Mayday-SA is a volunteer peer-based support structure responding to aviation license holders in crisis. They provide confidential support to colleagues, as well as their families and friends, who may feel isolated and experience difficulty coping with emotional reactions and responses to circumstances arising from Critical Incidents and other forms of Life Crises.
The lives of pilots and aircrew are very challenging in terms of balancing work and home life demands; the constant pressure to pass continual cycles of assessments where “failure” means loss of a license and a job; the challenging high-altitude operational environment; and the constant pressure to manage a highly complex series of tasks in order to bring the flight safely to its destination. They are frequently away from home and as they step out of this high pressure, high control existence into their other life, they need to become “normal” partners, parents and friends.
This cycle is stressful in itself, but add to this the regular life circumstances we all face such as relational problems; family illnesses; children’s demands (to name a few), and an aviation professional’s life is, at times, super-stressed. On occasion, these pressures can stretch ones stress management capabilities to their limit. Appropriate and credible support can make a huge impact during these times.
Mayday-SA has its roots in the Airline Pilots Association’s (ALPA-SA) Peer-to-Peer Programme. During 2011 a small group of airline pilots began ALPA’s Peer-to-Peer – an initiative to provide volunteer support to fellow pilots who are experiencing difficult circumstances such as the impact of accidents and incidents, or life crises. Peer-to-Peer fills the gap that exists within the industry for supporting the emotional well-being of pilots. The key benefit of Peer-to-Peer is that, as pilots, the volunteers understand the unique stressors and demands of the operational environment. The concept of a peer support programme is relatively new in South Africa, although an established model internationally.
In August 2012 representatives of many of the major constituencies in South African Aviation met at Rand Airport in commemoration of the Tzaneen Albatross disaster. The gathering’s purpose was to discuss a proposal to establish an independent body to provide support to all license holders across all Southern African aviation sectors in times of stress and emotional upheaval. Overwhelming support was given by those gathered to proceed with such an initiative and establish what has become Mayday-SA.
Mayday-SA was established in 2013 as a Sec 21 Company to provide Peer-to-Peer support to aviation license holders in relation to Critical Incident Response (trauma prevention arising from accidents and incidents) and Peer Support (e.g. aero-medical license issues; work-performance difficulties; substance dependency; and work relationship challenges). Such support is delivered according to international best practice, adapted to the local South African circumstances. During 2013, Mayday-SA was established as an NPC and has used the year to formulate a strategy that is being implemented.
To make this possible additional Volunteer Peers from the Commercial and Recreational Aviation sectors were added to the core group of pilots from the airlines’ sector (while the SA Pilot Community has been our starting point we will be extending our support activities to all aviation license holders as capacity and funding permits – starting later in 2014).
A further group of more than 25 new Peer Volunteers was recruited in June, 2015.
These Team Members have been trained and are skilled in Critical Incident Response and Pilot Wellbeing to international standards.
By mid-2014 Mayday-SA was in a position to deliver our Value Proposition, and so we embarked on the start of an awareness campaign across the country (e.g. marketing material and presentations at high profile industry symposia and workshops), partnering with the CAA and Aero Club SA on its safety first campaigns through the 2014 yearend and in 2015.
Mayday-SA’s Peer support model draws from similar structures that have operated for many years in many major global airline environments, where the results have been significantly positive – for the license holder; for the Employer; and for Sponsors of these initiatives. Mayday-SA has a special relationship with Stiftung Mayday in Germany from whom we have a number of core dimensions of their model. This has resulted in the positioning of Mayday-SA as an independent entity in SA aviation sector, in a neutral space, and unfettered by commercial, organisational, social and political forces that might hinder delivering on the mandate articulated on that August, 2012 afternoon.
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MAYDAY-SA 24 HOUR EMERGENCY HELPLINE:
012-333-6000 ASK FOR MAYDAY
Accident or incident;
A significant operational event;
Failed line check;
Death of family or friend;
Victim of crime;
Relationship or family issues;
Major illness affecting aviation medical;
Any other issue that affects you as an individual, and/or your work.