Germanwings fallout: Air NZ joins global airlines on new cockpit rules

Wellington: Air New Zealand on Friday joined other global airlines in stipulating that two crew members would have to be present at all times in the cockpit, amid allegations that a co-pilot willfully crashed a passenger jet earlier this week, locking the pilot out of the cockpit.

Prosecutors indicated on Thursday that the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U 9525, en route from Barcelona in Spain to Dusseldorf in Germany on Tuesday, deliberately made the plane crash in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

David Morgan, Air New Zealand's chief flight operations and safety officer, said the policy amendment meant that at least two crew members were now required to be present at all times in each aircraft's cockpit, the News Zealand Herald reported.

If one of two pilots operating a flight needed to leave the cockpit for a short time, another crew member would be required to be in the cockpit during the other's absence, the report added.

The policy change was "effective immediately", Morgan said, and followed a review of cockpit procedures in response to the Germanwings disaster.

"The safety of our customers, staff and aircraft is paramount and non-negotiable and this procedural change will further strengthen our protocols and mitigate any risk posed by one pilot becoming incapacitated while operating an aircraft," he said.

According to an earlier report, a number of global airline companies like Lufthansa Group, Air Berlin, Condor, TuiFly, Norwegian Air, Easyjet, Air Canada and Icelandair have already agreed on tighter cockpit rules, requiring two crew members to be present in the cockpit at all times, in the wake of the Germanwings revelation.

Air New Zealand had its own mid-air scare in May last year, when a co-pilot was locked out of his cockpit for two minutes on a packed Trans-Tasman flight between Perth and Auckland.

The captain did not respond to requests to open the locked door, alarming the crew, after he and his first officer were believed to have fallen out over a delayed take-off.

The co-pilot eventually used an alternative method to gain entry to the cockpit, which the airline did not detail for security reasons.

Both pilots were stood down after the incident, and their cabin crew offered counselling.

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