28 Mar 2015

Pilots' union welcomes two crew rule

7:52 am on 28 March 2015

The Pilots' union says it is welcoming the Civil Aviation Authority's decision to have two crew on the flight deck of large jets at all times.

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

The CAA is also going to review how it assesses a pilot's mental health through the medical assessment process.

The rule change was made yesterday after it emerged the co-pilot on the Germanwings A320 locked the pilot out of the cockpit mid-flight and flew the plane into a mountainside, killing all 150 people on board.

Under the new rules, if a pilot needs to leave the cockpit, someone else, such as a cabin crew member, will have to take their place.

The New Zealand Airline Pilots' Association said the new rules made good sense, especially after recent cockpit lock-out incidents.

Last year an Air New Zealand captain locked his co-pilot out of the cockpit for two minutes on a full flight from Perth to Auckland.

The Association's general manager Virginia Mudie said the union had procedures in place to help pilots who lose their medical licence for physical or mental health reasons.

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"If a pilot is deemed unfit for work, he takes sick leave," she said.

"If it's anything more serious the medical and welfare director of the union can proactively work with the pilot to give the proper assistance required by him to return to work.

"We also have a Mutual Benefit Fund that kicks in to support any pilot if he loses his medical certificate."

A photo of Andreas Lubitz taken from his Facebook page.

A photo of Andreas Lubitz taken from his Facebook page. Photo: Facebook

Airlines respond

Yesterday's announcement by the CAA applies to large jets with more than 90 seats operated out of New Zealand.

This would only apply to locally-based operators Air New Zealand and Jetconnect, which is owned by Qantas.

Air New Zealand said:

"[To] mitigate any risk posed by one pilot becoming incapacitated while operating an aircraft" it would go a step further and apply the rule across its entire fleet, including its regional Link services.

Chief Flight Operations and Safety Officer Captain David Morgan said, "effective immediately, at least two Air New Zealand crew members are now required to be present on the flight deck at all times.

If one of the two pilots operating the flight needs to leave the cockpit for a short time a crew member will be required to enter the cockpit in their place," he said.

In a statement Qantas said:

"We have a comprehensive safety management system that guards against risks to our operations. This includes multi-layered systems to protect the flight deck on our aircraft.

"We are monitoring the information coming out of the French investigation and considering if any changes to our existing safeguards are needed. This includes discussions with regulators."

Also in a statement Virgin Australia said:

"Safety is the number one priority for Virgin Australia. The Virgin Australia Group continuously undertakes detailed risk reviews, including consultation with the relevant regulatory and industry bodies.

"Any updates regarding changes to our processes will be provided where appropriate."

Singapore Airlines said:

"We have strict procedures in place regarding the security of our cockpits, but as a matter of policy we do not comment publicly on security matters".

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