Germanwings Airbus A320 Crash – Families ‘Must Come First Following Tragedy’

Aviation Lawyers Explain Key Flight Procedures and Call For Clarity Regarding Flight’s Eight-Minute Descent

26.03.2015

Specialist aviation lawyers have urged that the families of those killed in the Airbus A320 crash in the French Alps this week are cared for in the aftermath of the tragedy, while calling on authorities to release an interim report about the accident circumstances at the earliest possible opportunity.

All 150 people on board the Germanwings-operated aircraft were killed in the crash involving Flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Dusseldorf on Tuesday morning (March 24th), with the aircraft reported as crashing into the mountains following the eight-minute descent from cruise altitude.

Search and rescue operations are now underway in the region, with authorities confirming that German nationals, Spaniards, Australians and at least three Britons were killed in the tragedy. The cockpit voice recorder from the plane has been taken to Paris by investigators for examination, with reports suggesting that one of the two pilots on board the flight left the cockpit and was unable to get back in.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team represent injured victims and the families of those killed in major air accidents across the globe, helping them to not only gain access to vital financial support but also campaigning for flight safety improvements.

The experts have represented families of many fatal aviation disasters including the families of those killed in November 2008 in France following the crash of an Airbus A320 aircraft operated by XL Airways Germany. All passengers and crew were killed in that incident.

Expert Opinion
The absolute priority at present is undoubtedly ensuring the loved ones of the passengers and crew are given any support they require at this incredibly difficult time

"From reports, it appears that the aircraft reached a cruise altitude of 38,000 feet, then around three minutes later started a fairly rapid descent – around 3,000 – 4,000 feet per minute – which lasted for around eight minutes. Radar contact was then lost when the aircraft reached 6,000 feet. What is particularly unusual is that reports indicate that there was no distress call from the crew, despite the aircraft descending rapidly towards a high mountain range in calm weather conditions.

"If an airliner encounters a problem that requires it to descend, the priority for the pilots is to maintain control of the aircraft, action the appropriate emergency drills, notify air traffic control and ensure that it remains clear of other aircraft and terrain.

"To remain clear of terrain, the crew should level at a height above minimum safety altitude and make a heading change to ensure that it remains clear of any rising terrain or mountains. The trajectory of the accident aircraft for eight minutes and lack of a distress call raises many questions, including whether the pilots became incapacitated or lost awareness in any way, or whether they were unable to control the aircraft and transmit communications for some other catastrophic reason?

"The status of the crew and the chain of events that led to this tragedy needs to be urgently determined by the accident investigators.

"An important step forward has been the swift recovery of the Cockpit Voice Recorder and, while damaged, reports have suggested that recordings have been recovered from the device.

"The level of continuing speculation surrounding the background to this tragedy, while perhaps understandable, is obviously upsetting for the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this disaster.

"We call upon the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses ( BEA), which is investigating the cause of the crash, to publish an interim report on their findings as soon as possible. While it is likely that their full investigation will last for months, publication of an interim report with their preliminary factual findings and opinions is likely to provide the families of victims with some of the answers that they need and may put an end to some of the on-going speculation and unsubstantiated theories.

"There have been reports raising concerns that the aircraft was 24 years old. Airliners are designed to have long service lives, so provided that the aircraft was serviced according to manufacturer specifications and all components were maintained appropriately and were within their service lives, the age of the aircraft should not in itself make the aircraft less safe.

"The status of the aircraft systems and components will obviously be a key aspect of the investigation, which should determine whether there were any problems with the aircraft that contributed and whether the age of the aircraft was a relevant factor.

"It remains far too early to say what could have caused this tragedy, but it is hoped that investigators in France can work quickly to produce a preliminary report and provide the answers that the families of those killed and the aviation industry as a whole are desperate for. Any finding from the investigation may also pin-point lessons that can be learned and measures that can be implemented to prevent a similar disaster in the future."
Jim Morris, Partner

If you would like to speak in confidence to an expert regarding this accident, or any other aviation incident you were involved in, visit our Germanwings Flight 4U-9525 page for more information or alternatively our Air Accident Claims page.