SOME airline experts yesterday in Lagos urged the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to conduct neuropsychological tests on pilots and co-pilots operating in the country.
The exercise they said would help in ascertaining their mental fitness and help to avert the likes of recent ill-fated Germanwings plane that was deliberately crashed by its pilot.
Capt. Dele Ore, President, Aviation Round Table, said NCAA should mandate all pilots and co-pilots to go through a mental fitness test before entering a cockpit.
Ore, a flight captain in the defunct Nigerian Airways, said that the call in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a U.N agency that sets global aviation standards.
He urged all airlines to also commence the test for all their personnel to avoid further occurrence.
Ore said that all airlines operating in the country should employ more medical personnel to examine pilots’ state of mental and physical health.
Ore said the airline should not relent on its oars at ensuring that pilots and co-pilots were medically fit.
Capt. John Ojikutu, urged the NCAA to introduce a “mood disorder” protocol for airline personnel.
He said the nation’s airlines should make it compulsory for all pilots and co-pilots to undergo a periodic medical examination, including a mental assessment before entering the cockpit.
He said that every airline’s primary responsibility was to ensure that the safety of passengers was not compromised.
“Until the ill-fated Germanwing flight, there was little done on the screening of airline pilots for mental problems in spite of regulations in the U.S., Europe”, he said.
Mr Samuel Adurogboye, Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs, NCAA, said that the common cases relating to pilots health the agency handled were eye sight issues, obesity and heart-related.
He said the authority always carried out six-month periodic medical test on all pilots, including foreign ones operating in the country.
“I am not aware of any mental issue but I know of issues relating to eyes, obesity and heart; these are common one among pilots here.
“The healthiest people on earth are the pilots because they are well tested at a six-month interval,’’ he said.
According to him, pilots who violate the rules and regulation of the authority had always been sanctioned.
Adurogboye said foreign pilots operating the country were usually made to undergo the NCAA examination and were issued with NCAA licence to operate if successful.
“We will give out the NCAA syllabus and timetable for the pilots to study; after the agreed time, normally three months, they come for an examination.
“If such a pilot or pilots is successful, we would give him or her licence. The licence from here does not qualify a pilot to fly in the U.S. or South Africa.
“Likewise those from other countries do not qualify pilots to fly in the country”, he said.
He said that NCAA encouraged airlines to carry out their own medical assessments of pilots and submit the report to the regulatory body to for scrutiny.
The Germanwing aircraft, Airbus A320-200, crashed 100 km northwest of Nice, in the French Alps, after a descent that began one minute after the last routine contact with air traffic control.
.All the 144 passengers and six crew members were killed.
The crash was reported to be intentionally caused by the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz who was said to have been declared unfit to fly for psychological reasons hid the information from his employers.
Lubitz reportedly locked his co-pilot out of the cockpit before initiating a descent that caused the plane to crash into a mountain.
In response to the incident aviation authorities in Canada, New Zealand, Germany and Australia have implemented new regulations that require two authorised personnel to be present in the cockpit at all times