After the crash of the Germanwings A320 which killed 150 people, followed by the revelations made by the French Republic prosecutor last Thursday, and inititiated by the Lufthansa Group, a number of airlines, including easyJet, Norwegian, Air Transat and Corsair, have taken the decision, to impose a "Rule of two" (two authorized persons present in the cockpit at all times ). In Europe, at a few companies such as Finnair and Iberia, the rule already exists ; and the trend is expected to accelerate.
Lufthansa, the Germanwings parent company, said in a statement last Friday, that it would impose this rule "as soon as possible" for all airlines in the group, which includes a broader decision to all German and Austrian Airlines. Lufthansa has also announced the immediate appointment at the group of : "a chief pilot charged with reviewing and upgrading security procedures."
So what do the international regulations in force today stipulate ?
Can a pilot leave the cockpit ? The answer is yes.The European and American civil aviation authorities (EASA, FAA) today allow a pilot to leave the cockpit for three reasons: performing operations in connection with the aircraft, physiological needs, and on long-haul flights take a rest. In the latter case, another pilot must take over ( double crew ).
Can a pilot remain alone in a cockpit ? Again, the answer is yes. According to the current EASA and FAA texts, pilots may be alone in the cockpit under one condition, that they can monitor the entrance from their seat with a video monitor, on the basis that at least one of the two pilots must always be at his/her post.
If the cockpit door is equipped with a security peephole, "the company may stipulate that the presence of a crew member in the cockpit is required during the entire period of absence of one of the pilots" - although this is not mandatory.
The regulation will probably be reinforced. EASA has issued a recommendation to airlines to now ensure "the presence of two persons in the cockpit for the duration of the flight, under no matter whatsoever the conditions." Last Friday, we were informed that the European Union could consider imposing the presence of two crew members permanently in the cockpit.
Unlike Europe, most US airlines already impose this rule – i.e. the "Rule of two". Canada has just made this presence mandatory, with immediate effect, for all airlines in the country.
What remains to be reviewed is the unlocking of the cockpit door in the case of extreme necessity. Some ideas such as biometrics have already been suggested.