ASG Statement on Germanwings Accident

The Air Safety Group deplores the manner in which data from the accident to the Germanwings flight has been released to the Media and their world-wide audience. The normal procedure following an air accident in the United Kingdom or North America is for all the available data to be collected and analysed before any details are released. When, as in this case, the accident is very high profile, there may be an interim report especially, if there is strong evidence to suggest the cause and/or effective safety recommendations can be made.

The release of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) transcripts followed by their subsequent appearance on You Tube is a disgrace. Those who made the leaks must be within the French Air Accident Investigation Authority, since only a very few individuals should have been present when the CVR was examined and played. The only extenuation is if these revelations were made under pressure from the French Police Prosecutor, or from this organisation itself. CVR recordings are protected under ICAO standards and recommended practices; which France is committed to support. Those who are responsible for the leaks, in undermining the process of investigative prevention, have damaged trust and shown total insensitivity to the distress caused to the victims’ relatives.

Whilst appreciating that the ‘Code Napoleon’ is a very different justice system to that practiced in the English-speaking world, it is indeed extraordinary that Andreas Lubitz has been effectively tried, found guilty and sentenced by the French and German authorities even before the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had been found and analysed. There are still many inconsistencies in the information so far released.

Civil aviation has achieved its high safety record in several ways. One of the most important is the industry’s reaction to air accidents and major incidents. The evidence is gathered, analysed, tested and finally reported, together with recommendations for the avoidance of similar accidents/major incidents in future. Sometimes this is followed up by changes in the law or the regulations. Premature announcements and recommendations, unless fully justified, are generally avoided.

Following the events of 9/11 there were many, more sober, safety experts who doubted the wisdom of the fitment of armoured, locked flight-deck doors. They worried that such doors might cause as many accidents and incidents as the hi-jackings they were designed to prevent. These experts have been shown to be correct, since this accident is only the latest amongst several where the locked flight-deck door was a cause of the problem.

Similarly, the current panic reaction dictating that there shall always be two crew members on the flight deck is equally flawed. In an industry desperate to cut costs it is most unlikely that the third flight deck crew member will be a pilot, it will thus be a member of cabin crew. In the Germanwings accident, the presence of a cabin-crew member may have kept Andreas Lubitz engaged or distracted from his apparently pre-determined course of action but, ultimately, would a slight, female flight-attendant have been able to prevent him from keeping the door locked and/or diving the aircraft towards the ground? Will the cabin-crew members fulfilling this task also have psychological testing and strength tests? Otherwise yet another risk will be introduced onto the Flight Deck.

The Air Safety Group deplores the actions of the French and German authorities following the Germanwings accident. We are equally concerned at the poorly prepared panic measures being prepared to prevent a repeat event.

Air Safety Group

London

April 2015