27 Mar 2015

Cockpit rules in NZ change after crash

5:59 pm on 27 March 2015

New rules for how many people must be in the cockpit are being adopted in New Zealand in light of the plane crash in the French Alps.

A helicopter lowers search and rescue personnel close to the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 in the French Alps.

A helicopter lowers search and rescue personnel close to the crash site in the French Alps. Photo: AFP / GENDARMERIE

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said, effective immediately, two people must be in the cockpit at all times on locally-owned jet aircraft.

It has emerged the co-pilot of a German airliner deliberately locked the pilot out of the cockpit mid-flight and crashed the plane in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.

The new rules will only apply to the locally registered airlines - Air New Zealand and Qantas' local subsidiary, Jetconnect - on planes with more than 90 seats.

Air New Zealand's Chief Flight Operations and Safety Officer Captain David Morgan said it was applying this rule across its entire fleet, including the airline's regional links.

The CAA was also reviewing how it assessed a pilot's physical and mental health through annual medical assessments.

Airlines around the world review protocols

A close-up of an armoured security door to an Airbus cockpit (file photo).

A close-up of an armoured security door to an Airbus cockpit (file photo). Photo: AFP

Several airlines across the world are now changing their protocols to require two crew members to always be present in the cockpit - a practice already followed by airlines in the United States.

A number of major Canadian, Norwegian, German and UK airlines have all pledged to change their policies after it became apparent the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 had locked himself in the cockpit.

Basing his findings on sound recordings from the plane's cockpit flight recorder, French prosecutor Brice Robin Andreas Lubitz locked himself in when the captain left to go to the toilet.

For security reasons, the cockpit door on the Airbus could be opened from the outside with a code, however that could be overridden from inside the cockpit.

The chief executive of Germanwings parent company Lufthansa, Carstn Spohr, said either the pilot had entered the code incorrectly or the co-pilot inside had overridden it.

British air safety expert Paul Beaver told Morning Report he had not heard of a pilot being locked out of the cockpit in this way before.

"We've perhaps taken security too far with these bullet proof doors and the like but I think airlines will look at this now and we'll see International Air Transport Association rules being changed on this, and national governments looking at it and changing the rules as well."