Germanwings Update: Lufthansa Stonewalling Co-Pilot’s Medical Records



News has just come in that the Lufthansa management is stonewalling the efforts made by authorities who are investigating the March 24 Germanwings jetliner crash by not sharing the medical records of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. In a statement from Lufthansa German Airlines, the company has categorically refused to provide any information to the authorities from German aviation that could help them in the investigation. The absurd reason given by the airline’s management this time is that Lubitz had qualified as a pilot before the much stringent rules and regulations for the pilots and their recruitment went into effect. The new rules were implemented in the year 2013.

It is getting clearer that Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525, had purposely crashed the plane into the French Alps. The question that is raising a lot of eyebrows and leading to Lufthansa management facing a lot of heat is whether the leading airline service provider in Europe knew about the mental health issues of Lubitz. There are contradictory claims at the moment if Lufthansa did actually know anything about the co-pilot’s psychiatric illness. This will be a huge factor in deciding Lufthansa’s liability in the passenger jet’s crash. A number of lawsuits have already been filed against the airliner. It has been reported that Allianz, Germany’s renowned insurance company, has estimated that due to the costs related to the crash and other claims, insurers might have to pay close to $300 million.

Reportedly, Lubitz had taken a long break from his pilot training program lasting for several months in the year 2009. He is said to have informed the pilot training instructors from Lufthansa that he had recovered from a period when he was intensely and severely depressed. In the year 2012, he was initially certified and given a clearance for flying commercial planes. As this was before the introduction of the new aviation law in Germany, Lufthansa management has rebuffed the efforts made by authorities who are investigating the March 24 Germanwings jetliner crash by not sharing his medical records.

European rules and regulations for the commercial pilots who suffer from any kind of mental illness are quiet strict. According to reports, it is mandatory that such pilots be reported by the aeromedical examiners to the licensing authorities. The action to be taken is then decided by the licensing authorities which includes putting certain restrictions on the pilot’s license. Lufthansa had made no such intimation to the German aviation officials. This has been confirmed Sunday, April 5, by the Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA), the relevant German authority. The officials claimed that they had absolutely no information about Lubitz’s depression before the crash.

Lufthansa officials have been trying to work around the semantics of the new law ever since this news came in. They have said that a provision in the law safeguards certain previously cleared and existing medical and fit-to-fly certificates given to pilots by the specialized aviation doctors. This is as per a provision which is part of the newly adopted regulation for the aviation industry which was introduced in Germany only in April 2013.

The airline’s officials further said that due to this, even after the new law came into effect in April 2013, the aviation doctors or the aeromedical centers could grant extensions to those previously issued medical certificates. Thus by using the legal angle in the provision to save its face, Lufthansa officials have said that a separate and general duty to report Lubitz to the LBA did not arise. By not sharing Lubitz’s medical reports, Lufthansa management has stonewalled the efforts made by authorities investigating Germanwings crash.

(This article is Part 3 of a series of Investigative Reports about the Germanwings crash. Please check out Part 1 & Part 2)

By Ankur Sinha

U-T San Diego
Deutsche Welle

Photo by Aero Icarus – Flickr License