The European Union (EU) has published new rules including provisions to support the mental fitness of air crew, psychological screening and drug and alcohol testing in response to the 2015 Germanwings tragedy.
Under the new regulations all pilots working for European airlines will have access to a support program to help them to recognize, cope with and overcome problems that could negatively affect their ability to operate safely.
France’s BEA accident investigation agency found that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew flight 9525 into a mountain in March 2015, killing 149 other people along with himself.
The European Commission asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to set up a task force to reconsider the safety rules in the light of the BEA report on the accident.
The EU has now said it will add drug and alcohol testing for pilots and cabin crew of all European and foreign airlines flying into EU territories, extending a practice that is well-established in some member states to all of them within the next two years, which will serve as a transition period.
European airlines will also perform a psychological assessment of their pilots before the start of employment under the new rules.
EASA executive director Patrick Ky said: “With these rules Europe introduces the right tools to safeguard the mental fitness of air crew. During the two-year transition period, EASA will actively support European and international stakeholders in implementing this new regulation.”
The new rules, known as Air OPS Implementing Rules, complement proposals EASA issued in August 2016 on the update of medical requirements for pilots.
Testing for drugs and alcohol as well as psychological screening have previously been criticized by some pilot groups who say they could threaten individuals’ privacy or increase stigma attached to mental illness, compounding the problem.