Random alcohol testing of air crews is coming to Europe. The introduction of this new rule – once approved by the European Parliament – will happen no later than 2020. At the end of February, the EU Member States in the so-called ‘EASA Committee' approved a set of rules, including random alcohol checks of crews as part of the ramp inspection programmes. These new rules have been part of the legislative initiative after the Germanwings disaster. Although ECA had cautioned repeatedly against trying to prevent a Germanwings scenario by random drug & alcohol testing (where substance abuse didn’t play a role), the regulators had deemed this useful.
A glance at the proposal reveals that while random alcohol testing is to become mandatory, drug testing will not. However, the proposal leaves an open door to Member States if they want to do drug testing in the future.
This alcohol testing is to be done under the ramp inspection programme and where possible, outside the aircraft (e.g. in the crew room) and is to take place after a pilot (or cabin crew member) has reported for duty. Depending on national legislation, the testing may be done by either ramp inspectors or by police, or both. If the test shows a positive alcohol breath test, this must be confirmed by an additional ‘evidential test’ by the police.
‘EASA Committee' approved a set of rules, including random alcohol checks of crews as part of the ramp inspection programmes
Airlines will have no obligation to do own random testing but can do so. The obligation they have – as already proposed by EASA in its initial proposal – is to set up an internal policy & procedures for the ‘prevention and detection’ of alcohol or drug misuse, incl. educational programmes.
While the rationale behind random testing is understandable, the European pilot community believes that establishing and promoting adequate Peer Support Programmes (PSPs) – to address issues of either substance abuse or dealing with life stresses – is for many far more effective to mitigate the related risks.
The good news is therefore that Peer Support has become a cornerstone also in the newly proposed rules. PSPs in Europe and around the world have proven successful in identifying pilots that need help, treating them and, where possible, bringing them back to the flight deck. PSPs make it possible to capture drug & alcohol abuse, and any underlying mental health problems with one system. And the capture rates compared to random testing are 60 times higher (see eppsi.eu)
Unlike testing, Peer Support Programmes for crews, will take much longer to establish. Building a functioning, trustworthy Peer Support Programme from scratch, will take time and commitment from the entire industry and the pilot community. So we better start now and not wait until 2020.
• What Peer Support System for my organisation?
• Selection, Training & Currency of Peers
• Peer Support, SMS and Oversight.
More information on www.eppsi.eu