A task force led by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Friday called for pilots to be put through tougher medical and psychological screening procedures in the wake of the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash in March. The task force of experts published a report with recommendations, which will be reviewed by the European Commission before deciding on further steps to prevent a similar disaster.
All airlines should conduct random tests on pilots for drugs and alcohol, the task force recommended, adding that the process to oversee “aeromedical examiners” who are responsible for pilots' medical checks also needed an overhaul. The EASA group is one of many exploring ways to improve aviation safety after Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed a passenger jet into the French Alps on March 24, killing himself and 149 others.
"I am grateful for the swift and comprehensive work carried out by EASA's Task Force. The safety of European citizens is at the heart of the Commission's transport policy and today's report is a valuable contribution,” Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport, said, in a statement. “If improvements are to be made in the European safety and security rules or in their implementation, in order to help prevent future accidents or incidents, we will take the necessary action at EU-level."
The task force also recommended that airlines maintain the principle of "two persons in the cockpit at all time." A preliminary investigation into the crash had revealed that Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit before initiating the plane's descent into the mountainside.
"We don't know everything that happened in this tragedy but we know a certain number of causes and we thought we may not want to wait until the final report of the accident investigation to launch actions," Patrick Ky, EASA executive director, told Reuters.
Last month, German prosecutors confirmed that Lubitz researched on the Internet for ways of getting access to drugs like potassium cyanide, valium and a lethal combination of medicines. However, investigators have not found any evidence to prove that Lubitz used illegal drugs or alcohol.
Members of the task force have identified drug and alcohol abuse as “one of the disorders potentially affecting the mental health of pilots for which screening tests are readily available,” the agency said, in the statement.