What are the current rules on the minimum crew members required in the cockpit?
European safety regulations require that pilots shall remain at the aircraft controls during the critical phases of the flight. Pilots can take a short break for physiological or operational safety needs at any other time.
There is no European requirement that a member of the cabin crew must enter the cockpit if a pilot takes a short break for such needs.
On 27 March 2015 however, following the crash of Flight 4U 9525, the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) issued a non-binding temporary recommendation for airlines to observe the “four-eye-rule” in the cockpit. The recommendation stipulates that in the case of the Captain or First Officer leaving the cockpit, a member of the crew should be present in the cockpit with the remaining pilot. In a report delivered to the Commission on 16 July, a Task Force led by EASA concludes that this recommendation should be made permanent.
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Is there legislation in place regulating medical and fitness checks of airline pilots?
There is a European Regulation which requires pilots to have a valid and up-to-date medical certificate. This certificate is issued by an approved specialist in aviation medicine and revalidated at regular intervals during a pilots’ career. Under that Regulation, pilots must meet requirements that relate to psychiatry and psychology.
These medical rules are binding upon Member States and airlines. During initial examination, a medical certificate will not be granted in the event of medical history or clinical diagnosis of any psychiatric or psychological condition which is likely to interfere with the safe exercise of the pilot’s functions. During periodic revalidation (at least once a year) the approved medical examiner must assess the pilot’s psychiatric and psychological fitness for flying.
These psychiatric or psychological tests are carried out by independent specialised aero-medical examiners approved by the Member States. Airlines are required to check the validity of their pilot’s aeromedical certificates before assigning them to flying duties. Pilots must also refrain from taking flight duties if they feel unfit to fly.
Throughout a pilot’s airline career there are proficiency checks to verify competency. These checks are normally performed twice a year in a simulator, including situations where the pilot’s ability to cope under stress is tested.