By aviation’s cautious standards it took a remarkably short time for the authorities to conclude that the unthinkable had happened in the case of the Gemanwings 9525’s last descent. The pressure on Lufthansa and the French and German Accident Investigation teams to release an early explanation must have been enormous.
A remarkably clear trail of evidence emerged quickly with Lufthansa managers appearing in the Media to confirm what we were beginning to hear through multiple sources, that Lubitz had commited both suicide and mass-murder simultaneously. Visulisation of the final 3–5 minutes within that aircraft must makes any insider’s skin crawl. The minute the flight-deck door came under frantic assault by the captain the truth would have become searingly obvious to all present.
We must leave it to the investigators to assemble the evidence from the CVR and Flight Recorder but it seems unlikly that there will be revalations from these sources. The greater question on the Aviation World’s mind is how this event might shape flight operation in the future?
Crystal ball? There will be a meaningful response but much of it will be invisible. The dilemma for airlines is manyfold. A extra person on the flight-deck would, at first sight, appear to be the best way to stop a reoccurance. Must this second person be a qualified pilot, or simply another crew-member? Many reading this will have a view, I would offer that the ’extra’ person would need a high-level understanding of piloting procedures and the wherewithall to make a confident, sustained intervention should the ’regular’ pilot at the controls display ’tendencies’. This would be no mean feat should the extra person not be a qualified pilot - one well versed in the routine, perhaaps even emergency flight operations beig carried out. I’m hedging here, I believe most of my colleagues would agree that the extra person would need to be a TYPE RATED PILOT should this course be taken.
The further implications stem from issues related to cost and therefore competitiveness. As partisan as this may sound, saddling an airline with the expense of increased crewing levels - extra pilots - would cause serious viability issues unless (all) the competition complied with these requirements. National legistlative sytems could enforce this simply by insisting that no public transport aircraft may fly in ’UK/Belgium/German etc’ airspace unless provision is made to ensure that two pilots are ALWAYS present on the flight-deck.
Unfortunately there are overarching controlling factors that would substantially delay a move like this. The World is already experiencing a shortage of qualified, skilled pilots and the supply/demand equation is set to spiral across the next decade. Where exactly would these extra tens of thousands of pilots come from? This isn’t going to happen.
Conclusion: little will change with regard to effective safety. Airlines will be evasive in the face of public debate and interest group demands - because they must. Most airlines will institute ’two people on the flight-deck’ policies as a move to assuage public concern. The extra person will be a member of the captain’s cabin crew. National aviation authorities will be placed in the hot-seat: airlines pledging to comply with their requirements fully where they are made plain. I have yet to hear of any carrier discussing their Security Policy in open forum.
At any one time there are many thousands of commercial aircraft airborne simultaneously (6–9000), awful events like this are exceptionally rare. Psycological screening of pilots is likely to evolve into a more probing exercise. The monitoring of a pilot’s mental wellbeing has largely been left to AMEs, this will have already been reviewed, outcomes are unlikely to be visible to the general public.
As tragic as this loss was, and given that the flight-deck door could not be breached despite the best efforts of the captain, unauthorised access to the flight-deck will continue to be denied under any circumstances.