Germanwings / 4U 9525 A320
March 26, 2015 5:14 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times is reporting this morning that crash of the Germanwings plane on Tuesday in the French Alps that killed 150 people "most likely happened" because the co-pilot crashed the jet deliberately, posted by roomthreeseventeen (552 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
So basically: after 9/11 they reinforced cockpit doors because they assumed that the threat would always come from the outside. It didn't occur to them that this would actually make people less safe if the threat was coming from inside the cockpit. That's creepy as fuck, assuming that it's what really happened.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:23 AM on March 26, 2015 [31 favorites]


The French prosecutor assigned to the case seems to agree and calls is a "deliberate attempt to destroy the aircraft".

I can't even imagine the terror and powerlessness the rest of the crew and the passengers felt. It honestly makes me sick to my stomach.
posted by lydhre at 5:23 AM on March 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


So basically: after 9/11 they reinforced cockpit doors because they assumed that the threat would always come from the outside. It didn't occur to them that this would actually make people less safe if the threat was coming from inside the cockpit.

From what I understand, protocol states that when one of the pilots exits the cockpit, a flight attendant must replace him/her to ensure that there are always at least two people present. This protocol was either not followed in this case, or the flight attendant was in some way incapacitated by the co-pilot.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:26 AM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I had a horrible inkling this might have been the case. Those poor people and their families.
posted by tommasz at 5:27 AM on March 26, 2015


From what I understand, protocol states that when one of the pilots exits the cockpit, a flight attendant must replace him/her to ensure that there are always at least two people present.

That's protocol in the U.S. and many other countries, but that's not part of the protocol for European carriers.
posted by a complicated history at 5:30 AM on March 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


*sigh*
.
posted by MissySedai at 5:30 AM on March 26, 2015


Le Monde has pulled back its report that it was the pilot who was out of the cockpit and says it doesn't know which one of them was out of the cockpit.
posted by hoyland at 5:30 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Heartbreaking.
posted by double bubble at 5:31 AM on March 26, 2015


And now I see there's been a press conference confirming the co-pilot was the on in the cockpit.
posted by hoyland at 5:32 AM on March 26, 2015


Sad, scary, senseless.
.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given that decompression and confusion / debility resulting from oxygen deprivation have yet to be definitively ruled out, this seems like rash thing to say.

It seems within the realm of possibility that the co-pilot realized what was happening, was attempting to bring the plane down to a survivable altitude, and was incapacitated in the process.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ryanshepard, the voice recording confirms that the co-pilot was breathing normally the entire time.
posted by amro at 5:36 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Marseille prosecuter already confirmed that the plane was deliberately destroyed by the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German citizen; further details of his identity have been released.

UK Mirror: Live updating from the press conference (press conference has concluded)
posted by ladybird at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2015


With regard to the lock, there is a keypad outside the door that normally someone (ie the pilot) with the code can use to unlock the door. However, there is a manual override of that in the cockpit and that's how the co-pilot kept the door locked.
posted by amro at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


I think the instrumentation also shows that the co-pilot in the cockpit deliberately descended the plane.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2015


Suicide due to terrorism or something else like depression. Jesus. And 16 high school kids aboard.
posted by Melismata at 5:42 AM on March 26, 2015


Suicide due to terrorism

Is that even a thing ?
posted by Pendragon at 5:43 AM on March 26, 2015


That's a hell of a fucked up way to kill yourself.
posted by amro at 5:43 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


There are no indications of terrorism and the prosecutor declined to use the word 'suicide' although this seems to be the only alternative.
posted by ladybird at 5:44 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is that even a thing ?

Sure, that's what suicide bombers do.
posted by amro at 5:44 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, the descent rate and airspeed were above the maximum that the autopilot would allow. I don't know whether suicide alone would be the best fit, or if delusional thoughts due to psychosis is a better explanation of the behaviour.
posted by ambrosen at 5:46 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would guess a schizophrenic break for the top of my list. Voices telling him to do something, unreality appearing to be the correct thing. If it is terrorism, the terror aspect is pretty unclear, beyond, bringing down a random jet full of people. If he did not advocate a cause, I would rule out terrorism.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:49 AM on March 26, 2015


Here's a news article stating that the door lock on that model can be overridden from the outside if the pilots are unconscious but that a conscious pilot can override it. Complete with training video.
posted by Skorgu at 5:49 AM on March 26, 2015


It is such an awful tragedy. The only light being that, unlike other recent crashes, their families and friends at least know what happened.
posted by Thing at 5:50 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Voices telling him to do something

If he was hearing voices, what are the chances that he wouldn't be talking to them? I have limited experience with schizophrenics, but the ones I have known seem to talk to the voices, and this guy was silent.
posted by amro at 5:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ryansheperd, the voice recording confirms that the co-pilot was breathing normally the entire time.

