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Should Pilots Be Subject to Regular Drug & Alcohol Testing?

EASA Task Force recommends regular drug testing for pilots in aftermath of the Germanwings tragedy.

European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) officials are recommending that pilots be tested for both drugs and alcohol on a regular basis as one of six improvements to air safety over European skies. The EASA Task Force on Measures Following the Accident of Germanwings Flight 9525 submitted their final report on July 16, outlining their recommendations for changes to European law.

The committee, which consisted of representatives from airlines, flight crew associations and medical advisers, outlined six core changes that could be implemented by the EU to make air transportation safer. The first recommendation was to maintain the two-person cockpit rule, mandating that two people must always be in the cockpit while an aircraft is in flight. Immediately after the 4U 9525 crash, many airlines implemented the two-person cockpit rule.

The committee also recommended that all pilots undergo both regular drug testing and psychological evaluation during the training process. While the psychological training would take place prior to a pilot entering service, the drug testing would take place during the pilot’s medical assessment, when employed by a new airline, after an incident, or after a positive test result.

“Following the first discussions, the Task Force also addressed the pilot work environment and drugs and alcohol testing,” the task force wrote in their final report. “The Task Force recognized that the abuse of drugs and alcohol is one of the disorders potentially affecting the mental health of pilots for which screening tests are readily available.”

Finally, the task force issued recommendations to better support both medical examiners and pilots. The group identified the need to improve the medical examiner program, as well as increase pilot support systems and create laws that balance the demands of patient confidentiality with public safety.

The task force was formed in the aftermath of the 4U 9525, which killed 150 people after the first officer deliberately crashed the Airbus A320 operating the flight.

[Photo: iStock]

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