Airlines rapidly change cockpit rules after Germanwings crash

Baku, March 30, AZERTAC

In the shocked aftermath of the Germanwings disaster European airlines are reported to be rapidly adopting the US rule which prevents any pilot being left alone in a cockpit

Australia’s airlines are likely to adopt the same change in cockpit management soon, or have it imposed on them by regulation at home or more likely abroad, although there is no statement to that effect from Qantas or Virgin Australia at this hour.

It is understood that the hard line against such changes first outlined by Lufthansa group CEO Carsten Spohr last night has been overruled by the German government, which has directed that it changes its procedures with immediate effect.

At this stage, Norwegian, easyJet and Monarch are said to have changed their cockpit rules to ensure that at no time can a pilot remain along on the inside of a terrorist proof door which uses a locking system which the co-pilot on the crashed Germanwings jet manipulated to prevent his captain returning to his seat after a toilet break.

All 150 people on the Germanwings A320 died when it was deliberately flown by the young co-pilot into the face of a mountain in the southern French alps on Tuesday.

The US rules have also been adopted since then by Air Canada and Emirates among other non European carriers.

In essence, when a pilot leaves a cockpit on a US flight, a cabin crew member takes an observer or jump seat.

The US rule was designed to deal with a situation where the remaining pilot might become incapacitated by a heart attack or other medical condition and not be capable of admitting the other pilot back into the cockpit.

Terrorist proofed cockpit doors use a lock, intercom and video screen system to secure entry, and can be overruled by pilots or cabin crew on the outside by the use of a special code.

However the pilot inside the cockpit can delay access in such situation by pressing a single button for minutes, or by setting a dead lock.

In the case of the Germanwings crash it isn’t clear if the deadlock was set, but a French public prosecutor last night revealed that the co-pilot pressed the delay button to prevent his captain re-entering the cockpit in the minutes remaining before the A320 slammed into a mountainside at high speed.

In Australia CASA doesn’t regulate the management of secure cockpits, nor does its European counterpart EASA. In Australia, this may change, and in Europe, this appears to be increasingly irrelevant, as governments and airlines take the initiative.

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