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Airlines to overturn two-person cockpit rule, two years after Germanwings crash

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Airlines to overturn two-person cockpit rule, two years after Germanwings crash
File photo: DPA.
10:45 CEST+02:00
German airlines now say they no longer need a rule created for security purposes after a co-pilot deliberately crashed a Germanwings flight while alone in the cockpit in 2015, killing all 150 people on board.

The German Aviation Association (BDL) said on Friday that it wants pilots to again be allowed to ride in the cockpit alone.

The association explained that the rule resulted in the cockpit door being opened more often, and thus could lead to other risks such as unauthorized persons entering.

The two-person rule means that if one of the two pilots leaves the cockpit at any time, their place has to be temporarily filled with another crew member.

The policy - which was already in force in places like the United States - was implemented in Germany following the Germanwings crash, when the co-pilot was found to have intentionally crashed the plane while the captain had stepped out, probably to use the toilet. Investigators found that the co-pilot then blocked the captain from coming back into the cockpit.

The investigation further revealed that the co-pilot had a history of depression and was in treatment for a psychological condition immediately before the crash, leading Germany to pledge better mental health care for pilots.

The BDL on Friday emphasized that doctors will better watch out for psychological and psychiatric issues when examining pilots. The association also promised stable employment circumstances, access to income protection in case of an occupational disability, psychological counselling programmes, and more intensive personnel support.

The BDL further said that their assessment had shown “that the risk of an external attack through terrorist or criminal actions still must be assessed as higher,” than a scenario similar to the Germanwings crash. Since 1931, there has only been four other such suicide cases, two of them involving pilots alone in the cockpit. On the other hand, there had been 1,074 hijackings during this time.

The BDL said it had informed the Federal Aviation Office of its policy change and want to implement the rule no later than by June 1st.

Swiss International Air Lines is also set to abolish the two-person rule, which they also put in place following the Germanwings crash, following their own safety review. 

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