BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Commission will propose legislation next year requiring airlines to run mental health checks on pilots before they start commercial flying, as part of efforts to prevent a recurrence of last year's Germanwings crash.


Authorities have been looking at ways to toughen pilot screening and better assess their mental health after a young pilot locked himself in the cockpit and crashed a Germanwings plane into the Alps in March 2015, killing all 150 aboard.


Under the new proposals, put forward by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Friday, operators will have to ensure pilots have access to support programs. Airline crews will also be subject to more drug and alcohol testing, including on being hired, after serious incidents and if there is suspicion of substance abuse.


Germany, where Lufthansa unit Germanwings is based, has already altered its aviation laws to incorporate such tests.


The European Cockpit Association, representing over 38,000 pilots across 37 European countries, said it welcomed the proposals on support programs and psychological assessments but was skeptical as to whether the proposals for random alcohol and drug checks would work.


"The experience from the U.S. shows such random screening to be very costly, but to be 10 times less effective in identifying problem cases than peer support programs," ECA President Dirk Polloczek said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The new measures sit alongside other proposals from August on tougher screening for new pilots.

The Commission will table legislation based on its proposals in 2017, EASA said.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; editing by John Stonestreet)