By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's aviation safety regulator aims to set up a medical database for pilots by December 2016 following the Germanwings crash earlier this year, it said on Tuesday.
The European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA) comments were in response to recommendations from a task force, which in July called for improved psychological screening of new pilots and a European database with details of medical visits.
A young pilot barricaded himself inside the cockpit and crashed a jet operated by Germanwings, part of Lufthansa, into the Alps in March, killing all 150 people on board.
Prosecutors have found evidence that Andreas Lubitz, who had suffered severe depression and may have feared losing his job, had researched suicide methods and concealed an illness from his employer, sparking a debate on supervision and medical secrecy.
As things stand, pilots can get specialist check-ups in any member state where the doctor has been certified by EASA. The database is intended to avoid "medical tourism", or going abroad to get a favorable certificate for a pilot's license.
EASA said the database will facilitate the sharing of medical information while respecting pilots' privacy. But it conceded an obstacle would be the different national approaches to data protection, which are not within its remit.
In some countries, such as Britain, doctors are already advised to report any concerns where public safety is at stake.
The task force had recommended striking a balance between patient confidentiality and public safety, but EASA said it would leave data protection matters to the executive European Commission.
The Commission has already launched a legal challenge against Germany over its pilot license renewal practices on the grounds that privacy is given too much weight to the detriment of safety.
(Editing by David Holmes)