Breathing ≠ conscious and fully aware. There are A LOT of perceptual errors that even experienced pilots in command of their faculties make (e.g. controlled flight into terrain), so I still don't think this definitively rules out debility and an accident.

The lack of contact from the passengers and other crew w/the outside via either SMS (or wifi, unless it had been disabled) given the panic that would have ensued and having ~10 minutes to do so also suggests that decompression might have been a factor. In a crash in Greece in 2005, portable oxygen allowed at least one crew member to attempt to retake control after the pilots and passengers were unconscious and dying/dead. That may have been what the pilot was doing here.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm sure that it's better to know than not to know, but good lord. That would be a hell of a thing to know.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


This - after the Malaysian plane that showed at least a feasibility of being pilot controlled when it disappeared is starting to sound like one of those spy novel plots - instead of directly hijacking the planes, the evil people are hypnotising/mentally controlling/have a mind ray that triggers an otherwise normal and responsible pilot to go nuts and deliberately crash the plane.

It sounds stupid, and I don't really believe it, but also at the back of my mind is the feeling you get when you read these books and note the coincidence and think 'I wonder how many times this needs to happen before this is a 'thing' and recognised in real life'?

That Korean plane that clipped a bridge and crashed into the river? They started blaming lack of pilot training, but... well. It seems a bit odd there are so many of them.
posted by Brockles at 5:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Horrifying detail follows, just as a warning...
The lack of contact from the passengers and other crew w/the outside via either SMS (or wifi, unless it had been disabled) given the panic that would have ensued and having ~10 minutes to do so also suggests that decompression might have been a factor.
According to the coverage of the press conference, the cockpit voice recorder caught voices outside the cockpit crying out right before the moment of impact. People outside the cockpit were conscious and aware.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:54 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Suicide due to terrorism or something else like depression.

A lot of people are leaping to the 'terrorism' thing, but being a pilot is a super-stressful job. A commercial pilot is a smart, driven individual who has risen to the top of their profession... only to find that they are often lowly-paid, given high levels of responsibility, and away from home working unsocial hours.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:55 AM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


The lack of contact from the passengers and other crew w/the outside via either SMS (or wifi, unless it had been disabled)

Would they have been able to text over the Alps, with presumably little cell service? Or does that not matter? (Honest question, I have no clue.)
posted by amro at 5:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Avoiding using the word 'suicide' specifically may be simple pragmatism. Two previous obvious suicide crashes, Egyptair 990, and Silkair 185 had investigations that were deliberately obstructed because of cultural blindness to suicidal inclinations.
posted by umberto at 5:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems a bit odd there are so many of them.

Threadsitting now, but: list of accidents involving commercial aircraft by year.

2015 is not unusual in either number, cause, or mysteries.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Suicide due to terrorism

Is that even a thing ?

Sure, that's what suicide bombers do.


Yes, but suicide bombers don't kill them self due to terrorism.
posted by Pendragon at 5:57 AM on March 26, 2015


They don't?
posted by amro at 5:58 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Recap from the Mirror of the facts as we know them now:

+ Investigators have listened to the final 30 minutes of the Barcelona to Dusseldorf flight - for the first 20 minutes the captain and co-pilot are talking "in a normal fashion"

+ The captain then asks the co-pilot to take over and he leaves, presumably to use the toilet or perform some task

+ The co-pilot is alone and he then starts the descent of the plane "deliberately"

+ He has been named as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, a German national

+ The recording reveals "several cries of the pilot asking to access [the cockpit]". The captain identifies himself on the intercom system but there's no answer from the co pilot. He knocks on the door and asks for it to be opened but there is no response"

+ The co-pilot could be heard breathing "normally" until the moment of impact and investigators conclude he was still alive

