Sunday, December 27, 2015

Germany plans random drug and alcohol tests for pilots after Germanwings crash

Germany will implement random drug and alcohol tests for pilots if planned legislation is passed, the country’s transport minister says. The proposal comes after a Germanwings pilot deliberately crashed a plane in March.

Germany's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt was quoted as saying Sunday that lawmakers are planning legislation to allowing for random drug and alcohol testing of pilots.

"Experts across the world are seeing the positive effects of strengthening health and safety in the aviation industry," Dobrindt told Germany's "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper.

"I think it's sensible that pilots are checked on a random basis for the consumption of alcohol, drugs and medicines," Dobrindt added.

The planned legislation follows recommendations made by a taskforce established by the Transport Ministry after Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked himself inside his plane's cockpit and deliberately crashed the Airbus A320 into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board earlier this year.

Prosecutors later said they found torn-up sick notes from doctors in Lubitz's home. Authorities also assert the 27-year-old had suffered severe depression and may have been fearful of losing his job. They say he had researched ways to commit suicide and concealed his illness from his employer.

Investigations into Germanwings flight 4U9525 found Lubitz should not have been allowed to fly on the grounds he was mentally unstable.

‘Completely wrong'

Airlines, Dobrindt added, would be responsible for carrying out the tests. 

The Sunday paper added that Dobrindt plans to present the proposed legislation to cabinet in the new year.

"The control system in this form is already established in the US and Australia - Europe should follow suit," he was quoted as saying.

But Markus Wahl, a spokesperson for the German pilots' union Cockpit, was critical of the plan.

"From our point of view the planned random tests are completely wrong. They have nothing to do with the Germanwings disaster and will put an entire professional group under general suspicion," Wahl told "Bild am Sonntag."

The proposed legislation comes after an expert panel led by Europe's aviation safety regulator recommended improved psychological screening for new pilots in July, as well as the establishment of a European database with details of medical visits plus better support networks to reduce the risks of a similar tragedy.

It further recommended the introduction of random drug and alcohol testing of pilots and better oversight of doctors responsible for their regular medical check-ups.

Earlier this year, Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa raised the possibility of medical spot check for pilots.


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