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NZ, Canada, UK act on Germanwings but Australia waits

March 30, 2015 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Following the tragic Germanwings air crash in the French Alps, airlines and countries around the world are moving to ensure that large jet aircraft have a minimum of two people on the flight deck at any given time. Australia, so far, remains out of step on the issue.

The Germanwings crash was caused when a co-pilot locked himself in the cockpit alone, refused to let the pilot re-enter and, it would seem, deliberately crashed the plane, killing all 150 people aboard.

While New Zealand, Canada and Europe moved swiftly to pass the cockpit “rule of two” last week, to help avoid such disasters in future, Australia said it was still considering the issue. Qantas and Virgin Australia are also still considering.

The “rule of two” makes sense in the case of medical emergencies as well – if one pilot has a heart attack in the cockpit while the other is out on a toilet break, for instance, it would help. Although such a coincidence is unlikely, it is more likely than the “maniac in the cockpit” scenario. Rogue pilots are profoundly rare.

Australia is dragging its feet on implementing the new “rule of two” policy.

“The current regulations do not require airlines to replace a pilot who temporarily leaves the cockpit,” Minister for Infrastructure, Warren Truss, confirmed.

In Australia, “once an aircraft has taken off, entry to the cockpit must be authorised by the pilot in command”, he said.

“Careful consideration needs to be made following thorough investigation to ensure that altering current procedures does not open other potential vulnerabilities.

“Our two major international and domestic airlines are undertaking their own safety and security risk assessments of cockpit procedures following the recent tragedy.”

New Zealand wasted no time. From now on, any large jet flying into, out of, or within New Zealand must maintain a minimum of two people on the flight deck at all times. The country is also updating its rules on medical checks.

“This applies to domestic and international flights,” New Zealand’s Acting Director of Civil Aviation, John Kay, confirmed.

Many airlines, including Ryanair, already had the rule of two in place before the Germanwings tragedy.

Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, EasyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook and Norwegian Air Shuttle are among carriers to publicly announce a similar change since the crash.

British Airways was, reportedly, the only one of eight major British airlines to decline to implement new cockpit rules when they were announced by the UK Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday.

However the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) issued a “temporary recommendation” on Friday that all European airlines should “ensure that at least two crew, including at least one qualified pilot, are in the flight crew compartment at all times of the flight”. That probably forces BA’s hand, as such recommendations are effectively mandatory.

“The Easa recommendation is likely to oblige it [BA] to fall into line, if it has not already,” The Scotsman reported. BA would in any case already have to comply on flights to the US, which imposed the  “rule of two” after the September 2001 attacks on New York, and has maintained the rule ever since.

Other whole countries are also passing the rule, meaning airlines have to comply to land or take off from their territory.

The German government has ordered Lufthansa and its Germanwings subsidiary to adopt the rule of two, after the US model, which mandates that no fewer than two crewmembers (if necessary a pilot and a flight attendant) be in the cockpit at all stages of a flight.

After the Germanwings crash, Canada put a similar policy into effect immediately, covering all large jet flights into, out of or within that country.

Written by Peter Needham

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