In the aftermath of the Germanwings tragedy last year EASA strongly recommended to European airlines to implement a rule to have “four eyes” in the cockpit during all phases of flight. While regularly two pilots are at the controls of the aircraft during the whole flight, it is obvious that – especially during longer flights – one of the pilots might have to leave the flight deck once in a while. For these short periods EASA recommends to have a flight attendant in the cockpit to “observe” the remaining pilot.
The role of this additional person in the cockpit has never been clearly defined, nor her/his tasks in the case of an emergency. There are many possible scenarios: a TCAS resolution advisory (alarm system to avoid mid air collision) or a rapid decompression, just to mention a few. We received “surprising” reports from some airlines, that flight attendants had to take the vacated pilot-seat to fasten their seat belts in case of turbulence: Can you imagine a crew member without any training or experience sitting right at the controls of an airliner? I can’t!
But it is very obvious and easily understandable that this procedure also leads to prolonged phases of an unlocked cockpit door and it multiplies the risk of security events as the population that is granted access to a security critical area is augmented. Furthermore, some airlines do not have the same background checks and selection process as in others, notably as they come from a third country.
Consequently it is our responsibility to underline once again the importance of well-selected and trained personnel. We must not make compromises in an area, where the negative consequences might have a devastating effect. We rather have to build a system that is driven by qualified people with a reliable background and adequate training and knowledge. Our concerns were echoed by many aviation stakeholders and we are pleased to see EASA reviewing this recommendation. Just trying to find an “easy way” through the “four eyes” rule or other bad solutions won’t make the real threats disappear!
by Dirk Polloczek