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ECA welcomes EASA’s legislative proposal as a comprehensive package of measures aimed at reducing the likelihood that such a tragic event will happen again.

Europe’s pilot community appreciates in particular that Peer Support Programmes (PSP) are topping the list of measures proposed by the Agency. These proposals are well thought-through, reflect best PSP practice from several European countries, and allow addressing both mental health issues and problems with potential substance abuse. The proposed rules are a solid foundation for streamlining support, advice and if needed – treatment for crews.

As expressed previously, mandating airlines to perform a psychological assessment of pilots before the start of employment can be a useful additional measure, as part of the wider package, as does the proposed Drug & Alcohol (D&A) testing of flight crew upon employment. And although D&A abuse did not play a role in the Germanwings tragedy, D&A testing after a serious incident or accident, and with due cause – i.e. following reasonable suspicion – constitutes best practice already today and is fully supported. Europe’s pilot community also expressly supports unannounced D&A testing after rehabilitation – e.g. through a Peer Support Programme – and return to work.

ECA remains skeptical, however, as regards the proposed random alcohol screening of flight and cabin crew within the EU RAMP inspection programme. Although presented as an ‘additional safety’ barrier, such random testing is clearly the least effective (impact) and least cost effective measure of EASA’s package. EU Member States will need to decide if they consider this as a sensible way forward. The experience from the U.S. shows such random screening to be very costly, but to be 10 times less effective in identifying problem cases than Peer Support Programmes. 

Link to EASA Opinion  (Opinion 14/2016)