Germanwings crash serves as a reminder to physicians of their reporting requirements under law

Following the tragic Germanwings accident in May this year (see The Globe and Mail article Germanwings co-pilot repeatedly accelerated plane, investigators say), the director of medicine at Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Medicine Branch has issued a reminder to all Canadian physicians of their statutory obligations to report any conditions, diseases or treatments that may be incompatible with holding a pilot licence. Section 6.5(1) of the Aeronautics Act states:

Where a physician or an optometrist believes on reasonable grounds that a patient is a flight crew member, an air traffic controller or other holder of a Canadian aviation document that imposes standards of medical or optometric fitness, the physician or optometrist shall, if in his/her opinion the patient has a medical or optometric condition that is likely to constitute a hazard to aviation safety, inform a medical advisor designated by the minister forthwith of that opinion and the reasons therefor.

When a report is received, Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Medicine Branch investigates each report and determines the application of the medical standards of fitness outlined in the Canadian Aviation Regulations based on the results of its investigation and not just the content of the report. Physician reports submitted to the branch are considered private and confidential.

Questions regarding this reporting obligation, or any other aviation medicine issue, can be directed to the director of medicine at 1-800-305-2059.