Isolating derangement in your plane’s pilot


A Germanwings airplane is seen in Barcelona's El Prat airport(News24) – The forensic evidence that the German pilot who fatally crashed himself, crew, and passengers earlier this year has been part of a panel discussion between CEOs of various airlines at the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association. The psychological evaluation of pilots has been placed in the spotlight after a pilot committed suicide (taking the innocents with him) in the Alps.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr noted during the discussion that the psychological analysis of a pilot’s state of mind, especially relating to depression, is no easy matter. “This is an issue the industry as a whole should look at and not just individual airlines,” he said Spohr. “No matter how hard we work in the industry, one cannot say any more that there is 100% safety.”

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan believes the answer lies in airlines having a culture with a good early alarm system to identify pilot problems in the early stages. Christoph Mueller, CEO of Malaysia Airlines which experienced the disappearance of one of its planes, agreed with Hogan that there should be a good peer monitoring system in the pilot community – though there is a limit to what experts can detect.

He said research shows that relationship problems are most frequently the reason for depression, followed by drug problems, and online gambling issues.

Spohr said the issue is not merely a matter of depression, since one cannot put all people who suffer from depression in the same basket – not every pilot suffering from depression would deliberately crash an airplane, for example. He said Lufthansa has now decided to track its aircraft every five minutes and, although this is costly, the company has decided it is worth it.



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