Sewickley passenger plane pilot writes book about aviation and mental health

Reyné O’Shaughnessy from Sewickley has spent the better part of around 35 years flying the friendly skies.

The commercial airline captain and pilot has logged more than 10,000 jet flight hours around the world.

She has been at the helm of some of the world’s largest aircraft, including widebody Boeing 727s, 747s, 767s and Airbus A300s and A310s.

The Moon Area High School graduate and retired aviator recently added another title to her resume: author.

“It’s Your Captain Talking: What You Need to Know About Your Pilot’s Mental Health” was published in September and revised in November.

It has achieved best-selling status in several categories on Amazon.

O’Shaugnessy examines various aspects of mental health in aviation. Topics include the negative stigma surrounding pilots seeking treatment, methods of screening pilots’ psychological health, and the impact of pilots’ well-being on aviation and public safety.

She hopes the book will shed light on some of the difficulties pilots face simply to stay in the air and support their families, and lead to changes in federal regulations.

“Pilots are looking for the answers,” she said. “The pilots are looking for an intervention. … Pilots want the freedom to seek treatment without barriers, without impacting their livelihoods.

“I’m not saying all the drivers there have a mental health issue. What I’m saying is that we all have sanity, all of us who are human. And we should take care of our mental health the same way we take care of our physical health.

It took O’Shaugnessy about two years to write the book. She said her submitted first edition was twice as long as the 155-page paperback that hit shelves.

“It was more than a project for me, it was a labor of love,” she said. “I have this unique and close perspective of mental health in the airline industry. Pilots have more mental health issues than the public, regulators and (the) industry realize. produced when people refuse to shut up.

“I must stand firm on what I know in my heart is true, and I have been inspired to find my voice by hundreds of pilots and my volunteer work and 35 years as a commercial airline pilot.”

Aviation is a heavily regulated industry and pilots are usually assessed by an Aviation Medical Examiner before they can fly.

“If a pilot develops a new condition or symptom and the AME determines that the minimum requirements are not met, that pilot runs the risk of temporarily or permanently losing their medical certificate,” O’Shaugnessy said.

O’Shaughnessy said pilots are hesitant to self-report new conditions or symptoms of mental health issues for fear of being grounded.

“There are barriers that are put in place that prevent us, or discourage us, from finding treatment,” she said. “I am a strong advocate of pilot health reform.”

In the book, the Captain describes some of the conversations she’s had with pilots over the years about their bouts of depression and other mental struggles.

She also cites numerous studies and reports throughout the book, including one from the National Institute of Mental Health, which indicates that approximately 40 million adults suffer from an anxiety disorder at any given time.

The book takes up a very personal story in chapter 8 with “My story”.

In it, O’Shaughnessy recalls her own battle with anxiety and high blood pressure at age 50.

His body was showing signs of exhaustion and suffering from catastrophic high blood pressure, in the “imminent stroke” range, in September 2007.

“After more than 20 years of flying at night, I had neglected to take care of myself,” she said. “It was a huge wake-up call. It was a pivotal moment that reshaped the trajectory of my entire life.

She sought a cardiologist in Pittsburgh and other medical advice to deal with her situation.

Her recovery journey also included a self-help book, exploring meditation and mindfulness.

The following chapters discuss building better lifestyle habits, balance and resilience, and the importance of sleep.

“I just want to shout out to the entire aviation community that from what I’ve learned, they too can benefit from these life-transforming practices,” she said.

His book is available through Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

Family life

O’Shaugnessy graduated from the Moon Area School District in 1974 and became fascinated with aviation.

“I was an atypical young woman,” she said. “I didn’t follow the mold of age-appropriate girl behaviors of my day. When they were chasing boys, I was studying. I took my studies very seriously and excelled, which made me really in tune with my analytical skills.

She would learn to fly through an aerospace management program at Community College of Beaver County.

Her husband, Frank Goetze, is also a pilot. He flies for FedEx. They have been married for 28 years.

They met when they were college students at the Beaver County airport.

O’Shaugnessy is the mother of three children, Logan and Blake O’Shaughnessy and Grant Goetze. They went through Sewickley Academy.

She retired as a FedEx pilot in September.

Other academics

O’Shaugnessy earned a certification in mindfulness-based stress reduction from Brown University, an institution known for its academic rigor in public health.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in leadership and an executive certificate in business from the University of California, Berkeley, where she is pursuing a medical health coaching credential.

Additional work

O’Shaughnessy also founded Piloting2Wellbeing, an organization that works with universities and offers modules that address the holistic side of aviation training. Its initiatives focus on student mental health, inner strength, and other issues beyond academics.

“We teach the other 50%,” she said. “The school teaches the simulator, technical skills, communication, situational awareness, decision-making thinking process, technical competence (and) teamwork.”

P2W focuses on three elements; well-being, competence and diversity.

More information about his non-profit organization is available at

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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