On 24 March 2015, an Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, was en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, with 144 passengers and six crew on board. Shortly after the aircraft reached cruising altitude it began to descend. No distress call was emitted and attempts by air traffic controllers to contact the aircraft were unsuccessful. Around ten minutes after the descent was initiated the aircraft impacted the mountainous terrain of the French Alps at high speed. Tragically, all on board were killed.
On 3 March 2016 the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA) published their final report into this tragedy. As has been widely reported prior to the publication of this report, the data recovered from the Cockpit Voice Recover (CVR) and Flight Data Recover (FDR) indicate that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the aircraft.
The report outlines the co-pilot’s serious mental illness, which dates back at least as far as August 2008. In July 2009 Lufthansa refused renewal of his medical certificate due to his illness then, following treatment, he regained a medical certificate that contained a waiver because of a severe depressive episode. The certificate contained a provision that it would become invalid should he suffer a relapse. In December 2014 Lubitz started to show symptoms consistent with a psychotic depressive episode and was prescribed anti-depressants. In February 2015 he was diagnosed with a psychosomatic disorder and on 10 March was recommended psychiatric hospital treatment. It would appear Lubitz concealed his illness from his employer, and none of the doctors and psychiatrists that treated him informed the airline due to the very strict German rules surrounding patient confidentiality.
It is clear that Lubitz should never have been allowed to fly a commercial passenger jet given his mental state. The aviation experts at Irwin Mitchell consider that a crucial opportunity to prevent him from qualifying as a pilot was missed when Lubitz attended the Lufthansa Flight School in Arizona, USA in 2010. With his mental health issues his performance as a student pilot should have come under extra scrutiny to determine if he was suitable and safe to be an airliner pilot. As the Flight School allowed Lubitz to qualify as a pilot, Irwin Mitchell has formed an attorney group with US and German law firms to bring a large group action against the flight school in Arizona.
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