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The Lived Experience & Wellbeing Project

Project Overview

This project examines the effects of work-related stress (WRS) on aviation worker wellbeing and the associated impact on performance and flight safety.

Further our research addresses solutions to WRS both an organisational and employee/worker self-management level. This includes tools to promote stress coping, wellbeing awareness and management and risk assessment for WRS/wellbeing.

This research is independent. However, the Lived Experience & Wellbeing Project have active collaboration with aviation stakeholders – including the regulator and industry wellbeing and safety working groups.

Research Strands

Our research is structured in terms of four interrelated strands of activity relevant to:

  • All aviation workers
  • Aviation system
  • Pilots
  • Airlines

1. All Aviation Workers

  • Understanding the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on aviation workers and the aviation system (All Aviation Workers).
  • Identifying requirements for wellbeing supports and tools for safety critical workers and others.
  • Supporting fitness for duty evaluation and aeromedical assessment.

2. Aviation System

  • Mapping the wellbeing problem space at a systems level
  • Evaluating the regulatory approach to managing wellbeing
  • Wellbeing promotion
  • Change – identifying solutions for aviation workers and the industry
  • COVID 19 pandemic recovery roadmap

3. Pilots

  • Mapping the wellbeing problem space.
  • Evaluating the regulatory approach to managing wellbeing
  • Measuring WRS & Wellbeing.
  • Understanding and measuring the impact of WRS on wellbeing, performance, and safety.
  • Understanding coping – why do some workers cope better than others
  • Advancing a behavior model supporting the conceptualization of the problem, its impact, and the solution challenge
  • Change – wellbeing solutions for pilots and airlines.

4. Airlines

  • Wellbeing management and supports
  • Managing wellbeing risk within Safety Management System (SMS)

In relation to our research with Pilots, we have funding from Enterprise Ireland to develop tools to support pilot management of wellbeing both inside and outside of work.


TCD Team
  • Dr Joan Cahill (Principal Investigator), CIHS, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin
  • Captain Paul Cullen (Research Associate), CIHS, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin
  • Prof Simon Wilson (Data Analysis), School of Computer Science and Statistics, TCD


  • Prof Keith Gaynor (Collaborator, Mental Health), Health Sciences, UCD
  • Sohaib Anwer (Collaborator, Data Analysis), School of Mathematics & Statistics, UCD

Publications & Industry Presentations


  • Cullen P, Cahill, J., & Gaynor R. A qualitative study exploring pilot wellbeing and the potential impact of work-related stress. Paper accepted: Aviation Psychology & Applied Human Factors.

  • Cahill, J., Cullen P & Gaynor R. Pilot Work Related Stress (WRS), Effects on Wellbeing (Including Mental Health) & Coping Methods. Paper accepted: International Journal of Aerospace Psychology.



  • Cahill, J., Cullen, P. will speak at the International Safety Summit taking place on October 19th to 22nd, 2020. They will discuss The Perfect Storm - Impact of COVID on Aviation Workers and the Aviation System.
  • Cahill, J., Cullen, P. & Gaynor, K. (2019). Proceedings of the International symposium on Aviation Psychology, 7-10 May 2019, Dayton, Ohio, USA.

  • Cahill, J., Cullen, P., & Gaynor, K. (2018). ‘Estimating the Impact of Work Related Stress on Pilot Wellbeing and Flight Safety’. Paper presented at the second International Symposium on Human Mental Workload: Models and Applications (H-WORKLOAD 2018), Amsterdam (September 20-21, 2018), Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), The Netherlands.
  • Captain Paul Cullen (TCD), Prof Keith Gaynor (UCD) and Dr. Joan Cahil gave a workshop on September 30th 2020 at the EAAP 2020 Conference.
    The presentation theme was: Wellbeing I & II Mental Health in Aircrew included findings from their recent COVID study.


  • FAA Aviation Mx Human Factors Quarterly - December 2020
  • Royal Aeronautical Society, Wellbeing Webinar, 30 April 2020.

  • Flight Safety Foundation. An aviation professionals guide to wellbeing.

  • Captain Paul Cullen discusses pilot wellbeing in his article in Hindsight 30 magazine.

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J. & Gaynor, K. Understanding Pilot Wellbeing & the Impact of Work Related Stress. (2019). Presentation at the Aerospace Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference. Royal Aeronautical Society. May 22 - 23, 2019, London.

