CAA defends closure of pilot medical centre

CAA defends closure of pilot medical centre

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The UK’s only publicly funded medical centre for commercial airline pilots has been shut despite demands for more strict psychiatric checks after the Germanwings crash in the Alps.

The Civil Aviation Authority closed its aeromedical centre at Gatwick last month after 40 years assessing pilots, The Times reported.

It opened after a crash near Heathrow in 1972 that killed 118 people was partly blamed upon the pilot’s heart condition.

All medicals will be now be carried out at privately-run clinics which will be vetted by the regulator.

The UK CAA Aeromedical Centre, which carried out up to 2,500 examinations a year, was closed at the end of last month. It mainly carried out initial medical assessments on pilots, covering physical and mental health.

The issue was highlighted when the Germanwings co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, committed suicide by deliberately crashing into the Alps last March, killing 149 passengers and crew.

French investigators on Sunday called for the introduction of new rules requiring medics to warn authorities when they believe pilots are unfit to fly.

A report by the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses found that a private doctor had recommended that Lubitz go to a psychiatric hospital two weeks before the crash. He had been signed off work by two doctors and given anti-depressants. However, neither medic informed the airline that he was unfit to fly, a silence put down to Germany’s strict patient confidentiality laws.

The CAA insisted that similar restrictions did not exist in the UK, meaning that concerns on the same scale could be relayed to authorities.

The authority added that medicals were best carried out by independently run centres, with the CAA regulating the system.

There are four centres, in Hampshire, Surrey, Ayrshire and London.

A CAA spokesman told the newspaper: “Standards are set at a European-wide level and these will remain unchanged regardless of who provides medical services to the aviation industry.”


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