European safety agency moves toward toughening up pilot screening

Mental health, drugs, alcohol among proposed checks

BERLIN (Reuters) — The European Commission will propose laws to toughen screening for new pilots by the end of this year after aviation safety authorities called for stricter medical requirements.

Pilot screening and mental health assessments came under scrutiny after a young pilot barricaded himself inside the cockpit and crashed a German wings jetliner into the Alps in March 2015, killing all 150 onboard.

Prosecutors have found evidence that the co-pilot, who had suffered severe depression and may have feared losing his job, had researched suicide methods and concealed an illness from his employer, sparking a debate on supervision and medical secrecy.

Among the proposals put forward by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Aug. 16 were a comprehensive mental health assessment during initial screening, as well as drug and alcohol checks.

The proposals follow recommendations initially made by a task force set up after the crash. They will now go to the European Commission and serve as the basis for legislation to be presented by the Commission toward the end of 2016, EASA said in a statement.

Directly after the 2015 crash, EASA introduced a rule requiring two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times. But it relaxed this requirement last month, saying it was up to operators to first conduct a risk assessment and decide whether they wanted to maintain this rule.

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