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Airlines bring in new cockpit rules after horrific Germanwings crash

March 27, 2015 Aviation, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U9525, the flight that slammed into mountains in France on Tuesday, killing all 150 passengers and crew aboard, appears to have deliberately crashed the plane. The plane’s captain, who was locked out of the cockpit at the time, was trying to break the cockpit door down to get back in.

International airlines are reacting by introducing rules to ensure at least two crew members are always in a plane cockpit. Low-cost carriers easyJet and Norwegian Air Shuttle have introduced that rule in the past few hours, the Guardian reported, and more airlines are moving to adopt it.

The sensational report of the Germanwings co-pilot’s action surfaced initially in the New York Times, which quoted an unnamed military official, who had heard the cockpit voice recorder from the doomed A320. The official said one pilot left the cockpit and could then be heard banging on the door and shouting to get back in.

There was no response and the door was not opened.

At least one website, AirlineRatings.com, which rates airlines for safety as well as service, suggested yesterday that pilot suicidehttp://join.travelmanagers.com.au/ may have brought the plane down.

The story of the plane’s descent into the alps was later confirmed at a press conference conducted overnight (Australian time) by a French prosecutor in Marseilles.

The plane’s co-pilot, alone at the controls when the aircraft crashed, was named as Andreas Lubitz, 28. The prosecutor said there was no evidence to suggest the crash was a terrorist act. The co-pilot had said nothing throughout, but he could be heard breathing normally, showing he was alive and flying the plane.

Lufthansa said Lubitz had joined Germanwings, its budget subsidiary, in September 2013, directly after training, and had flown 630 hours. The captain of the plane was vastly more experienced, having amassed more than 6000 hours of flying time. The captain  had been a Germanwings pilot since May 2014, having previously flown for Lufthansa and Condor, the Washington Post reported.

Family friends told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that Lubitz had suffered from burnout and depression a few years ago, but that he had seemed fine at Christmas.

The senior military official involved in the investigation described conversation between the pilots during the early part of the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf as “very smooth, very cool”. The French prosecutor confirmed that, saying exchanges between the pilots were polite and normal.

Then the captain had left to go to the toilet, leaving the plane in the control of the co-pilot.

Returning to enter the flight deck after his toilet break, “the guy outside [the pilot who was locked out] is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator told the New York Times.

“And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.

“You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”

Reports appeared “to indicate a possible pilot suicide as the cause of the tragedy”, AirlineRatings.com said yesterday, well before the French prosecutor’s press conference.

“If suicide is the cause it will be the seventh pilot suicide in the past 30 years that has taken an airliner down,” AirlineRatings.com added.

AirlineRatings.com lists the occurrences or suspected occurrences. Anyone caring to read them can do so here: http://www.airlineratings.com/news/461/pilot-suicides-.

Shortly after the New York Times’ dramatic revelation, an Australian A320 pilot confirmed to the Canberra Times that the pilot of an A320 could bar entry of another pilot to the cockpit.

“If the person on the other side of the door says ‘no’, you can’t get in,” the anonymous Australian pilot told Fairfax.

Security for cockpit doors was boosted worldwide after the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York. Prior to that, doors to flight decks were often unlocked and sometimes even ajar.

As dreadful as the Germanwings news is, such events are profoundly rare. Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr described it correctly as a “tragic, isolated case”. Aviation authorities are already working on ways to make it rarer, or even better, impossible. The rule of never having one person alone in the cockpit is a good start.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. sally says:

    A pilot leaving the cockpit should always have means of getting back in. Not sure how doors are secured e.g. keylock, combination. Even if it wasn’t suicide it could have been a medical emergency. This certainly needs to be reassessed in the light of this dreadful tragedy.

  2. stingforever says:

    …if you are committing suicide why would you get innocent people to join you… there are so many bad people around if you really wish to die and take people with you in death then infiltrate the criminal or terrorist world and blow them all out…

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