World
Germanwings crash: The cost of not following basics
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.)
 

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COMMENTS

Senior Citizen

2 years ago

Insurance companies will give very tough times to Lufthansa to settle the claims since they were clearly negligent in not acting on disclosed medical facts of their employee. If it is fought in US Court then damages could be unlimited. Further Lufthansa will have to face resistance from passengers.

Apex court asks Reliance Industries to respond to audit report
The Supreme Court on Monday asked Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) to respond within three weeks to the official auditor's report that had adversely commented on its operation of gas blocks in the KRishna-Godavari basin.
 
A bench of Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Kurian gave time after senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the company, said that as against 30 audit objections initially, the government had notified 20 on which his client had to respond.
 
On January 16, the court sought RIL's response to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that had recommended disallowing $357.16 million expenditure the company claimed to have incurred on drilling the wells and payments to contractors for the said gas blocks.
 
The report had also hauled up the oil ministry for the delays in fixing hydrocarbon prices and for following inconsistent parameters for expenditure estimation.
 
The court allowed three petitioners -- former Communist law maker Gurudas Dasgupta, non-government organisation Common Cause and advocate Manohar Lal Sharma -- and the government to file their replies to the company's reaction to the audit report.
 
The court also permitted Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to file the status report in pursuant of the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee - a parliamentary panel that is examining the report.
 
As court deliberated on the next date of hearing, it was requested to assign an early date as RIL's plea for an arbitration on the gas pricing was listed for hearing by Justice Ranjan Gogoi. 
 
The court directed the listing of the matter for May 5 for directions on the hearing of the matter.
 
Besides other issues, Dasgupta, Common Cause and Sharma had moved the court challenging the previous government's decision to double gas prices from then $4.2 per unit to $8.4 per unit.
 
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government by an October 25, 2014, notification issued new domestic gas pricing guidelines which came into force from November 1, 2014.
 
Under the new guidelines, the price of the gas was increased from $4.2 per unit to $5.61 per unit. But this was applicable to normal discoveries and not for deep, ultra-deep and other difficult operations. A decision on that is pending.
 
The new domestic natural gas pricing guidelines superseded the January 10, 2014, decision taken by the then government that was to be notified to come into force from April 1, 2014.
 
Besides pricing of the gas, petitioners Dasgupta and Common Cause have sought the relinquishment of the gas fields not developed as provided under the production-sharing contract.
 
The petitioners have also sought the cancellation of the contract with Reliance Industries and NIKO Resources, concerning the block.

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Bharat Ratna, Padma awards conferred on prominent people
India's high civilian honours - the Bharat Ratna and Padma awards - were on Monday conferred by President Pranab Mukherjee on a galaxy of prominent people who have done the country proud.
 
Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, was bestowed posthumously on freedom fighter and eminent educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya at an investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday evening.
 
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who too was honoured with the Bharat Ratna, was presented the medallion and the scroll of the award last week at his residence because of his ill health.
 
President Mukherjee, in a simple yet elegant ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, presented the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri to a host of leaders and prominent people from various walks of life.
 
The awards, which are announced on the eve of the Republic Day every year, this year included two Bharat Ratnas, three Padma Vibhushans, 12 Padma Bhushans and 34 Padma Shris.
 
BJP leader and former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Jagadguru Swami Rambhadracharya received the Padma Vibhushan.
 
Journalists Swapan Dasgupta and Rajat Sharma, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates were awarded the Padma Bhushan.
 
The Gates couple, however, could not come to personally receive their awards.
 
Poet-lyricist Prasoon Joshi, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and playwright Tarak Janubhai Mehta were some of the well-known people who received the Padma Shri.
 
Rajat Sharma shook hands with Prime Minister narendra Modi as he stood to receive Padma Bhushan.
 
People from the sports world included well-known wrestler Satpal, who received the Padma Bhushan for his outstanding performance in various international tournaments.
 
Renowned badminton player P.V. Sindhu and Indian hockey team captain Sardar Singh both received the Padma Shri.
 
The Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan was overcrowded as relatives and friends of the recipients occupied most of the chairs.
 
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many cabinet ministers and government officials were present.
 
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was also present at the awards ceremony. He was seen interacting with the media freely after the function.
 
Relatives and friends of the recipients cheered when the names of their loved ones were announced to receive the awards.
 
Some of them put their hands up while clapping and were seen pointing at the recipients of the honour.
 
On March 27, President Mukherjee made a break with protocol to drive down to Vajpayee's Krishna Menon Marg residence to confer the highest honour on the nonagenarian Bharatiya Janata Party leader who has been keeping ill health.
 
Ansari, Modi as well as former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Advani were among those who attended the presentation on that day.
 
Modi expressed his gratitude to Mukherjee for going to Vajpayee's home to personally hand over the award.
 
A photograph of the president presenting the medallion to Vajpayee was released later.

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