Australia has moved immediately to tighten cockpit safety after the Germanwings plane crash

Photo: Getty Images

The Australian government will insist on two people in the cockpit of commercial flights at all times in response to the Germanwings crash.

The ruling applies to Australian domestic and international services with two or more flight attendants and 50 or more passengers, effective immediately.

However, the specifics remain unclear, including whether or not international airlines flying to Australia will be subjected to the new rule.

Deputy prime minister and transport minister Warren Truss said “different airlines have different operating procedures… The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) will ensure the methodology used by various airlines is the safest possible”.

The changes to Australia’s aviation safety regulations follows last week’s fatal Germanwings crash in the French Alps, allegedly caused by the co-pilot of the German airliner, which claimed the lives of 150 people, including two Australians.

Australia’s national carrier, Qantas, has agreed to have two approved people in the cockpit at all times in-flight.

This includes Qantas, QantasLink, Network Aviation and Jetstar flights.

“When one pilot needs to leave the cockpit for any reason, another authorised person will occupy the jump seat (as distinct from the control seats occupied by the Captain and First Officer) until they return,” Qantas said in a statement.

The policy change for Qantas applies to all aircraft with more than 50 seats but excludes Qantaslink’s fleet of 18 Q200s and Q300s, which generally operate on short sectors where the need for pilots to leave the cockpit is minimal.

Qantas Group flights typically have between two and four operating pilots on board, depending on the length of the flight and the type of aircraft.

The new safety measures were discussed over the weekend by Cabinet’s national security committee.

Last week prime minister Tony Abbott said, “Whenever there is a major aviation incident, everyone reviews their safety procedures,” adding aviation was the safest form of transport and “we want to keep it that way”.

In a statement last week Truss said Australia already has strict safety regulations in place to safeguard passengers.

“We take a preventative, layered approach to aviation security,” he said.

“Airline pilots are psychologically tested as part of their recruitment process. Pilots must also undergo at least annual medical, including mental health, checks under Civil Aviation Safety Authority licence requirements.”

Qantas says it has a comprehensive safety management system with layers of screening and support for pilots, from regular medical checks to stress management training, confidential counselling and pilot-to-pilot support networks.

Australian regulations require the cockpit door remain locked for the duration of the flight, except when necessary to allow a person to enter or leave. Once an aircraft has taken off, entry to the cockpit must be authorised by the pilot in command.

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