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Germany
17.07.2015
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
More testing for pilots, regulator demands after Germanwings crash
Improved psychological testing for pilots was among six measures recommended Friday by Europe's airline regulator after the March crash of a Germanwings plane into the French Alps.
GALLERY
Brussels (dpa) - The European Aviation Safety Agency‘s recommendations focussed on medical and psychological tests for pilots, including drugs and alcohol testing, as well as the sharing of medical records. The agency also revisited a two-crew cockpit rule it recommended after the crash.
The agency noted that it can be difficult to detect disorders if no early signs exist or people are "not open about their symptoms, thoughts or behaviour."

Prosecutors said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally flew Germanwings flight 4U9525 into a mountain on March 24, killing himself and 149 other people on board.

Lubitz suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies and feared he was losing his eyesight, French investigators said.

The regulator advised psychological evaluations be given to all airline pilots as part of their training and said this aspect of their medical assessments should be strengthened.

At present, some commercial pilots "never undertake an initial psychological evaluation," the agency wrote in a report, adding, however, that Lubitz had been tested.

The agency noted that it can be difficult to detect disorders if no early signs exist or people are "not open about their symptoms, thoughts or behaviour."

It also said medical data on pilots should be shared more efficiently, recommending that a balance be struck between patient confidentiality and the need to protect public safety.

French investigators have said Lubitz was unfit to fly but that German privacy laws prevented his doctors from warning the airline.

"Unless national rules are changed, this will continue to be a risk," the regulator wrote.

Lubitz had seven medical appointments in the month before the crash and had seen 41 medical experts in the past five years, French prosecutors said.

The agency stressed the role of aeromedical advisors - who provide advice to pilots between medicals - and said they should get more rigorous training and oversight.

It also recommended mandating random alcohol and drugs testing for pilots, especially during their initial medical assessment, after any incidents or as follow-up after a positive test.

Alcohol and drugs misuse is not thought to have played a significant role in Lubitz‘s case.

The report advised that pilots should be able to work in a supportive environment where "mental health issues will not be stigmatized" to encourage them to seek help.

Much of the initial response to the crash focused on the fact that Lubitz had locked the pilot out of the cockpit before programming the plane‘s descent. The agency has since advised airlines that two crew members should be in the cockpit at all times.

This rule should be maintained and evaluated after one year, the aviation body said while adding that this issue did not provide "the greatest scope" for improving aviation safety because medical and psychological assessments play a greater role.

The agency‘s evaluation was carried out by a team including senior representatives from carriers Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and Easyjet, flight crew associations, medical advisors and aviation authorities.

Lufthansa welcomed the new guidelines on Friday, emphasizing that some of the measures were already in place at the company, but that others would be implemented in due course.

 

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