What travelers need to know about airline safety

What are the current rules on the minimum crew members required in the cockpit?
On March 27, 2015, the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) issued a recommendation for airlines to observe the “four-eye-rule” in the cockpit; stipulating 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.
European safety regulations require that pilots remain at the aircraft controls unless absence is necessary for physiological or operational safety needs.
There is no European requirement that a member of the cabin crew must enter the cockpit when a pilot needs to take a short break for such needs. There is however a requirement that the cockpit door can be opened from the outside in case of emergency.

Is there legislation in place regulating medical and fitness checks of airline pilots?
There is a European Regulation which obliges pilots to have a current Medical Certificate. This certificate is issued by an approved specialist in aviation medicine and revalidated at regular intervals throughout a pilots’ career. Within the European Regulations for Medical Certificates there are requirements that relate to psychiatry and psychology.
These medical rules are binding upon every Member State and airline. During initial examination no one can obtain a medical certificate who has a 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 also assess the pilot’s psychiatric and psychological status to maintain the needed level of psychiatric and psychological quality to exercise the profession. These medical 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. Also, airlines may require a pilot to undergo additional checks, if that pilot has participated in an aviation incident or has been reported (by other crew members) as showing signs that are a cause of concern. In the aviation sector, there is a strong culture of reporting and follow-up on a confidential or non-confidential basis, within the airline and to the authorities, of all incidents which could have safety implications.
Moreover, every pilot is obliged to refrain from taking flight duty if he feels unfit to fly.
In addition, 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.

What about pilot background checks?
European Aviation Security Regulations require that crew members of an EU air carrier are subject to background checks before being issued with a crew identification card. Such background checks include verification of the person’s criminal and employment record. The checks are required to be repeated at regular intervals not exceeding 5 years.

Which safety & security rules apply to the cockpit door of airliners?
European Safety Regulations, based on global standards set by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) include requirements that all aircraft above a certain weight carrying out commercial air transport operations must be equipped with a flight deck door. This door must be designed in such a way that it is capable of being locked and unlocked from either pilot seat in the flight deck, in order to prevent unlawful access. The aircraft involved in the accident on March 24, 2015, was covered by these European Regulations that relate to the flight deck door as well as by the operator’s approved security procedures.
Airlines must have operational procedures in relation to the Regulation on the Flight Deck Door. These procedures include access to the flight deck under normal and emergency conditions.
In Europe, the standard procedure is that the cockpit is monitored from the pilot’s seat by CCTV to monitor the area outside the cockpit. In some cases where there is a spyhole instead of a CCTV monitor, there is a procedure, which ensures that another crew member should enter the cockpit in case one pilot leaves the station. This procedure was put in place for the purpose of monitoring the cockpit door so that the remaining pilot can remain in her/his seat at the controls of the aircraft.

How are investigations of air crashes in the EU being carried out?
The causes need to be established through an independent and credible civil investigation conducted in line with European rules (Regulation 996/2010).
After fatal civil aviation accidents, there are generally two separate investigations which need to be closely coordinated since they share the same evidence:
An accident (or safety) investigation is conducted by the national accident investigation authority in accordance with European rules; and a judicial/criminal investigation is opened with the aim of compensating victims and punishing wrongdoers.
The safety recommendations resulting from an accident should be considered by the competent authority and, as appropriate, acted upon to ensure adequate prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation.
Often such recommendations are addressed to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which takes the necessary action to address the safety issues. Where urgent action is needed, measures are taken even before the investigation is completed.

Who is in charge of the investigation on the crash of flight 4U 9525?
The BEA (Bureau d’Enquetes Accidents) conducts the investigation and has technical advisers from Airbus, CFM International (the engine manufacturers), as well as from EASA. The BFU (Bundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung) the BEA’s German counterpart has a role of accredited representative and has advisors from Lufthansa and Germanwings. Although not obliged, the BEA also granted the role of accredited representative to the Spanish safety investigation authority (Comisión de Investigación de Accidentes e Incidentes de Aviación Civil – CIAIAC) as the aircraft departed from Barcelona.

Are “budget carriers” subject to the same safety rules as other airlines?
All European airlines are subject to exactly the same safety rules and exactly the same oversight. Airline safety rules must be applied by all.

What is the European Commission’s role in the accident investigation of flight 4U9525?
The Commission has no formal role in the investigation of accidents. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) sent 2 experts, one to the accident site and one to the BEA headquarters outside Paris.

What measures will the European Commission take in response to the flight 4U9525 incident?
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) very quickly took the necessary action to address the immediate safety concerns, notably by recommending as a temporary measure that there should always be two persons in the cockpit.
Following the publication of the preliminary investigation report on May 6, 2015, by the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority on the Germanwings airliner accident, Commissioner Violeta Bulc immediately asked EASA to set up a task force to look into the findings set out in the report. These areas include the cockpit door locking system and cockpit access and exit procedures, as well as the criteria and procedures applied to the medical monitoring of pilots. The task force will gather senior safety and medical staff from the industry and from the regulators. The first meeting will take place on May 7, 2015. The task force will use the results from the interim investigation report, and gather evidence, including from hearing experts. It will also take into account further results coming out of the on-going safety investigation. This task force will run in parallel to the independent safety investigation led by the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority. If improvements are to be made in the European safety and security rules or in the implementation of the rules in order to help prevent future accidents or incidents, the European Commission will take the necessary action.

What is the role of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)?
Make implementing rules to promote the highest common standards of safety and environmental protection in civil aviation;
Certify & approve products and organisations, in fields where EASA has exclusive competence (e.g. airworthiness);
Provide oversight and support to Member States in fields where EASA has shared competence (e.g. Air Operations , Air Traffic Management); Promote the use of European and worldwide standards; Cooperate with international actors in order to achieve the highest safety level for EU citizens globally (e.g. EU safety list, Third Country Operators authorisations).

What measures can EASA take in response to an aircraft accident?
EU safety rules are adopted normally as Commission Regulations, complemented by non-binding EASA certification specifications, acceptable means of compliance or guidance material.
In addition, EASA issues under its own authority binding “airworthiness directives” on issues relating to the technical certificate of the aircraft. In other areas, such as operational safety rules or crew licensing rules, EASA issues non-binding safety recommendations called “Safety Information Bulletins”.

What is the role of Eurocontrol?
Eurocontrol has no role in the investigation of the Germanwings incident.
Eurocontrol is an international organisation founded in 1960 to support its 41 Member States, 28 of which are members of the EU, to achieve safe and efficient air traffic operations.
Eurocontrol role is the EU’s airspace network manager, and in this role for example coordinates/approves flight plans based on information provided by its member states.

What is the EU Air Safety List?
Every update of the EU Air Safety List (or ‘blacklist’) is an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 474/2006. This regulation established the Community list of air carriers which are subject to an operating ban within the Community. The air carriers on the list are mentioned in Annexes A and B to Regulation (EC) No 474/2006. In article 1 of COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) No 390/2011 of April 19, 2011, the actual amendment is mentioned. The rest of the publication consists of the recitals explaining the proceedings to come to the decisions whether or not to include an air carrier in the Air Safety List.

Continue reading on: