In a long awaited report on their findings, France’s BEA released its final summary on the Germanwings tragedy and their recommendations for a way forward. Sadly, we’re 11 days away from the 1 year anniversary (March 24, 2015).
The report covered much of what had already been known. They confirmed that pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed the aircraft and took 150 lives. They also confirmed that he had been under a number of medical treatments and prescriptions to help him deal with depression and other medical conditions.
The BEA went on to recommend that Germany’s (and other countries) privacy policies need to be reviewed and amended that would allow medical professionals to share sensitive information with employers if there is the potential for pilots to cause harm to themselves or others. One of the biggest shortcomings of Germany’s strict privacy rules is that it discourages doctors from sharing any information. In fact, breaking these rules results in criminal charges that can be brought against doctors and others in possession of such information. The rules are so strict, that one of Lubitz’s doctors refused to be interviewed for the report due to fears of violation the pilot’s privacy.
To this end, the BEA has recommended that aviation agencies and governments review their privacy laws and create exceptions that would protect doctors and other professionals when it came to sharing information, especially when lives would cleary be at risk.
The report also went on to recommend a structure be put in place to protect pilots in the event they would be grounded due to medical issues. The report cited that Lubitz’s fear of losing his job may have lead to him to withold medical information from Lufthansa. The BEA suggested a ‘safe haven’ created by airlines would allow their pilots to deal with their medical issues without fear of losing their jobs while undergoing treatment. They also called for additional examinations and scrutiny for pilots who have experienced psychological issues in the past.
The BEA also went on to suggest softening Germany’s strict medical rules for pilots that would mirror others around the world. The example they used was the US’ FAA rules that allow pilots to be on certain anti-depressants but would still be allowed to fly. Apparently, German has a near 0-tolerance policy when it comes to pilots and these types of medications. The BEA felt that loosening these restrictions would encourage pilots to come forward with their issues and receive support from their employers.
Aside from the medical policy recommendations, the BEA made it clear that no new procedures need to be brought into the cockpit or aboard an aircraft. Their findings found that it would be impossible to defend against such actions and stated that the current policy requiring 2 persons in the cockpit at all times is sufficient. They cited that a hijacking risk greatly outweighed the risk of a suicidal pilot so creating a way to unlock the cockpit door from the outside would not be acceptable.
Predictably, families of the victims that met with the BEA earlier on Sunday to review the report were disappointed. The general consensus among them was that the report focused too much on the pilot and the policies surrounding privacy and nothing was said about what Lufthansa’s or germanwings’ liability ought to be.