Norwegian Air to require two people in cockpits

Norwegian Air to require two people in cockpits
© Wikimedia Commons

Norwegian Airlines is going to start requiring two pilots to be in the cockpit of its planes at all times, after a Germanwings co-pilot was accused of intentionally crashing a flight in French Alps. 

French authorities have accused 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz of locking the captain of Germanwings Flight 9525 out of the cockpit on Tuesday and deliberately crashing the plane, killing all 150 people who were on board.

Norwegian Air said Thursday it has been considering requiring two pilots to be in its cockpits for a while, but it is being spurred to act quicker after the Germanwings crash. 

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“Norwegian has been looking into changing its cockpit procedures for a while. However, in light of the tragic Germanwings accident, we are speeding up the process so that two crew members always are present in the cockpit,” the company said in a statement. 

“This means that if one of the pilots leaves the cockpit, one crew member must replace him/her during this time,” the statement continued. “Our passengers’ and crew’s safety always comes first, which is why we have decided to change our procedures, in line with US regulations.” 

Norwegian officials have said the change is voluntary, because European airline regulations do not contain a two-person requirement for passenger flights. 

“Today, there are no European regulatory requirements stating that two crew members must be in the cockpit at all times,” the airline said. “The new procedures will be implemented as soon as Norwegian has received an approval from the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority.” 

U.S. airline industry officials have said it is unlikely an incident like the Germanwings crash could occur here. 

“Every airline in the United States has procedures designed to ensure that there is never a situation where a pilot is left alone in the cockpit,” the Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement that was provided to The Hill. 

“During initial employment interviews and periodic medical examinations, as frequently as every six months, pilots’ behavior and psychological well-being are observed and evaluated by trained professionals,” the group continued. “During flight, pilots and flight attendants operate as a coordinated crew and are in a position to observe each other’s behavior, and airlines have procedures in place to allow crewmembers to express concerns they may have about an individual’s actions so they may be appropriately addressed.”

Norwegian Air has been at the center of a contentious battle with U.S. airlines over its bid to increase its flight service to domestic airports under the “Open Skies” agreement between U.S. and Ireland.  The company says it can offer drastically lower cost international flights than U.S. airlines traditionally charge. 

U.S. carriers have accused Norwegian of ducking Scandinavian labor and tax laws, but Norwegian has maintained the safety of its international flights.