+ Alarms go off to indicate the proximity of the ground and just before the final impact the captain could be heard trying to break into the cockpit through the door

+ "I think the victims only realised at the last moment because on the recording you only hear the screams on the last moments," says Mr Robin

+ When asked if it was suicide he said: "I'm not even going to mention this word because I don't know"

+ Mr Robin added: "There has been nothing to indicate so far this is an act of terrorism"
posted by ladybird at 5:59 AM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


seems a bit odd there are so many of them

Not when "so many" == "hardly any", as here. There are in the order of 100K commercial flights per day. The putative technology is not getting a good hit rate and the putative wielders are not doing much to exploit what they're getting.
posted by merlynkline at 6:00 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Can we all stop making uninformed guesses about specific mental illnessed? That's some real "I took Psych 101 - twice" shit.
posted by entropone at 6:03 AM on March 26, 2015 [67 favorites]


The idea that "schizophrenia" and "the voices in his head" made him do it is pretty insensitive and I would say an uneducated thing to say.

Psychosis is one thing, but schizophrenics are generally blamed for a lot of things, when its schizophrenics themselves who are targets of violence.
posted by Nevin at 6:05 AM on March 26, 2015 [49 favorites]


2015 is not unusual in either number, cause, or mysteries.

2014/15 have, however, been unusual in accidents that don't have easily explainable physical defects or weather related issues. I can't see a a lot of 'unknown causes' in that list nor 'deliberate pilot action'.

Like I said, I don't really believe it, but I also haven't seen a big trend of crashes with no mechanical issues or otherwise explainable in that list.
posted by Brockles at 6:06 AM on March 26, 2015


Live updates from the NYT if you don't want to send traffic to the UK Mirror.
posted by ladybird at 6:07 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


How did they know the copilot initiated a descent if they haven't found the DFDR memory card yet? In-flight transmissions from ACARS?
posted by cardboard at 6:07 AM on March 26, 2015


How did they know the copilot initiated a descent if they haven't found the DFDR memory card yet? In-flight transmissions from ACARS?

Maybe the sound of the descent is obvious on the tape, or they're matching time stamps with radar/tracking info?
posted by Brockles at 6:09 AM on March 26, 2015


Can you imagine how terrified those poor passengers and crew would have felt? It's sickening.
posted by Quilford at 6:11 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Holy f'ing mother of god.

I don't get scared of flying. I fly all the time. I have generally internalized the risk calculus as an assuring belief. I've been in plenty of fairly hairy flight situations, especially since I travel in and to the Arctic regularly. But there is something about the figure of a pilot who is in fact a sociopathic mass murderer that undermines all of that. I know what I'll be trying not to imagine the next time I board a plane.

I fly over the heart of the Brooks Range a lot, a couple of times in small twin engine planes, and often think to myself that if we ever went down over some of that terrain, certainly in winter, no one would be coming to help or pick up the pieces for quite a long while.

I too can't quite accept this as 100% proven yet. Among other thoughts that occur to me, OK, so you're an ideological murderer and you decide to take out 150 people on the plane you're co-piloting. But you do it into about as remote a patch of terrain as there is on the route over which you will be flying, not into a city neighborhood or tall building somewhere? Is this merely an artifact of opportunity, and the fact that he timed his crime to begin at the moment they reached cruise altitude at FL38?
posted by spitbull at 6:13 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


spitbull, I bet he decided to take the first opportunity that was presented to him, namely the pilot leaving the cabin to use the bathroom.
posted by Quilford at 6:15 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


he timed his crime to begin at the moment they reached cruise altitude at FL38

It seems like it was timed to match the moment when the main pilot left the cabin, and a co-pilot would most likely know if his coworker tends to take a break once he hits cruising altitude.

So, so frightening.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:16 AM on March 26, 2015


Given that, according to the description, the co-pilot could be heard breathing normally, and not responding to the pilot outside the cabin, as the plane descended, what are the chances that the co-pilot suffered some sort of debilitating event that rendered him unconscious?

I know the timing of such a thing is pretty remarkable, but the "breathing normally" part strikes me as odd. I would think a conscious person flying a plane full of people into a mountain would be breathing a bit more rapidly/excitedly. And, at the very least, saying something.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


We don't yet know exactly what happened and we sure as shit don't know why.
posted by fullerine at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


If it were a deliberate act of terrorism on the part of the co-pilot, you would think (a) he would have left some kind of message on the voice recorder, and (b) he would have picked a ground target that would have resulted in even more casualties.

