What are the current rules on the minimum crew members required in the cockpit?
European safety regulations require that pilots shall remain at the aircraft controls during the critical phases of the flight. Pilots can take a short break for physiological or operational safety needs at any other time.
There is no European requirement that a member of the cabin crew must enter the cockpit if a pilot takes a short break for such needs.
On 27 March 2015 however, following the crash of Flight 4U 9525, the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) issued a non-binding temporary recommendation for airlines to observe the “four-eye-rule” in the cockpit. The recommendation stipulates 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. In a report delivered to the Commission on 16 July, a Task Force led by EASA concludes that this recommendation should be made permanent.
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Is there legislation in place regulating medical and fitness checks of airline pilots?
There is a European Regulation which requires pilots to have a valid and up-to-date medical certificate. This certificate is issued by an approved specialist in aviation medicine and revalidated at regular intervals during a pilots' career. Under that Regulation, pilots must meet requirements that relate to psychiatry and psychology.
These medical rules are binding upon Member States and airlines. During initial examination, a medical certificate will not be granted in the event of 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 assess the pilot's psychiatric and psychological fitness for flying.
These psychiatric or psychological 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. Pilots must also refrain from taking flight duties if they feel unfit to fly.
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.
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What about pilot background checks?
European aviation security Regulations require that crew members of an EU air carrier are subject to security 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.
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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) require all commercial aircraft above a certain to 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. 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.
The aircraft involved in the accident on 24 March 2015 was covered by these European Regulations and by the operator's approved security procedures.
In Europe the standard procedure is to monitor the area outside the cockpit from either pilot’s seat by CCTV. In some cases where a spyhole is used and not a CCTV monitor, there is a procedure according to which if one pilot temporarily leaves the cockpit, he/she has to be replaced by another crew member. The rationale of this procedure is to make sure that the remaining pilot can stay at the aircraft command and does not have to be distracted by the monitoring of the cockpit door.
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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. First, an accident (or safety) investigation is conducted by the national accident investigation authority in accordance with European rules. Second, 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?
In accordance with Regulation 996/2010 above mentioned, the French authorities initiated a safety investigation.
The French safety investigation authority (BEA, Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile) leads the investigation, as the accident took place on French territory (France is also the state of design and of the manufacturer). Germany is entitled to participate in the accident/incident investigation, as country of registration of the aircraft and home country of the operator. EASA, the certifying authority of the Airbus A320, has the possibility to send an advisor to assist in the investigation and has done so.
Are “budget carriers” subject to the same safety rules as other airlines?
All airlines operating in the European skies are subject to exactly the same safety rules and exactly the same oversight. Airline safety rules must be applied by all.
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 6 May 2015 by the French civil aviation safety investigation authority (BEA), Commissioner Violeta Bulc immediately asked EASA to set up a task force to look into the findings set out in the report. The task force consisted of senior safety and medical staff from the industry and from the regulators. The first meeting of the Task Force took place on 7 May 2015. The Task force met for the second time on 2 June. During the third and final meeting, it discussed draft recommendations prepared by EASA. Six final recommendations were presented to the Commission on 16 July 2015 and were made publically available on 17 July 2015.
The Commission will now thoroughly examine these recommendations before deciding on future steps. If the Commission concludes that legislative action is needed, EASA will be requested to develop concrete proposals, which will then be included in EU aviation safety regulations. EASA will also be asked to produce non-legislative deliverables such as guidance material and practical tools for information sharing, and to monitor actions taken by Member States and the industry
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 the so called soft law - 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 flight 4U 9525.
- 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 390/2011, 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.