FAA raised concerns about mental stability of Germanwings suicide crash pilot

As Germany, the EU, and the world grapple with the horror of Andreas Lubitz plotting and carrying out a suicide crash that killed 149 innocents, a document has surfaced demonstrating that the American Federal Aviation Agency had concerns over his mental fitness.  The release of the document follows a Freedom of Information Act request on the part of news agencies.  Nicholas Kulish and Nicola Clark write in the New York Times:

The Federal Aviation Administration raised questions in 2010 about whether it should grant a pilot’s license in the United States to Andreas Lubitz, who in March flew a Germanwings jetliner into a French mountainside, but was assured by his doctors in Germany that he had fully recovered from an episode of depression the year before, according to newly released documents.

Lubitz required an American student pilot’s license and a valid medical certificate from a flight doctor in order to participate in Lufthansa’s flight school located near Phoenix.

According to the documents made public by the aviation administration, Mr. Lubitz was treated from January 2009 to that October with at least two drugs, Cipralex and mirtazapine. During that period, he was on leave from Lufthansa’s pilot-training school, a program that normally lasts around two years and included a period of several months at a Lufthansa-owned center in Arizona where he would learn to fly small planes.

Ultimately the agency decided that Mr. Lubitz could travel to the United States and continue his training, but warned him that he would be prohibited from flying if his depression recurred.

There is also evidence suggesting that Mr. Lubitz might have tried to mislead the F.A.A. about his treatment, initially marking “no” in response to a question on whether he had ever been treated for mental disorders on a form dated June 2010. Referring to a question number on the form, the file notes, “changed from N to Y.”

“Why he didn’t check yes, I don’t know,”’ said Dr. Warren S. Silberman, the former manager of aerospace medical certification for the aviation administration whose office reviewed Mr. Lubitz’s application for a United States medical certificate.

“He cannot leave it blank. It won’t transmit,” he said. “I would have advised him to check yes.” Dr. Silberman said Mr. Lubitz’s online application form appeared to have been changed after the fact by a Lufthansa doctor to reflect the treatment he had received.

The name of the German psychologist who wrote a letter to the FAA attesting to Lubitz’s mental fitness has not been released.

Germany’s own investigation of Lubitz has been hampered by strict medical privacy laws.  While medical privacy is important, and under threat in the United States by Obamacare’s electronic medical records requirements, it seems to me that people in critical positions like airline pilots should be asked to and have a means for waiving those rights.

There are a lot of people who must be acutely embarrassed by Lubitz’s ability to stay a pilot.  I hope that Germany will rethink its regulations.

Hat tip: David Paulin

As Germany, the EU, and the world grapple with the horror of Andreas Lubitz plotting and carrying out a suicide crash that killed 149 innocents, a document has surfaced demonstrating that the American Federal Aviation Agency had concerns over his mental fitness.  The release of the document follows a Freedom of Information Act request on the part of news agencies.  Nicholas Kulish and Nicola Clark write in the New York Times:

The Federal Aviation Administration raised questions in 2010 about whether it should grant a pilot’s license in the United States to Andreas Lubitz, who in March flew a Germanwings jetliner into a French mountainside, but was assured by his doctors in Germany that he had fully recovered from an episode of depression the year before, according to newly released documents.

Lubitz required an American student pilot’s license and a valid medical certificate from a flight doctor in order to participate in Lufthansa’s flight school located near Phoenix.

According to the documents made public by the aviation administration, Mr. Lubitz was treated from January 2009 to that October with at least two drugs, Cipralex and mirtazapine. During that period, he was on leave from Lufthansa’s pilot-training school, a program that normally lasts around two years and included a period of several months at a Lufthansa-owned center in Arizona where he would learn to fly small planes.

Ultimately the agency decided that Mr. Lubitz could travel to the United States and continue his training, but warned him that he would be prohibited from flying if his depression recurred.

There is also evidence suggesting that Mr. Lubitz might have tried to mislead the F.A.A. about his treatment, initially marking “no” in response to a question on whether he had ever been treated for mental disorders on a form dated June 2010. Referring to a question number on the form, the file notes, “changed from N to Y.”

“Why he didn’t check yes, I don’t know,”’ said Dr. Warren S. Silberman, the former manager of aerospace medical certification for the aviation administration whose office reviewed Mr. Lubitz’s application for a United States medical certificate.

“He cannot leave it blank. It won’t transmit,” he said. “I would have advised him to check yes.” Dr. Silberman said Mr. Lubitz’s online application form appeared to have been changed after the fact by a Lufthansa doctor to reflect the treatment he had received.

The name of the German psychologist who wrote a letter to the FAA attesting to Lubitz’s mental fitness has not been released.

Germany’s own investigation of Lubitz has been hampered by strict medical privacy laws.  While medical privacy is important, and under threat in the United States by Obamacare’s electronic medical records requirements, it seems to me that people in critical positions like airline pilots should be asked to and have a means for waiving those rights.

There are a lot of people who must be acutely embarrassed by Lubitz’s ability to stay a pilot.  I hope that Germany will rethink its regulations.

Hat tip: David Paulin