German doctors’ association blames Lufthansa for ‘appalling’ handling of suicidal Germanwings pilot

© Kai Pfaffenbach
Lufthansa and aviation regulators have incurred strong criticism from the German doctors’ association for letting severely depressed pilot Andreas Lubitz fly, which consequently led to last year’s much publicized Germanwings crash over the French Alps.

On March 24, 2015, Lubitz deliberately locked the captain out of the cockpit, and flew the aircraft into the mountains, killing all 150 people aboard flight 9525. A massive investigation and public outcry followed. A month ago, 80 families of the deceased sued Lubitz’s flight school in Phoenix, Arizona.

A subsequent inquiry found Lubitz to be a deeply troubled man with a history of depression and suicidal tendencies. The investigators were also alarmed to discover that Germanwings, and its parent company Lufthansa knew of the condition, and still allowed Lubitz to fly planes.

"Asdoctors, we find it appalling that both the Federal Aviation Authority and Lufthansa knew that this pilot had records of severe depression but underwent no particular checks," came the comment from the head of the doctors’ association Frank Ulrich Montgomery on Thursday in an interview to the Hamburger Abendblatt.

"Lufthansa has failed as an employer and the Federal Aviation Authority too as a regulator,” he also said, adding that only annual checkups, “asistherule," would not do in Lubitz’s case.

Montgomery believes there is an overreliance on laboratory tests and physical findings at the expense of mental health indicators.

But most crucially, a rehashing of Lufthansa’s policies had led to changes in insurance and disability payment rules for pilots under the Unfit-to-fly scheme, he said. Under new regulations, the period is only 10 years, and Lubitz will have felt under great pressure to continue working.

There were several mix-ups by the medics and the Airline Training Center in the United States that led to Lubitz being allowed to fly, including the fact that he would have been declared unfit to fly in any circumstance, considering the kind of medication he was being given. This did not stop the school from clearing him, which was done without properly checking Lubitz’s medical history.

There were further details about the pilot’s past that should have warranted earlier attention, having occurred over a five-year span before the fatal crash.