job demands unique to the aviation community.
Support for team members and their families are crucial, especially when faced with change, challenges, or other crisis. Project Wingman is an all-round wellbeing, pilot-to-pilot peer assist program for the pilots, and their families.
This program is recognized as the industry leading pilot-to-pilot peer assist program largely due to the dedication and compassion of over 40 pilot peer assist volunteers who not only provide emotional and occupational support, but crisis triage as well.
The mission of these volunteers is clear – to simply be there for fellow aviators and offer resources. Wingman volunteers are committed to ensure that our pilots and their family members have a safe place to talk without fear of reprisal. Wingman volunteers bring hope, healing, and compassion at a time when needed most. They go through a specialized intensive training comprised of online and in person sessions totaling to about 40 hours. They are well equipped so that to help reduce the stress by simply being present, by listening and encouraging their fellow team members. On other occasions, they share or even coordinate the necessary resources to improve the situation or assist in resolving the issue. This program and the volunteers not only enhance work-life balance, but in some cases also save lives.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), only forty percent of adults and fifty percent of youth receive the mental help they need. Even though mental illness is common and can affect anyone, there is still a great stigma attached to self-disclosure. This stigma creates reluctance and shame in seeking help. The acceptance and understanding of mental illnesses has made great progress from where it used to be, but improvements can, and should still be made.
The actions of going above and beyond to care for one’s mental health is a true testament of the compassion and empathy that team members at American have for one another. Project Wingman sets the standard in aviation peer support that is strong, resilient and always looking forward to what is best for team members.
American Airlines is IN. Are you IN?
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