Details and question are emerging by the hour in the case of the intentional Germanwings flight crash in the French Alps, apparently caused by a suicidal co-pilot. Everyone is wondering what drove 27-year old Andreas Lubitz to end his life and those of other 149 passengers and staff on the plane. At the same time, maybe an even more important question is that of the probability of such incidents occurring and how can they be prevented.
Police investigation did not find any suicide note or possible explanation regarding Lubitz’s sudden breakdown, so specialists are left to speculate what could’ve driven him to the extreme gesture.
A severe mental health issue is the most probable case, with the investigation suggesting that Lubitz would have torn a physician’s note that had him take a day off on the exact date of the Germanwings flight. Also pointing in this direction is a double visit to the Dusseldorf University Hospital during the past months, for what was stated to be as “diagnostic clarification” by the medical staff there.
However, this would contradict the statement of Germanwing parent company Lufthansa, which assured that all its airplane pilots are being tested rigorously for psychological problems periodically. Now, assuming both investigator reports and Lufthansa statement are true, then how did Andreas Lubitz still take off the ground in a mental state that ultimately made him crash the airplane?
A look into past incidents of planes being intentionally crashed by their pilots doesn’t offer too many hints; investigations into these cases mostly just conclude that they are being intentionally crashed, with justification rarely ever being provided. Granted, they are not very common – with a 2014 study estimating the percent of suicidal plane crashes only at 0.33.
The lack in data is explained mostly by the fact that pilots twho end up intentionally crashing flights do not leave many traces behind suggesting any kind of mental illness. This means that tougher prevention strategies must include psychological testing that are both taken more often and are more rigorous, to expose any quirks that might lead a pilot or co-pilot to resort to such regrettable actions. A measure that some private North American airlines have already set in place might also help prevent such accidents, with their regulations stating that the cockpit must be occupied by two people at any given time.
Image Source: The Local