MIL OSI – Source: CAA – French Alps Air Crash Causes NZ CAA to Tighten Flight-Deck Safety

Following reports that have emerged regarding the tragic Germanwings incident in the French Alps, The Civil Aviation Authority is working closely with New Zealand based operators to review procedures relevant to: (1) the minimum number of people in the flight deck at any given time; and (2) the ongoing updating of medical checks and reports back to the CAA.

Acting Director of Civil Aviation, John Kay said ‘Effective today the CAA requires large jet aircraft operators in New Zealand to ensure they have a minimum of two people in the flight deck at any given time. This applies to domestic and International flights. This new stipulation recognises that temporary inflight incapacitation could occur for a number of reasons, including a medical event.’

‘The CAA takes a precautionary approach on such matters in the interests of safety.’

‘All New Zealand airline pilots undergo extensive and recurrent medical assessments to determine their fitness to hold a licence. As part of this, aeromedical examiners are required to assess a commercial pilot’s physical and mental health at each medical examination which, for an airline pilot flying with at least one other pilot, is undertaken annually. These detailed medical assessments are in-line with international aviation standards.’ Mr. Kay said.

‘The CAA’s stance is that flight crew need to be medically fit in order to fly.’ He said.

‘Our view is also that well treated medical conditions, in established remission, and/or those conditions that are well managed by taking reliably safe medication, may be eligible to return to aviation.’

Mr. Kay said ‘A pilot’s medical certificate can be suspended while determining their medical fitness to fly. It is unlikely that someone who has a medical or behavioural condition of concern would be considered as being fit to hold a medical certificate.’ (Relevant medical requirements are below).

In addition, to hold a licence a pilot must remain ‘fit and proper’. When assessing an individual’s fit and proper status the Civil Aviation Act allows the Director of Civil Aviation to take into account any history of mental health of serious behavioural problems.

‘As with medical certificates the CAA will always take a precautionary approach on such matters.’

Mr. Kay concluded ‘We will closely monitor the situation as the Germanwings investigation continues and review our current requirements if any need improving or updating.’

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.