The European Aviation Safety Agency believes a recommendation that airlines should require two personnel to be present in the cockpit at all times is sufficient to mitigate the risks associated with possible sabotage by a lone occupant.
But it says that, while the recommendation should be maintained, its benefits should be reviewed after a period of one year.
“Operators should introduce appropriate supplemental measures including training for crew to ensure any associated risks are mitigated,” it adds.
EASA established a task force to look into the implications of the 24 March Germanwings crash in southern France, after investigators revealed that the first officer had locked the captain out of the cockpit before deliberately putting the jet on a collision course with terrain.
The task force looked into whether the rules governing secure cockpit doors should be revisited, particularly given that a manual lock, used to supplement electronic ones, can be activated by a pilot left in the cockpit.
While the task force noted that manual locks were “not compliant” with certain requirements, they were “accepted” based on the low probability of their contributing to unusual events.
“In the past, the risk of illegitimate use of the manual lock from inside the cockpit was not fully assessed,” says the EASA analysis.
But it adds that the use of the manual lock is “very rare” and that data from 10 European airlines suggests it is activated just once in 250,000 flights.
“The task force has not identified presently suitable alternatives to the manual lock to guarantee security in case of the failure of the automatic system,” it states.
EASA says the task force “does not see it necessary” to recommend any further immediate action on cockpit door locks – either manual or electronic – because it believes that possible risks arising from illegitimate use of the manual lock can be “mitigated” with the two-person recommendation.
There is no evidence, it says, of any incident arising from a member of the cabin crew being granted temporary access to the cockpit.
“A number of airlines have implemented supplemental measures to complement the requirement,” it adds. “Crew may be subject to additional security screening, and temporary staff excluded from the task.”
EASA concludes that the “greatest scope” for improvements following the Germanwings crash is “not related” to cockpit doors but to areas such as aeromedical assessment.
(David Kaminski-Morrow - Flightglobal News)