Germanwings, the low-cost subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa did not follow basics of a two-person, at all-time cockpit team management regime. This resulted in the co-pilot crashing the plane and killing all 150 people on board
The Germanwings air-murder over the French Alps has once again brought into focus the varying standards for aviation safety and security worldwide. It is easy to say that safety and security standards are lax in some of the lesser developed countries. However, it comes as a total shock that the low-cost subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa did not follow the basics of a two-person at all-time cockpit team management regime.
It has been almost a week, since the Barcelona to Düsseldorf flight crashed into a rocky ravine at 700km per hour, in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. Prosecutors in France and Germany have suggested that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the plane. The suicide-mass murder theory is based on the cockpit voice recorder retrieved from the crash site near the village of Le Vernet, say media reports.
In case people are not aware, airlines operating in India are required by law to have at least two persons physically present in the cockpit at all times, come what may, when the airplane is operational. Very often this means a young trainee, a senior pilot on check or refresher, an otherwise eligible to ride in cockpit person with proper certifications and compliances, or in worst case scenarios, an able-bodied member of the cabin crew at the very least. This is In addition to the basics of a pilot and a co-pilot.
The fundamental concept behind this is simple - if for any reason one person left inside cannot or will not open the security door, then the additional person can do that at the very least. Reasons can be many - from momentary blackouts to disability to sheer suicidal tendencies. In an airline like Lufthansa going through very disruptive labour troubles caused by pilots over working conditions, it may even have made sense to carry armed guards in the cockpit - this used to be standard operating procedure on ships operating in and around Germany even in the '70s.
That this sort of pilot suicide is not something new, though never been so conclusively established, can be inferred from previous cases like Malaysian-370 and Helios-522. Incidentally, the Pilot in Charge of Helios 522, which crashed over Greece due to reported incapacitation of the cockpit crew behind locked doors was also a German national. There was always an allegation that an Air India Boeing 747 crash off Bandra in Mumbai was also due to something like this.
People may have forgotten, but cockpit crew used to be a minimum of three and often four people, two pilots, a flight engineer and a navigator. Even today, an airplane's cockpit can take three and often four people on the flight deck. As a matter of interest, as mentioned earlier, foreign ships plying in German waters even as far back as the '70s would have in addition to the ship's crew on the Bridge, a German navigating officer as an additional "pilot" and armed police for contingencies.
The other larger issue facing the world of airline transport is what is known as subliminal mind control - something that is no longer science fiction. At its simplest, this is technology, which enables electronic gadgets to take control of a human mind and then instruct it to do something, like with a hypnotised person. That this will not be easy to do for two people at the same time, in a small area like a cockpit, is also a known fact. Mind control is difficult, but it is not impossible, and it is becoming sharper every day. From "rat-men" to highly tech-tools and neurally networked machinery, making a human being a controlled being is not in the realm of fiction anymore.
And then there are the very human elements of anger, frustration, depression, and more, including revenge.
Speaking with friends in aviation circles, including pilots with decades of flying experience, what emerges is that almost all of them have had episodes of what they would call momentary lapses of reason while working, especially during late night or very early pre-dawn flights. This is in addition to hallucinations, which many of us who have sailed on ships will also agree is not an unknown phenomenon.
When all this is known, for an airline like Lufthansa's GermanWings, to leave a human being alone inside a cockpit is not just criminal, but possibly can be put in the same league as co-conspirators. The man in the cockpit could have gone mad and done what he did, for whatever reason, but money was not one of them. However, the people in the boardroom did what they had to do only for monetary reasons.
Always, always, follow the money.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.