EASA Calls for Mandatory Mental Screening of Pilots

 - July 17, 2015, 10:14 AM
Preliminary findings indicate that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed one of the airline's Airbus A320s. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Linus Φόλλερτ)

A task force led by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has recommended in a report published Friday that all pilots undergo a psychological evaluation before entering airline service. The report, issued to the European Commission at the behest of EC Transport Commissioner Voileta Bulc following the March 24 crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, also called for random drug and alcohol testing, enforcement of the principle of two pilots in the cockpit at all times, a “robust” program of oversight for medical examiners, the creation of a European aeromedical data repository and implementation of a pilot support system within airlines.

Although not expected to produce a final report until within two years of the crash, France's Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority (Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA)) has already determined in preliminary findings that the flight’s copilot, Andreas Lubitz, locked his captain out of the cockpit before intentionally flying the Germanwings Airbus A320 into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board. Subsequent investigation uncovered Lubitz’s history of severe depression.  

Chaired by EASA executive director Patrick Ky, the task force consisted of 14 senior representatives from airlines, flight crew associations, medical advisors and authorities. Other invited experts and representative bodies also contributed. Three formal task force meetings took place from May to July. Additional sub-groups undertook reviews of specific issues.

“Key players in aviation and medical science worked closely together within the task force,” said Ky in a statement. “This report is the result of a thorough analysis with practical recommendations, so that such a tragic event does not happen again. EASA is ready to take the next necessary steps, applying the lessons learned.”

According to EASA, the report endeavored to strike a balance between medical secrecy and safety, and not to create additional bureaucracy for airlines.

In a statement issued Friday, the EC said it would review the recommendations, taking into account advice received from sources such as the independent accident investigation led by the BEA. Where the EC deems a need for legislative action, it will ask EASA to develop concrete proposals for inclusion in EU aviation safety regulations. The commission will also ask EASA to produce non-legislative “deliverables,” such as guidance material and tools for information sharing, and to monitor actions taken by member states and industry.

“The safety of European citizens is at the heart of the commission’s transport policy and today's report is a valuable contribution,” said Bulc. “If improvements are to be made in the European safety and security rules or in their implementation, in order to help prevent future accidents or incidents, we will take the necessary action at EU-level.”