Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mentally Unstable Flight Crew: The Bane of the Airline Industry?

Given the recent tragic Germanwinds Flight 4U9525 crash, has mentally unstable flight crew become the greatest threat of the airline industry?

By: Ringo Bones

Forget religious extremists undertaking brazen 9/11 like attacks using airliners it seems that mentally unstable pilots and flight crew now represent the greatest threat to the complacency of the airline industry. Although air travel is still the safest form of travel on an accident per miles traveled basis, rare flukes like mentally unstable flight crew that the preliminary investigation uncovered was the cause of the recent tragic Germanwinds Flight 4U9525 crash back in Tuesday, March 24, 2015 where the co-pilot with alleged mental health issues named Andreas Lubitz was the ongoing suspect as the cause of the crash when he deliberately locked out the pilot from the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane on a steep mountainside near Seyne-les-Alpes, France that resulted in the death of 150 people. As a 25 year old plane, the Germanwings plane that crashed was an Airbus A320 – the model that’s been a workhorse of the civilian aviation industry known for its exemplary safety record and reliability.

The only other comparable high-profile pilot suicide / deliberate crash incident was the findings of the tragic October 31, 1999 crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 when the plane’s remains was found 0 miles east of Nantucket Island in the Atlantic Ocean that resulted in the tragic loss of 217 lives. Relief first officer Gameel Al Batouti – a veteran pilot of the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War was the prime suspect of the cause of the crash of the EgyptAir Flight 990. 

Rigorous screening of prospective pilots and flight crew may be the solution but the powers that be at IATA had been warning of a pilot shortage as early as next year, given that the airline industry had been expanding at its fastest rate since the 1980s despite of 9/11 and the 2008 global credit crunch. Could the safest form of travel poised to become less safe? With the tragic deaths of German children coming back from a field trip in Spain, the greatest impact of the Germanwings Flight 4U9525 tragedy is probably the Bayreuth Wagner Opera where the lost of bass baritone Oleg Bryjak and contralto Maria Radner could put a damper to opera fans lining up to an opera venue with a global prestige where the waiting period for tickets could be as long as ten years. This is indeed a tragedy of epic proportions.      

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