After reaching cruise altitude and while the captain had momentarily left the cockpit, Lubitz locked the door and initiated a controlled descent that continued until the aircraft impacted a mountainside in the French Alps, 62 miles north-west of Nice.
The immediate response to the incident was the recommendation (by the European Aviation Safety Agency / EASA) of always having at least two crew members in the cockpit during the entire duration of the flight, one of course being a pilot. Many airlines adopted this policy voluntarily in the aftermath.
More than three years on, new European rules surrounding the mental health and fitness of crew members have just been revealed by the European Union, following advice from the EASA and the wider aviation community. The new rules include the following safety measures:
- Support programme: all pilots working for European airlines will have access to a support programme that will assist and support pilots in recognising, coping with, and overcoming problems which might negatively affect their ability to safely exercise the privileges of their licence.
- Alcohol testing: As an additional safety barrier, alcohol testing of pilots and cabin crew for all European and foreign airlines who fly into the territories of the European Union, has been added. Alcohol testing is already a well-established practice in some member states and with this regulation alcohol testing will now be extended to all EU member states within the next two years.
- Psychological assessment: European airlines will perform a psychological assessment of their pilots before the start of employment.
EASA’s 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.”