UND pilot struggling with “mental health issues”, NTSB report finds no mechanical issues in fatal UND crash

Robert Kraus, dean of aerospace at UND, said administrators were unaware of any mental health issues student pilot John Hauser may have been facing, but Hauser’s family confirmed that this was the case. Kraus said the official cause of the crash will be known when the NTSB releases its final report, which could take up to a year. A preliminary report from the NTSB indicates that there were no mechanical issues with the aircraft.

“We don’t want to do anything official until the NTSB report is released, but his family has allowed us to say that yes, there are mental health issues,” Kraus told the Herald.

Kraus said there was no “warning sign” before the crash and that Hauser was an “exceptional student” who had good grades and was progressing well in the UND curriculum. Kraus said it was difficult to look back and determine what Hauser was thinking at the time, which is fueling speculation about the crash.

“Everyone thought everything was normal and then this event happened,” Kraus said. “Everyone is wondering why. Were there any missed signals or is there something we could have done before? “

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A National Transportation Safety Board investigator has ruled out the possibility of mechanical problems, according to an initial report of the accident, although this report is preliminary and subject to change.

Hauser was killed on an overnight flight to Fargo, where he was to practice takeoff and landing before returning to Grand Forks. Kraus said flying is a normal way for students to save hours in the cockpit.

Hauser already had a private pilot’s license before coming to UND, Kraus said, although he did not know what flight school or academy he was attending. Of the 250 hours required for commercial aviation, Hauser had 133 hours, in addition to what he had flown for his private pilot license.

Shortly after his death, Hauser’s family established the John A. Hauser Mental Health in Aviation Initiative Fund, along with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. The fund is available online at undalumni.org/JohnsFund. As of Monday morning, over $ 20,000 was raised for the fund.

In-flight students, doctors and therapists

A particular problem with aviation, Kraus said, is that pilots don’t want to see a doctor and “really don’t like going to a therapist” for fear of being punished for a medical or health problem. mental.

When it comes to mental health, conditions such as psychosis, bipolar disorder, and severe personality disorders prevent a pilot from obtaining a Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate, according to the FAA’s website. mental fitness of pilots. Kraus said Hauser was unaffected by these conditions. But the stigma against seeking advice for a mental health issue persists, and Kraus said the UND is working to address it.

“We have to say that there are ways to talk to someone, and that’s how you do it,” he said.

Mental health professionals are required to report pilots who show signs of serious mental illness, Kraus said, but the issue is not always resolved. The simple fact of feeling stressed or sad does not necessarily mean that a pilot, even a student pilot, will have his medical certificate questioned. Kraus said there were “degrees of agreement” before a pilot could be grounded. But it’s the fear of losing their flight status that keeps them away.

UND took several steps to address the mental health of aviation students before and after the accident. In April, the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences established the JDO Mental Health Working Group. This is a group of students, faculty and staff who strive to educate people about mental health issues. The aim is to set up programs and training for the college.

On the week of the crash, Kraus said students could talk to workers at the UND counseling center anonymously. It was a chance for them to open up about the accident, without their feelings being recorded in the file.

“The idea is to help someone before they get to the point where they would be punished,” Kraus said.

Advisory services remain available on campus, as do aviation support groups. There are telehealth services on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. for students who wish to discuss their experiences together. These sessions are also available in person on Thursdays in Room 207 at Ryan Hall from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

On October 28, special training on suicidal behavior was held on campus, which included ways to help someone in crisis. The training will take place periodically over the next few weeks.

Another problem in aviation is how mental health professionals record a pilot’s diagnosis. Kraus said education is important for clinicians when it comes to pilots. A minor problem that does not require medication should be recorded as such, instead of a diagnosis that would put a pilot on the ground.

NTSB Report

According to the NTSB preliminary report, the Piper PA-28-181 aircraft operated by Hauser, a 19-year-old sophomore and commercial aviation student, made a “rapid descent” into the ground shortly after the flight. take off of the plane.

AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT COVER:

The preliminary NTSB reports do not include the causes of the crashes, but the report, written by Aaron Sauer, the investigator in charge of the NTSB, said: “The damage to the aircraft corresponded to a high angle impact and to high energy with the field.

Sauer concluded his report with: “The post-crash examination of the aircraft did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions that would have prevented normal operations. “

The report includes information that was for the most part already known, but refined the chronology of events leading up to the accident.

Hauser took off from Grand Forks International Airport on October 18 at around 7 p.m. About 30 miles south of Grand Forks, the aircraft made a 180-degree turn north before quickly sinking into the ground. Air traffic control lost contact with the plane at around 7:24 p.m. The wreckage of the plane was discovered by local law enforcement at around 8:40 p.m., in a field near Buxton, in the North Dakota.

The main aircraft wreckage was found approximately 25 feet from the point of initial impact. The report said crushed pieces of the plane were found at both of these locations, and debris was found ahead of the main wreckage.

The information contained in the preliminary report is subject to change. Any errors will be corrected in the final version of the report, according to the NTSB.

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