The European Union has adopted new rules on mental fitness of aircrew

On 24 March 2015, Germanwings flight 9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf crashed on the French Alps 100Km north-west of Nice. 144 passengers and 6 crew members were killed. The investigation on the accident showed that the crash was not an accident but a deliberate action: the co-pilot locked himself inside the cockpit while the pilot was outside and willfully crashed the plane on the mountain.

After the crash of flight 9525, the European Commission decided to study and propose new and more effective measures to assess the mental fitness of pilots and cabin crew members before commencing a flight. Regulation (EU) No 965/2012 already provided that crew members are not to carry out duties on an aircraft when under the influence of psychoactive substances or when unfit due to injury, fatigue, medication, sickness or other similar causes. Nevertheless, the European Aviation Safety Agency has identified a number of safety risks and issued recommendations to mitigate those risks. The implementation of some of those recommendations requires regulatory changes as regards the psychological assessment of the flight crew before commencing line flying, the implementation of a support programme for flight crew, the carrying-out of random alcohol testing on flight and cabin crew members by Member States, and systematic testing of psychoactive substances of flight and cabin crew members by commercial air transport operators. Those changes have been implemented with Regulation (EU) No 2018/1042 of 23 July 2018, pursuant to which:

  • all pilots should have access to a support programme in case of psychological problems;
  • airlines are obliged to perform a psychological assessment of pilots before commencing flying;
  • systematic testing for psychoactive substances of flight and cabin crew upon employment and unannounced testing after rehabilitation and return to work must be introduced;
  • random alcohol testing of pilots and cabin crew will be mandatory for all European and foreign airlines in the European Union.

Regulation (EU) No 2018/1042, published on the Official Journal L 188 of 25.07.2018, foresees a transition period of two years, during which industry and Member States can prepare the implementation and establish the necessary infrastructure to comply with the Regulation.


Davide Scavuzzo