FAA requires two people in cockpit on U.S. flights at all times

Local News

The crash of a Germanwings plane into the French Alps was no accident.

Investigators revealed Thursday that the co-pilot, identified as Andreas Lubitz, 27, locked himself in the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane.

Lubitz was only 18 months into his career at Germanwings, but had been flying for years.

Prosecutors say it’s clear from the cockpit recording that the crash was intentional.

“After the captain has left the cockpit, he tried to regain access where there were knocks on the doors, according to the French authorities, and the door was either kept locked, or not opened the way it was supposed to be, and that for sure is a clear indication that the remaining pilot, the co-pilot, didn’t want the captain to return,” said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings.

One-hundred-fifty people were on board, including three Americans. Everyone is presumed dead.

So what are the rules for U.S. flights and how easy would it be for a pilot to lock a coworker out and take control of the plane?

KHON2 spoke with an executive from Hawaiian Airlines and an aviation expert, who said that Federal Aviation Administration regulations would make it harder for a pilot in an American airliner to pull off such a heinous act.

One of the main reasons and probably the most important one according to aviation analyst Peter Forman, is in U.S. airlines, the FAA requires that there must always be at least one other crew member with the pilot in the cockpit.

“So if the pilot who was upfront passed out for some reason, then you would have another person there to open the door and let the other pilot back in,” Forman explained.

The policy started right after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Cockpit doors lock from the inside and the second person can look first if somebody knocks to get in.

Forman says two people in the cockpit help to keep each other from doing something terribly wrong.

“You figure how rare it is to have a single pilot to be of that mindset so it would be extremely rare to have two pilots at the same time,” he said.

The Germanwings crash also brings to light the mental stability of pilots.

When asked how it keeps track of its pilots, Hawaiian Airlines said every pilot undergoes psychological testing with a licensed clinical psychologist.

KHON2 spoke with airline insiders and pilots about the psychological exams and for safety reasons, they don’t want to reveal too many details, but we have learned they can be pretty rigorous and, in some cases, require spending hours individually with a psychiatrist.

Airlines for America, which represents all U.S. airlines also issued a statement saying the airlines “go through rigorous evaluations for pilots, thorough medical examinations, fitness for duty testing if warranted, and always have two people in the cockpit.”

Forman says European airline companies will likely adopt the policy of always having two people in the cockpit, while U.S. airlines will also pay more attention to psychological evaluations.

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