A Qantas pilot suffering from a mental illness was allowed to keep flying for three years despite complaining of his urges to crash his planes.
Bryan Arthur Griffin worked as a pilot with Qantas from 1966 to 1982, when he resigned suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety.
Griffin struggled to resist an overwhelming urge to switch off his plane's engines on several occasions between 1979 and 1982, evidence tendered as part of a worker's compensation claim stated.
During a flight from Perth to Singapore in 1979 Griffin stated that his left hand “involuntarily” moved towards the start levers” in a “torturous” compulsion, the Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales Workers heard.
He said he “struggled with the uncontrollable limb as though it wasn’t mine” and was forced to place it under his seat belt to restrain it.
“The force of the arm moving against the seat belt towards the thrust levers was so much that it made the arm sore,” the claim stated.
His “pain and terror dissipated” once he left the flight deck and smoked several cigarettes.
A similar incident happened again on his next flight from Singapore to Sydney, with Griffin stating that he felt his hand was “being abused by the uncontrollable pull of the start levers.”
After complaining about these urges Griffin was examined by several doctors and was declared fit to fly. He received extended leave to be treated by doctors and psychiatrists but was allowed to return to the cockpit.
Griffin’s claim was upheld, finding that his condition had been exacerbated by continuing to work for Qantas.
Qantas had failed to understand his serious psychiatric problem and he should have been medically retired, a report from Griffin’s psychiatrist said.
The airline has been ordered to pay compensation of approximately $160,000 for loss of earnings, plus medical expenses and legal costs.
Qantas is considering an appeal.