Canadian airlines can now have just one crew member in cockpit, despite U.S. safety requirement

Click to play video: 'Two crew in cockpit rule expires in Canada'
Two crew in cockpit rule expires in Canada
A Transport Canada rule requiring airlines to always have two crew in the cockpit expired in June, despite the regulation still being in place in the United States. Reid Fiest looks into why there's a discrepancy – Aug 14, 2017

Canadian airlines will now decide for themselves whether they want to revert to safety regulations changed after the fatal Germanwings crash that killed over 100 people.

The temporary order, which expired in June, required that two crew members be in the cockpit at all times during a flight. If a pilot or co-pilot went on a break, a flight attendant would replace them.

Before the Germanwings crash, where a suicidal co-pilot locked his captain out, and crashed the plane, killing 150 aboard, only one crew person was required to be in the cockpit at all times.

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Responding to that tragedy, the Canadian government announced two crew would be required. But it was temporary.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency which regulates air travel in the United States, still have the two crew to a cockpit rule in place.

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And after a review before the expiry, the regulatory body for air travel in Canada said existing rules ensure passenger safety.

Transport Canada would not do an interview for this story but suggested in a statement that Canada has the safest regulations in the world.

“Existing measures under the aeronautics act effectively verify that pilots operating commercial aircraft are fit to fly,” it said in an emailed statement to Global News.

Transport Canada added that the two crew requirement may also “reduce the number of flight attendants in the cabin, having a potential impact on passenger safety, especially in an emergency.”

But former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Mark Rosenker disagreed, arguing the original rule is unsafe.

“I’m disappointed that the Canadian regulatory authorities have decided to let this rule lapse,” Rosenker said to Global News in London, UK. “I think it’s short sighted and I hope we don’t have to say, ‘we told you so.'”

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European officials relaxed the same order more than a year ago, leaving the decision up to airlines.

Ultimately, Canadian airlines will have the final say.

WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart wouldn’t comment on its security procedures.

“WestJet maintains robust safety and security processes intended to protect our guests and people,” Stewart said in a statement.

Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah said in a statement that the airline has changed how crew do their work in the air.

“We have revised our policy in accordance with the revised order, and have no additional comment,” Mah said.

The Air Canada Pilots Association says its members are pleased with the change.

“We think that this strikes the right balance of aircraft safety while also ensuring adequate supervision in the passenger cabin,” spokesperson Christopher Praught said.

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