Airlines rush to tighten cockpit rules after Alpine disaster

Airlines from Europe and the UK to the US have taken steps to ensure the presence of at least two crew-members in the cockpit at all times. But the Indian aviation authority remains silent.

Airlines and policy makers rushed to mandate that two crew members be in the cockpit at all times following revelations that the co-pilot of the Germanwings air disaster deliberately crashed the plane when left alone at the controls.

British low-cost carrier easyJet was the largest company to announce a change in policy Thursday after French prosecutors said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked out the pilot before slamming the Airbus A320 into a mountain on Tuesday.

Similar announcements of tighter cockpit controls in the wake of the French Alps crash that killed all 150 people on board came from the Canadian government, Icelandair and Norwegian Air Shuttle.

There is absolutely no word on whether the Indian civil aviation authority has considered such a move, although the country is regularly hit by terrorist groups.

Germany's aviation association BDL said it too wanted to introduce a two-person cockpit rule among its members, while Lufthansa said the measure would be discussed at an industry meeting on Friday.

The second person could be a flight attendant if the pilot or co-pilot has to exit the cockpit in flight.

Thomas Hesthammer, head of flight operations at Norwegian Air Shuttle, Europe's third-largest low-cost carrier, said the Alps disaster was the trigger for his company's change of procedure. "We have been discussing this for a long time but this episode speeded things up," he said.

Icelandair said it too had been spurred to act by the shock revelations about the final minutes of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

Canada also ordered all its airlines to always have two people in the cockpit, in an emergency directive which the government said was mandatory and effective immediately.

"If you're carrying passengers, this is going to apply to you," Canada's transportation minister Lisa Raitt said. "You have to have two crew members in the flight deck at all times."

Canada's flagship carrier Air Canada, Westjet and charter airline Air Transat had earlier said they were putting the policy in place in response to the Germanwings crash.

In Europe, any other airlines that follow suit will do so voluntarily because European air safety regulations - unlike those in the United States and now Canada - are currently silent on the subject.

"The European Aviation Safety Agency rules don't require that the pilot be replaced by a crew member when he leaves the cockpit," said an agency spokesman.

Pilots, however, are expected to stay at the controls, except for trips to the bathroom or a break during long-haul flights.

American regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration already require a crew member sit in the locked cockpit if one of the plane's pilots needs to go the toilet or take care of another "physiological" need.

Investigators suspect the Germanwings pilot left the flight deck to relieve himself, putting 28-year-old Lubitz in charge.