An offshore helicopter transport safety organisation has welcomed new European proposals for making sure pilots are mentally fit for flying.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has drawn up proposals for improving checks on pilots’ medical fitness, including their mental health.
They will be submitted to the European Commission for approval by the end of 2016.
If approved, it is likely the EASA’s regulations will be implemented by the North Sea helicopter industry, despite the UK’s impending exit from the European Union.
Though it is not an EU country, Norway has a “working arrangement” with the EASA, and it is expected the UK will continue to work closely with the organisation post-Brexit.
The legislation was prepared following the Germanwings Flight 9525 disaster.
In March 2015, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.
Lubitz had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies.
The EASA’s recommendations include strengthening medical examination of pilots by including drugs and alcohol screening, comprehensive mental health assessment, as well as “improved follow-up in case of medical history of psychiatric conditions”.
It also wants to improve the quality of training for aero-medical examiners and prevent fraud attempts by requiring aero-medical centres to report incomplete medical assessments.
Gretchen Haskins, chief executive of HeliOffshore, welcomed the proposals and said the offshore helicopter transport industry was committed to enhancing safety.
Ms Haskins said: “While it is important to note that incidents caused by health issues are extremely rare, we will work with regulators and our members to ensure any enhancements are implemented effectively.
“In the UK, the regulations that define medical checks apply to all pilots – fixed wing and rotary – and are implemented by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
“HeliOffshore members who operate UK offshore helicopter services adhere to those regulations; which currently require thorough, regular medical checks of pilots.”