Over 3,000 pilots and cabin crew from airlines including easyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian, TUI and SAS Airlines have all come together to provide wellbeing support to frontline NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Project Wingman” initiative has been set up by easyJet’s Captain Emma Henderson and British Airways’ Captain David Fielding together with clinical psychologists. It involves setting up a “First Class Lounge” in hospitals across the UK where the volunteer pilots and cabin crew help the ongoing wellbeing of the NHS frontline staff aiming to give back to the NHS while they are not flying by supporting those at the forefront of dealing with this health emergency.
easyJet Captain Emma Henderson, commented:
“I’m really proud to see the overwhelming response from pilot and crew communities across the airline industry, who have volunteered to support frontline NHS staff at this critical time. We have all used the NHS at some point in our lives and this is an important chance to give back.”
The Project Wingman volunteers will not be working directly with patients, but will support NHS staff in a number of practical ways so they can continue to do their job effectively by using their unique skills in problem solving and peer support techniques learned from their training for managing stressful and pressurised situations. They will also be deploying the warm welcome that crew are famous for whilst providing staff with refreshments. Above all they will be offering a listening ear, comfort and kindness when staff need it most.
Professor Rob Bor, Consultant Clinical psychologist said:
“We want to look after the wellbeing of all of all frontline NHS staff and we immediately thought of airline staff and reached out to them to support us. Many airline crews have been grounded by the global effects of Covid-19 and we recognised that this represents a rich resource of highly-skilled professionals, used to problem-solving and team working who can use these skills to offer practical and well-being support to NHS staff at this difficult time.”
The project was launched on 3 April at the Whittington Hospital in North London where it was extremely well received by doctors, nurses, Allied Health professionals and support staff. Just under a week later, the Project Wingman volunteers were actively providing support at North Middlesex, Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals with the project now either active or in the process of being rolled out to across more than 50 hospitals across the country. The team behind Project Wingman are also working with their counterparts in the USA and New Zealand where this has been taken on as a global initiative.
Siobhan Harrington, CEO of the Whittington Health NHS Trust thanked the industry for its support:
“The impact of having uniformed fellow professionals actively support our front line staff will be enormous. We cannot thank the pilots and cabin crew enough. Professionals coming together to support our staff will help more than you can imagine. This will be a massive boost to our resources, capability and morale. We are deeply grateful.”
The Thrive team is really pleased to show support through Tanya Dolan, one of our solicitors who has been raising awareness through her role as UK Lead for the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA). Project Wingman is being supported through her links to the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter as well as IAWA.
Captain David Morgan, Director of Flight Operations for easyJet commented:
“The NHS is at the forefront of dealing with this health emergency but the training and skills that our pilots and crew have could help make a real difference to the wellbeing of healthcare professionals, while they support those most in need. I’m incredibly proud of our pilots and crew who have helped to set up and are volunteering for this project.”
What can I do to help?
This is where Project Wingman needs help from the community throughout the UK:-
- Linking Project Wingman with NHS contacts through hospitals across the UK;
- Linking Project Wingman with more airlines (Director of Flight Operations level if at all possible);
- Introducing companies who can provide goodies to NHS staff eg, food/ treats/ toiletries;
- Introducing companies who can help with the transformation into an airport lounge, eg, furniture, plants, pictures; and
- Following Project Wingman on twitter (@_ProjectWingman) and LinkedIn and re-sharing posts with your contacts to help to raise awareness.