Germanwings: Could it happen here?

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
3/26/15

U.S. airline industry officials say an incident like the Germanwings flight that was apparently intentionally crashed by its co-pilot is unlikely to happen on a domestic carrier.

French authorities have accused 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz of locking the captain of Germanwings Flight 9525 out of the cockpit and intentionally crashing the plane, killing all 150 people who were on board.

The Air Line Pilot Association (ALPA) said U.S. aviation regulations would have prevented Lubitz from taking over a domestic jetliner.

“Every airline in the United States has procedures designed to ensure that there is never a situation where a pilot is left alone in the cockpit,” the group said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.
French officials said Thursday that the German Lubitz had not been labeled as a terrorist. The flight he was co-piloting, from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, was carrying 150 people — 144 passengers and 6 crew members — when it crashed into the mountain at a high speed.

The pilots association said U.S. flight captains are thoroughly examined before they are allowed to take the helm of airplanes carrying passengers.

“During initial employment interviews and periodic medical examinations, as frequently as every six months, pilots’ behavior and psychological well-being are observed and evaluated by trained professionals,” the group said. “During flight, pilots and flight attendants operate as a coordinated crew and are in a position to observe each other’s behavior, and airlines have procedures in place to allow crewmembers to express concerns they may have about an individual’s actions so they may be appropriately addressed.”

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records show Lubitz was certified as a pilot by U.S. officials years before his fatal flight.

Lubitz was granted status as an airman by the FAA on Jan. 6, 2012, according to the agency’s online database.

The FAA certification lists Lubitz as a “private pilot (foreign based)” who was allowed to fly single engine places and gliders in the U.S.

“English proficient,” the document says. “Issued on basis of and valid only when accompanied by Germany. Pilot license number(s) 27788 9460. All limitations and restrictions on the German pilot license apply.”

The parent company of Germanwings, Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa Airlines, said Thursday it is “shaken” by the allegations against Lubitz.

“We are shaken by the upsetting statements of the French authorities,” the airline tweeted Thursday morning after the allegations were made by a French prosecutor.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of the victims,” the airline continued.

U.S. airline industry officials said checks are in place to ensure a repeat of the Germanwings accident does not occur on a domestic carrier.

“As evidenced by our safety record, the U.S. airline industry remains the largest and safest aviation system in the world as a result of the ongoing and strong collaboration among airlines, airline employees, manufacturers and government,” Airlines for America said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

“Our pilots undergo rigorous evaluations in the hiring process, which helps to ensure the safety of the U.S. aviation system, and its passengers, crew, cargo and aircraft,” the group continued. “While working at an airline, all pilots have to regularly undergo thorough medical examinations to maintain their license. In addition, all U.S. airlines can and do conduct fitness for duty testing on pilots if warranted. For our members, all flights have two people in the cockpit at all times.”

http://www.thehill.com/policy/transportation/237078-germanwings-could-it-happen-here

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