Conn. doctor who evaluates pilots discusses the warning signs he looks for

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Doctor Michael Teiger is a certified aviation medical examiner who interviews thousands of pilots every year to determine whether or not they are physically and mentally fit to fly.

That job has taken on renewed importance in the public eye after reports that a 28-year-old co-pilot deliberately crashed his Germanwings flight into the French Alps, killing 150 people on board instantly.

“This incident is curious because it’s a young pilot, a low-time pilot, left alone in the cockpit,” said Teiger, who has 28 years experience as a pilot.

Teiger says aviators are screened twice a year for clearance, but evaluations to uncover psychological issues can be tricky since people can hide many red flags. If someone is known to take psychological medication or something similar, it may hint to a larger issue. Other issues, like excessive drinking, DUI convictions, or depression, are also warning flags he watches for.

Teiger relies upon other pilots to pass along information since they spend hours inside the cockpit together and have a better understanding of what could be a potential problem that would effect others.

“Do they look weird? Do they look hesitant? Shifty eyesight? Hesitant when asked questions?” Teiger said as he went through a list of things he looks for. “It’s a kind of feeling you get.”

Pilots are not required by the Federal Aviation Administration to undergo a psychological evaluation, but if Teiger suspects something deeper, he recommends the pilot to the FAA, who will conduct a more thorough evaluation.

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