Latest: Airliner Knew Deranged Pilot Suffered From "Severe Depression"

Posted: Apr 01, 2015 1:30 PM

It's been over a week now since 149 innocent passengers perished aboard Germanwings Flight 9525, all of whom suffered unimaginably and tragically in their final moments. Unsurprisingly, however, we still don't know (and probably cannot know) exactly why the flight’s co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, lost his mind and killed everyone on board.

And while it’s been firmly established that he was a deeply troubled young man (he shredded doctor notes declaring him medically unfit to fly and had, according to his girlfriend, an obsessive and overbearing personality), the latest bombshell is scandalizing: Lufthansa knew about Lubitz’s alarming medical history for years and did nothing.

The New York Times reports:

The co-pilot at the controls of the German jetliner that crashed in the French Alps last week informed Lufthansa in 2009 that he had suffered from severe depression, the company said Tuesday. …

It was the first acknowledgment by Lufthansa that it knew of Mr. Lubitz’s mental health issues before the crash, and raised further questions about why the airline had allowed Mr. Lubitz to complete his training and go on to fly passenger jets.

Why indeed? In fairness to Lufthansa, however, as Dennis Prager notes in his must-read column this week, just because a person is depressed does not necessarily mean he (or she) is capable of great acts of evil.

“We've heard repeatedly that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was being treated for depression -- as if that largely explains why he did what he did,” he writes. “Yet, every one of us knows one or two depressed individuals, and it is inconceivable that they would commit mass murder.”

Thus, the airline could not possibly have known the depths of Lubitz's derangement. After all, Prager argues, Lubitz “lacked a properly functioning conscience” that, quite obviously, wasn't readily apparent to most people. And yet while “severe depression” might not necessarily be a medically disqualifying condition for pilots (clearly it wasn't in this particular instance), isn't it alarming that the airline was not more aware of, or concerned with, Lubitz's medical condition?

Meanwhile, this isn't helping matters:

Lufthansa, whose CEO previously said Lubitz was 100% fit to fly, described its statement Tuesday as a "swift and seamless clarification" and said it was sharing the information and documents -- including training and medical records -- with public prosecutors.

Despite his medical record, this false and now-retracted statement suggests that the airline was completely and totally oblivious to how dangerous Lubitz was to the general public.

Surely, then, if this tragedy teaches us anything, it's that Germanwings (and every other airline in operation around the world) needs to do a much better job vetting and monitoring their pilots.

Let's hope that process has already begun.