But if his decision was simply to kill himself on this particular flight, he needed to take the first opportunity and to do it quickly, because he could not know whether, given sufficient time, the pilot and others could have broken through the cockpit door. The facts appear consistent with this scenario, rather than a terrorism scenario.
posted by beagle at 6:19 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Given that, according to the description, the co-pilot could be heard breathing normally, and not responding to the pilot outside the cabin, as the plane descended, what are the chances that the co-pilot suffered some sort of debilitating event that rendered him unconscious?

If so, it only happened AFTER he

1- manually locked out his copilot, which would never happen for any normal reason, and
2- manually overrode the autopilot, which would not have permitted such a steep descent
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:22 AM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


If it were a deliberate act of terrorism on the part of the co-pilot, you would think (a) he would have left some kind of message on the voice recorder, and (b) he would have picked a ground target that would have resulted in even more casualties. ...

The facts appear consistent with this scenario, rather than a terrorism scenario.


No, they're just more consistent with your interpretation of the terrorism aim you had in mind. If the aim was just to make people terrified to fly in commercial planes it is perfectly consistent with that. You can't extrapolate like that when you don't know the reasons behind and 'logic' out of a terrorist act with so little information.
posted by Brockles at 6:22 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


as the plane descended, what are the chances that the co-pilot suffered some sort of debilitating event that rendered him unconscious?

The descent rate and flight speed were both in excess of what the autopilot would allow, so the understanding is that the first officer was at the controls. (According to pprune.org. Sorry, I've lost the page of the thread that that's mentioned on.)
posted by ambrosen at 6:23 AM on March 26, 2015


Urgh. This is exactly how my beautiful friend lost the love of his life many years ago. How he got his "Alexander moment".

I only wrote about it a few days ago here in the blue and now hundreds of other people have to live through harrowing nights of grief. I hope those that want it, are able to be held by their dearest support people through this.
posted by taff at 6:23 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Any imposition of logic in this situation is likely to suffer from the bias of Not Being Able to Go There-ism.
posted by spitbull at 6:24 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


It seems that this exact same scenario happened in Mozambique a couple of years ago too.
posted by chill at 6:25 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


(a) he would have left some kind of message on the voice recorder,

I don't know why people always jump to "there was no note, it couldn't have been a suicide." Sure, in the media there is always a note, but that's only the case in a minority of real cases.

My friend's note was left on LJ and was basically just, "This is not a drill. I left the door unlocked so someone can come in after." I mean, would that even count as a "note?"

Suicide is generally not a rational action, so I'm not sure why we always expect suicides to behave in a predictable manner. Only about 1/3 of suicides, statistically, leave any sort of note.
posted by absalom at 6:25 AM on March 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Hey Brockles, exactly — that's my interpretation, my opinion. As I said, "you would think" and "appear". No absolute statements there.
posted by beagle at 6:26 AM on March 26, 2015


Absolom: I mentioned the absence of a message as seeming to be inconsistent with terrorism, not with suicide.
posted by beagle at 6:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fuck
posted by stoneweaver at 6:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Has anyone investigated the background / situation / motivations of the pilot that crashed the plane? Surely that's starting to be relevant here...
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:29 AM on March 26, 2015


beagle: Yeah, correct, I only caught that on second reading. Although, generally speaking, terrorist acts only later have some sort of claim of responsibility. I think the only reason we jump to "terrorism" after every tragedy is simply because we've been trained to do so.
posted by absalom at 6:30 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:32 AM on March 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


So while we cannot yet be sure of what the co-pilot's motive/situation was, I'm curious as to why--particularly after the EgyptAir crash--it didn't become and international regulation that two people always have to be in the cockpit. Is it a staffing issue? An overconfidence in a solo pilot?

I also definitely think that between this and the Helios flight the post-9/11 barricading of the cockpit door needs to be rethought.
posted by TwoStride at 6:32 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Horrific.

So basically: after 9/11 they reinforced cockpit doors because they assumed that the threat would always come from the outside. It didn't occur to them that this would actually make people less safe if the threat was coming from inside the cockpit. That's creepy as fuck, assuming that it's what really happened.