  • Dr Joan Cahill, Marc Atherton and Captain Paul Cullen at the Aerospace Mental Health & Wellbeing Conference (Royal Aeronautical Society, London, 23 May 2019).

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J., & Gaynor, K. (2018). Work-Related Stress, Pilot Wellbeing and Flight Safety. Paper presented at the Wellbeing in Aviation Conference (Sponsored by the Irish Aviation Authority), Dublin, May 25 2019.

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J., & Gaynor, K. (2018). Pilot wellbeing. Presentation to the European Regions Airline Association (ERRA). Toulouse, 19 September, 2018

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J. & Gaynor, K. (2018) ‘Managing Mental Health Issues in Pilots’. Poster presented at the 6th Annual Safety Forum, 29-30 May 2018, Eurocontrol, Brussels.

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J. & Gaynor, K. (2018) ‘Understanding Pilot wellbeing and its impact on flight safety. Presentation at Human Performance in Pilots the Next 40 Years, Royal Aeronautical Society, Annual Conference, 24 April, 2018. London, UK

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J. & Gaynor, K. (2018). Pilot mental health – the lived experience. Article in March Edition of Focus, United Kingdom, Flight Safety Committee (UKFSC).

  • Cullen, P., Cahill, J. & Gaynor, K. (2017). Pilot wellbeing. Paper presented at the Flight Safety Foundation 2017 – 70th International Air Safety Submit (IASS), Dublin, October 23-25, 2017.

  • Cahill, J., Cullen, P & Gaynor, K. (2016) ‘Managing Mental Health Issues in Pilots’. Paper presented at the Human Factors in Aviation Safety Conference, November 2016.

Turbulent Times /Covid 19 Context

Survey Results

Thanks to the 2,050 aviation workers who responded to our survey. The survey ran for 3 weeks and closed on 23 August 2020. Our preliminary analysis provides an evidence base for 9 key recommendations regarding the recovery roadmap. We all have a part to play (i.e. aviation workers, aviation organisations/industry, the regulator & society/government). You can find the full results here.

A sign on a pole  Description automatically generated

In August 2020, researchers from the Lived Experience & Wellbeing Project at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Ireland, investigated the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on aviation workers and the aviation system. 

Here are the preliminary findings:

This white paper presents the preliminary findings of this research.

This poster provides a high level overview of the findings and key recommendations.

How Do We Fly Straight & Level During Turbulent Times?
The 'Lived Experience' team have put together the following booklet, based on the initial findings of our recent Pilot Wellbeing survey.

We hope that this booklet helps many of our fellow pilots and cabin crew protect their mental wellbeing during these particularly tough & challenging times being experienced by many.
Download the Turbulent Times booket.


You can also read our Pilot Lived Experience Covid action plan and ongoing research to support wellbeing for pilots.
Wellbeing, COVID context and key questions to ask yourself.
Supports and Links
The following table presents some links to support groups and information.


European Agency for Safety and Health in Work (EU-OSHA)

EASA COVID-19 Support Material

Flight Safety Foundation

Aviation Action

European Aviation Mental Well-being Initiative (EAM-WELL)

European Pilot Peer Support Initiative


Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA)

COVID-19 - Aviation Personnel and Mental Health Support (David Schroeder,2020)

Australian Psychological Association (APA)

American Psychiatric Association

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

National Institutes of Health


The Pilot Wellbeing Community & Game

More details to follow shortly.

RAeS Webinar: Mental Wellbeing and Human Performance

The RAeS Webinar: Mental Wellbeing and Human Performance took place on Thursday April 30th from 10am to 11am (BST).

The webinar focussed on the new EASA regulation that airlines operating in Europe must implement by Autumn 2020 and also offered a unique opportunity to preview what the Conference in 2021 will have to offer.

Webinar Speakers:

Marc Atherton MRAeS, Consultant Psychologist, will present on the implications of the regulation and what it means for your organisation. The regulation makes the provision of psychological support mandatory by covering three key areas:

1) Psychological testing of aircrew pre-employments
2) Access to psychological support resource
3) Substance abuse testing on a random basis

Dr Joan Cahill, Principal Investigator and Paul Cullen, Research Associate, both from Trinity College Dublin presented on Pilot Wellbeing, Stress Coping Practices and Rresilience.

Questions asked during the webinar by participants will be compiled and answered Joan and Paul and published here shortly.

You can view a video of the presentations below.


For more information, please contact