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March 27, 2015

Following Germanwings Disaster, Europe's Airlines Change In-Flight Policies

Following the news that the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed the plane deliberately after the pilot stepped out of the cockpit, airlines are moving to tighten their security procedures.

Early March 27, Germanwings' parent company, Lufthansa Group, announced it will adopt a new cockpit occupancy procedure that will require two authorized persons to be present in the cockpit at all times during a flight. The company will coordinate the move with the German Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrtbundesamt) other German airlines and the German aviation industry association (Bundesverband der deutschen Luftverkehrswirtschaft). 

The passenger airlines of the Lufthansa Group will adopt the new procedure as soon as possible, in due consultation with their national aviation authority, the Lufthansa Group said in a statement announcing the decision. 

Additionally, the company has created the new position of Group Safety Pilot, to be occupied immediately by Captain Werner Maas, who will hold it in parallel with his current function as Safety Pilot of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Captain Maas will have overarching group-wide responsibility for examining and further refining all flight safety-relevant procedures in his new capacity, in which he reports directly to Group CEO Carsten Spohr.

Late March 26 Norwegian announced that it will now require two crew members to always be present in the cockpit. If one pilot leaves the cockpit, another crewmember will be required to replace him or her during that time. 

According to NBC News, Air Canada, WestJet Airlines and Air Transat have also announced that they will voluntarily adopt the "rule of two." Air Berlin, easyJet, Icelandair and Virgin Air have also said that they will change their rules. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States has required two crewmembers in the cockpit at all times for many years. 

The crash will also most likely place greater scrutiny on psychological screening of pilots and airline crew, the Washington Post reports. FAA rules require airline pilots to undergo a medical examination every six to 12 months, which includes a psychological test. 

Germanwings Co-Pilot May Have Hid Health Condition

In the latest update on the investigation, German prosecutors have said that the co-pilot who crashed the plane may have hidden a sick note from doctors showing that he suffered a health condition that would have prevented him from flying the morning of the crash, Reuters reports.

"Documents with medical contents were confiscated that point towards an existing illness and corresponding treatment by doctors," the prosecutors' office in Duesseldorf told Reuters. "The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues."

According to reports in the German media cited by Reuters, the co-pilot had suffered from depression in the past, and six years ago had had to break off his training and spend over a year in psychiatric treatment. Lufthansa acknowledged the report but said there was no suggestion of risk in the pilot's background. 

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