While it's pre-9/11, William Langweische's account of EgyptAir 990 looks at a similar scenario.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:32 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Noisy Pink Bubbles, I am sure half the police resources in Germany are now being directed to doing just that.
posted by spitbull at 6:32 AM on March 26, 2015


Time for a second set of controls at the back, and ground control ability to override the main cockpit.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:33 AM on March 26, 2015


Oh, no. As terrible a tragedy as it would be if the crash were accidental, the idea of it being deliberate, and by one of the pilots no less, is horrible and revolting. Those poor people.
posted by Gelatin at 6:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Noisy Pink Bubbles: "Has anyone investigated the background / situation / motivations of the pilot that crashed the plane? Surely that's starting to be relevant here..."

I sure hope he was the most normal, boring, and unremarkable German the world has ever seen.
posted by Mitheral at 6:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


My initial guess when they said the pilot was locked out was that the copilot was in there passed out, had a heart attack, or something like that. But that wouldn't explain the locked door and the steep descent. Mechanical error? I don't know. I just wish we would not pass judgement on a dead man who can't speak up for himself until the entire investigation is over and all the evidence is in.
posted by bleep at 6:37 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I started to disagree Mitheral...but you're quite right. I don't want it turning in to an opportunity for vilification of any group.
posted by taff at 6:38 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


While I don't believe it happened in this situation, is it possible to suffer a stroke that would make up seem down and down seem up? Sounds like something Oliver Sacks would write about.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:38 AM on March 26, 2015


GallonOfAlan: ", and ground control ability to override the main cockpit."

A system that would be almost certainly compromised over and over again if anyone was crazy enough to implement it.
posted by Mitheral at 6:38 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


I sure hope he was the most normal, boring, and unremarkable German the world has ever seen.

A remarkably common observation about mass murderers is that they seemed so normal.
posted by spitbull at 6:41 AM on March 26, 2015


is it possible to suffer a stroke that would make up seem down and down seem up?

And "override the emergency cockpit unlock" seem like "open the door"? Seems unlikely.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:41 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


How did they know the copilot initiated a descent if they haven't found the DFDR memory card yet? In-flight transmissions from ACARS?

FlightRadar has a copy of the ADS-B/ModeS data. They’re saying that the pilot set the autopilot to target an altitude of 100'.

Horrifying.
posted by pharm at 6:42 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree, odinsdream -- I find this news both better and worse, in different ways, than had it been a mechanical issue.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:44 AM on March 26, 2015


Press conference with Lufthansa people now in question mode.
A lot of talk about the training, psychological background checks etc. etc. of pilots by Lufthansa in general and of this man in particular. Psychological tests in focus of the questions. Apparently there were no know issues with that particular co-pilot.
posted by Namlit at 6:47 AM on March 26, 2015


May as well repost this here as a source

(A320 flight systems)

PAGE 34

When the flight crew does not respond to requests for entry, the door can also be unlocked by the cabin crew, by entering a two to seven-digit code (programmed by the airline) on the keypad, installed on the lateral side of the Forward Attendant Panel (FAP).

A deadbolt is installed at the level of the center latch area of the cockpit door. This deadbolt bolts the door from the cockpit side, in the event that more than one locking latch strike fails.

PAGE 39

LOCK position : Once the button has been moved to this position, the door is locked; emergency access, the buzzer, and the keypad are inhibited for a preselected time (5 to 20 min).
posted by xdvesper at 6:47 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Avionics is really mature from a testing and quality standpoint. The reason these crashes are all caused by something weird and scary is because we've actually gotten really good at eliminating the boring and predictable failures.

So, uh, worry appropriately on your next flight, I guess.
posted by PMdixon at 6:50 AM on March 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


If this turns out to be suicide, instead of developing a Rube-Goldbergian technical solution to override a rogue pilot, a better approach might be to beef up the psychological evaluation in the recurring pilot medical examination to identify problems earlier, as well as developing an environment that doesn't encourage pilots to hide their problems for fear of being grounded.
posted by cardboard at 6:50 AM on March 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


I'm only vaguely aware of how crash investigation works in the US, and not all how it works in France. Is it normal for an air crash investigation to be headed by a criminal prosecutor, who examines the case with an eye toward charges of involuntary manslaughter against a very likely dead suspect?

