Germanwings Alps Crash: Aviation Lawyers Contacted For Help By Loved Ones Of Victims

Legal Experts Call For Review Of Psychiatric Evaluation Rules


Specialist aviation lawyers helping the families of those killed in the Germanwings crash in the French Alps last week have urged airlines and aviation authorities to review the rules and implement regular expert psychiatric assessments of pilots following the tragedy.
The call has come after reports regarding the Airbus A320 tragedy on March 24th, in which all 150 people on board died, raised concerns regarding the co-pilot’s history of mental health issues and suggestions he was signed off work by a doctor on the day of the crash.
Currently, European rules require that all pilots under 60 are subject to full medical assessments by an Aviation Medical Examiner annually, but Irwin Mitchell has said serious consideration should be given to also requiring pilots to be subject to regular expert psychiatric evaluations.  
The law firm’s Aviation Law team, which has vast experience in providing support to those affected by major aviation disasters, are now advising the loved ones of victims killed in the crash.

Expert Opinion
The information which has emerged regarding this terrible tragedy has put a clear focus on what can be done to ensure pilots are comprehensively fit to fly.

"Standard procedure under EU rules is for pilots to have an annual medical by a medical practitioner qualified to conduct aviation medicals, but an incident of this nature calls into question whether airlines should implement additional testing by a psychiatric specialist, and whether this should be made compulsory by aviation authorities across the world.

"The large scale catastrophic consequences of what can go wrong when a pilot is not mentally fit enough have been starkly demonstrated this week. Regular expert psychiatric checks should help identify those pilots at risk, so that appropriate measures can be taken to ensure that pilots flying airliners are physically and mentally fit to fly.

"Now, after being contacted by those affected regarding this tragedy, we are commencing our own investigations and are determined to help them secure the financial and emotional support they require following this truly awful incident."
Jim Morris, Partner

Jim added that the steps taken by airlines and the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA’s) recommendation that two crewmembers should be in the cockpit on flights at all times were a welcome step forward – but urged that the measure should become compulsory.

Expert Opinion
Following the circumstances of this incident, it is crucial that one pilot is not left alone in a locked cockpit. Apart from the extreme situation in this Germanwings tragedy, if a pilot alone becomes incapacitated – eg due to heart attack or stroke – and slumps on the controls, the other pilot may not be able to return to the cockpit and open the door in time to avoid a serious accident.

"As such, it is to be hoped that aviation authorities worldwide will work together to ensure that the regulations require another crew member to be in the cockpit when a pilot has to leave.

"The news that the EASA has now recommended that European airlines always have two people in the cockpit is a step forward, but this should become a rule.

"Following this awful tragedy, many people will want reassurances that the aviation industry and authorities are taking decisive action on this – and a compulsory regulation on two people being in the cockpit along with regular expert psychiatric assessments should help achieve this."
Jim Morris, Partner