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How can a pilot be locked out of a cockpit?

WATCH ABOVE: Airbus reinforced cockpit door description and procedure from Airbus promotional video

TORONTO — Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, planes have been equipped to keep dangerous people from entering the cockpit. But it seems that in the case of Germanwings Flight 9525, the most dangerous person was already inside.

READ MORE: Germanwings 9525 co-pilot appears to have crashed jet deliberately: Prosecutor

Since 2001, all airplanes have doors that are considered impenetrable. They are reinforced with Kevlar — the same material that protects police from bullets. Some airlines also require that when one person leaves the cockpit, another person is to take his or her place. On Thursday, Air Canada told Global News reporter Carmen Chai that they were “implementing without delay a policy change to ensure that all flights have two people in the cockpit at all times.”

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However, if there is only one person in the cockpit of an aircraft, there are security procedures that one has to follow to gain entry. But it all hangs on access being given from inside the cockpit.

An image from an Airbus video shows the door and the keypad that is used to gain entry into the cockpit.
An image from an Airbus video shows the door and the keypad that is used to gain entry into the cockpit. Screenshot/YouTube/Supercharged

A video produced by Airbus shows that there are certain procedures to gain access into the cockpit.

The door switch in the cockpit that allows entry inside has three positions: Lock, Normal and Unlock.

To gain entry, the person in the cabin needs to identify himself or herself and then press a button indicating that they require entry. The pilot or co-pilot then allows access by flipping the switch to “unlock.”

But what happens if the pilots are incapacitated? A crew member can enter the emergency access code to gain entry.

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However, if a pilot doesn’t want someone to enter, they can flip the switch to the locked position. This would override the emergency access procedure. And this is what appears to have happened in the case of Flight 9525 as the co-pilot, now identified as Andreas Lubitz, took the plane on a descent into the Alps.

–with files from Carmen Chai