On 24 March 2015, an Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, was flying from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, with 144 passengers and six crew on board. Shortly after the aircraft reached cruising altitude it began to descend. No distress call was emitted and attempts by air traffic controllers to contact the aircraft were unsuccessful. Around ten minutes after the descent was initiated the aircraft impacted the mountainous terrain of the French Alps at high speed, killing all on board.
On 3 March 2016, the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) published their final report into this tragedy. This lengthy report confirmed that the datarecovered from the Cockpit Voice Recover (CVR) and Flight Data Recover (FDR) indicated that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the aircraft.
The report examined the co-pilot’s serious mental illness, which dated back to August 2008. In July 2009, Lufthansa refused renewal of his medical certificate due to his illness then, following treatment, he regained a medical certificate that contained a waiver because of a severe depressive episode. The certificate contained a provision that it would become invalid should he suffer a relapse. In December 2014, Lubitz started to show symptoms consistent with a psychotic depressive episode and was prescribed anti-depressants. In February 2015, he was diagnosed with a psychosomatic disorder and on 10 March was recommended psychiatric hospital treatment.
The evidence in the report indicated that the co-pilot concealed his illness from his employer, and the doctors and psychiatrists that treated him did not inform the airline due to the very strict German rules surrounding patient confidentiality.
Given the contents of this high profile accident report, the British families who lost loved ones were immediately inundated with enquiries from the press for their comment. On their behalf, Jim Morris provided live expert commentary to the press which included ITV, Sky News and CNN.
From the facts, it is clear that Lubitz should never have been allowed to qualify as a commercial airline pilot. When Lubitz attended the Lufthansa Flight School in Arizona, USA in 2010, his performance as a student pilot should have come under extra scrutiny to determine if he was suitable and safe to be an airliner pilot. The aim of such a course is not just to teach a student how to fly an aircraft in a multi crew environment, but to analyse and assess how the student copes when under pressure and whether they lose situational awareness, lack capacity or behave in any way that that would indicate that they would not be suitable as an airline pilot. However, Lubitz was able to pass this flying course which raises the question of why this key opportunity to prevent him becoming an airline pilot was missed.
As a result of this, a case has been filed against the Flight School in the US state of Arizona.