In the wake of this week’s Germanwings tragedy, several airlines around the world have altered their policies to require two crew members in the cockpit at all times, a measure already mandatory for US carriers. Lufthansa, parent company of Germanwings, was originally not one of them, but reversed their position yesterday amid social media backlash.

In coordination with the German Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrtbundesamt) other German airlines and the German aviation industry association (Bundesverband der deutschen Luftverkehrswirtschaft), the airlines of the Lufthansa Group are to adopt a new cockpit occupancy procedure as a precautionary measure. Under the new procedure, two authorized persons must be present in the cockpit at all times during a flight.

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 is also expanding its safety structures. In addition to the safety pilots at each of its member airlines, the new position of Group Safety Pilot has been created until further notice. The new post will be assumed with immediate effect 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.

Brussels announced it would recommend that rule change to all EU airlines and Canada’s government issued an immediate order requiring two crew members to be in the flight deck at all times.

Other carriers that have confirmed the two crew member requirement change are: Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air Transat, Easyjet, Monarch Airlines,  Norwegian Air Shuttle, Thomas Cook, United*, Virgin Atlantic, and Westjet.

*From the WSJ – Almost all flights operated by U.S. carriers already have a two-crew policy, but United was authorized to have a single pilot present on around 20 Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner jets fitted with cockpit video-surveillance systems in addition to a peephole on the door. Under U.S. aviation regulations, United had been able to satisfy the cockpit-staffing rules put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, because the remaining solo crew member didn’t need to leave their seat to see who wanted to enter the flight deck. United said its change was voluntary, and brings cockpit policy in line with operations on the rest of its roughly 700-airplane fleet.

This is clearly good news, but there’s unfortunately no way to fully eliminate the risk of a rogue crew member. What if the flight attendant who covers the exiting pilot is unable to overpower the remaining pilot who is intent on taking down the plane?  What if the flight attendant who enters the cockpit is the one who is suicidal…perhaps even bringing cutlery from the galley? Proper screening, HR policies, and active crew vigilance will need to augment the policy changes.

Interesting discussion over here – What To Do About Pilot Suicide 

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