Airlines race to require 2 crew in cockpit after Germanwings crash

 The cockpit door locking system of an Airbus A320. Photo: Reuters

Airlines have rushed to change their rules to require a second crew member in the cockpit at all times, hours after French prosecutors suggested a co-pilot who barricaded himself alone at the controls of a jetliner had crashed it on purpose.

The United States already requires 2 crew members to be in the cockpit at all times, but many other countries do not – allowing pilots to leave, for example to use the toilet, as long as one pilot is at the controls.

That is precisely what French prosecutors suspect happened on the Germanwings flight on Tuesday. They say co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27, locked the captain out and appears to have set the controls to crash into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board the Airbus A320.

It emerged yesterday that Lubitz had received a sick note from doctors showing he suffered a health condition that would have prevented him flying on the day of the crash, which he apparently hid from his employer, German prosecutors said.

Airlines including Norwegian Air Shuttle, Britain’s EasyJet, Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Air Berlin all said yesterday that they had introduced a requirement that two crew members be in the cockpit at all times.

Canada said it would immediately impose such a rule on all its airlines as those that already had one in place rushed to reassure customers.

Chinese mainland airlines have long been following the “rule of two”, mainland news site reported yesterday. The civil aviation authority said that since the MH370 incident most mainland airlines had required another crew member to be in the cockpit if one of the pilots needed to leave temporarily.

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair said they already had the policy in place.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa, which initially said on Thursday it did not see any reason to hastily change its procedures, agreed it would implement the 2-person rule too.

“The passenger airlines of the Lufthansa Group will put this new rule into place as soon as possible in agreement with the relevant authorities,” Lufthansa said. The Lufthansa Group also includes Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss Air and Eurowings.

Lufthansa also said it was creating a new role of group safety pilot, who will check and develop flight safety procedures and report directly to Chief Executive Carsten Spohr. Currently, each airline has its own safety pilot. The group safety pilot role will be held by Werner Maas, now the safety pilot for the Lufthansa brand. Australia’s Qantas and Singapore Airlines said they had systems in place to protect the cockpit.