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For safety in the skies

By Editor
06 April 2015   |   3:58 am
IT was a monumental tragedy the other day when Germanwings Flight 9525 took off from Barcelona, Spain, headed for Dusseldorf Germany and halfway through its flight, came down in the mountains of the French Alps near the town of Seynes les Alpes. With 150 passengers dead, the crash was ghastly beyond comprehension. As the world…

IT was a monumental tragedy the other day when Germanwings Flight 9525 took off from Barcelona, Spain, headed for Dusseldorf Germany and halfway through its flight, came down in the mountains of the French Alps near the town of Seynes les Alpes. With 150 passengers dead, the crash was ghastly beyond comprehension.

As the world pondered the cause, the truth came out that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, now proven to be a mental case, locked out his senior colleague and deliberately put the aircraft on auto pilot to 100 feet altitude, sending the plane into a fatal descent into the rocky terrain. All 144 passengers and six crewmembers perished, with no single body found intact. This tragedy has raised many questions about aviation safety and more about mental illness as well as aviation industry’s fitness certification for man and machine which must be addressed by the appropriate agencies all over the world.

The airline has come out with information that co-pilot Lubitz declared during his training in 2009 that he had previously suffered severe depression, on account of which he had a break in training. He was later certified fit to fly. However, he was not totally free of the malaise. How then did he successfully hide the information from his employers? Just before the fateful flight, his private doctor had issued a sick note which German investigators found in the dustbin of his apartment.

Needless to say that the tragedy is a gash on the humanly soul. After every air tragedy, it is back to the drawing boards. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is already looking into this. Technology is also looking into Trajectory based Navigation, whereby details of a flight can be tracked from the ground and appropriate measures taken for the safety of an aircraft from take-off to landing.

Air transport is the most intensely regulated in the world. The ICAO Protocol is binding on all airlines, with enforcement and compliance carried out by the aviation agencies in every country. There are stringent requirements for certification of pilots, in whose hands and minds rests the safety of passengers. Air travellers must have total confidence in the competence of the flight captain and the supporting crew.

The world now reels from the agony of the tragedy, and awaits the comprehensive report on Flight 9525, in the hope that the relevant agencies will utilize the information to improve the certification of man and machine in aviation operations and improve safety in the skies.