EASA strengthens medical requirements for commercial flight crew

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published a set of proposals to the European Commission for an update of the rules concerning the medical fitness of commercial flight crew.

The proposals, which include increased screening for drugs and alcohol and comprehensive mental health assessment, are part of its Action Plan following the Germanwings Flight 9525 accident. In that incident, the First Officer barricaded himself inside the cockpit and crashed an Airbus A320 airliner into the Alps, killing all 150 people onboard. It has since come to light, in subsequent investigation, that the pilot had suffered severe depression and had researched suicide methods and concealed an illness from his employer.

Released in a document known as an Opinion (the full document can be viewed here), these proposals introduce the following new requirements, among others:

  • to strengthen Class 1 medical examination for applicants for and holders of certificates by including drugs and alcohol screening and comprehensive mental health assessment as well as improved follow-up in case of medical history of psychiatric conditions;
  • for aero-medical centres (AeMCs) and aero-medical examiners (AMEs) to report to the competent authority all incomplete medical assessments, thus preventing fraud attempts;
  • to increase the quality of the aero-medical examinations by improving the training, oversight and competency assessment of the AMEs; and for the holders of medical certificates to return them to the licensing authority in case of suspension and revocation of their medical certificates.

A Task Force met in December 2015 and, led by the European Aviation Safety Agency, assessed the adequacy of European air safety and security rules and issued six recommendations, centered around the medical fitness of air crews. EASA explains in the Opinion that the proposals have been subject to consultation with all concerned stakeholders, and aim to address relevant safety recommendations made after the Flight 9525 accident by the EASA-led Task Force, as well as by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA).

The EASA Opinion (Opinion 09/2016) also includes a broader update of Part-MED, aimed at keeping the rules up-to-date with latest developments in the field of medicine and filling any gaps identified through the operational experience.