A Brief History
The recent days have been full of headlines regarding the devastating crash of Germanwings flight 9525 in the French Alps, killing everyone on board, on March 24, 2015. At first inconceivable how such an incident could take place at all and why no distress signal had been sent, general horror spread through the world when the recovered black box revealed that the co-pilot had locked the captain out of the cockpit and then purposely denied him re-entry, the desperate captain supposedly going so far as to attempting to break the door down with an ax! The general horror quickly turned to disbelief and anger when it became known that the younger pilot had been suffering from depression for years and had even been determined by a doctor to be unfit to fly on the day he hijacked his own plane and murdered 149 innocent people, including at least 16 high school students and 2 babies.
As someone who had lived and worked on the German economy for close to 15 years, I believe I am qualified to speak about the German mentality and work ethic and as someone who flew frequently, both privately and professionally, I have my own opinions regarding certain airlines, in particular Lufthansa, the mother of Germanwings.
When I first heard about the bizarre crash, bizarre because no one could understand why the plane would begin a slow descent and not contact or respond to any air controllers, I knew it was not an issue with the plane. Initial speculation was that the windshield had blown out midflight as the plane was returning to Duesseldorf from Barcelona on March 24, 2015, rendering the pilots unconscious but not quite explaining the calculated and controlled descent. Germans are good at many things, but they really excel at the engineering, service and maintenance of any type of motor, machine or device. Also, I can personally attest that if possible, I generally preferred to fly Lufthansa. I always felt safe and in good hands when flying the German airline. When it comes to their work, Germans take it seriously and are reliable and efficient. You do notice the difference. Of course, the most important ability of an airline, however, is that it gets its passengers back on the ground – alive!
But in this unfortunate case, even the quality of the airline could not prevent the disaster from occurring. There were obviously cracks in the airline’s system the co-pilot fell through. Though it must be stressed that according to recent reports, the co-pilot hid his condition from Lufthansa, perhaps so that the state of his mental health would not affect his upcoming recertification. Still, there had been enough indication of instability already.
Changes will be made, and hopefully only good will come of them. When cockpit doors were reinforced after the 9/11 attacks, this was also deemed an improvement. That this “improvement” might actually prevent a captain from saving his own plane was not considered in the risk analysis at the time… So, hopefully any changes made following this tragedy will not lead to another unforeseeable and incomprehensible tragedy down the road.
In the meantime, we here at History and Headlines would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to all the families of the victims of flight 9525. This could have happened to anyone, even us. In 2005, I myself had flown a roundtrip from Frankfurt to Barcelona on Lufthansa. My sister flew as similar stretch between Germany and Barcelona too. In that regard, although in Europe, it is so close to home as well.
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever flown on an airplane piloted by a German? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Wise, Jeff. Fatal Descent: Andreas Lubitz and the Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 (Kindle Single). 2015.