Because that just sounds like a weird and not terribly helpful way to approach it.
posted by Naberius at 6:50 AM on March 26, 2015


Time for a second set of controls at the back, and ground control ability to override the main cockpit.

In fragile systems, the fix for the last problem often contributes to the next problem.
posted by Leon at 6:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [56 favorites]


Press conference my 2nd post: no, Lufthansa does not have a procedure that another crew member enters the cockpit when one of the pilots leaves. This practice seems to be an exception in European airlines.
Leaving the cockpit for some time is allowed "not last for biological reasons." Everything went according to the rules, until the door was locked from the inside.
posted by Namlit at 6:52 AM on March 26, 2015


Live updates from the NYT if you don't want to send traffic to the UK Mirror.

You may be confusing the Daily Mirror with the Daily Mail. (Or maybe not, depending on your political sympathies. But it seems worth mentioning.)
posted by rory at 6:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


cardboard:
as well as developing an environment that doesn't encourage pilots to hide their problems for fear of being grounded.
That's exactly what I found myself thinking while listening to this news on the way in to work this morning. I wonder how much risk there is to any pilot expressing potential mental health problems that (s)he will be immediately grounded and possibly unemployable. Seems like a lot of incentive to mask or hide those issues, or not seek help.
posted by jferg at 6:54 AM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


Given that, according to the description, the co-pilot could be heard breathing normally, and not responding to the pilot outside the cabin, as the plane descended, what are the chances that the co-pilot suffered some sort of debilitating event that rendered him unconscious?

The plane wouldn't descend. It would be on autopilot. Before you think "well, he passed out, fell forward on the control yoke", nope, this is an airbus, they use side sticks. If the copilot fell unconscious, the likely thing he'd do is let go of the side stick, not push it forward.

They could tell some parameters of the descent from the CVR. If you're trying to descend fast but controlled, you have to throttle back and you'll hear that.

Descent rate ran from 3500-5000 feet per minute. 3500 is above normal but not unusually so at FL340, 5000 how, is. Most airline descend at flight idle, and the descent rate depends on your altitude, 2500fpm is typical. 5000fpm indicates a pitch down had to happen.

I really, really, really wish we had the FDR -- it was apparently damaged and the data card is missing. Hopefully they'll find that and be able to read it, because that will tell us exactly how this plane was flown and how it flew. If there were control inputs, the FDR would record them.
posted by eriko at 6:55 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


The BEA investigates aircraft incidents and accidents to determine causes and recommend ways to avoid things in the future. If this was caused by the deliberate actions of a crewmember though, there will also be a criminal investigation, just like the FBI would work in parallel with the NTSB in the USA.
posted by cardboard at 6:56 AM on March 26, 2015


It really seems that the Lufthansa boss is convinced that the co-pilot was alive, and that he acted deliberately. The theory that he passed out is not being discussed.
posted by Namlit at 6:57 AM on March 26, 2015


And, yes, assuming this conclusion holds, sadly not the first time. Egypt will scream to your face that it's not true, but EgyptAir 990 was clearly an intentional crash by the first officer.

FlightRadar has a copy of the ADS-B/ModeS data.

And, well, there it is. More importantly, he would have changed the autopilot descent rate as well, though that being in the Mode-S data is unlikely.
posted by eriko at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You may be confusing the Daily Mirror with the Daily Mail. (Or maybe not, depending on your political sympathies. But it seems worth mentioning.)

No, I'm well aware of the difference between the sources. I live in Europe and am an avid media consumer. As the Mirror is considered more a tabloid publication I offered the NYT as an alternative for anyone who simply avoids tabloids in general.
posted by ladybird at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Namlit, the autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 feet to 100 feet.
posted by Quilford at 7:01 AM on March 26, 2015


thats sort of what I've been saying, w/o the details
posted by Namlit at 7:02 AM on March 26, 2015


.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:02 AM on March 26, 2015


So considering the advances in autopilot technology (and the fact that the plane can actually take off and land itself anyway in most circumstances) is there an argument for both pilots needing to be present to disengage the autopilot or modify it from the planned route the right path at some point? Because autonomous flight seems to be the most obvious answer long term for *all* transportation anyway. At what point do we take that path?
posted by Brockles at 7:03 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Time for a second set of controls at the back, and ground control ability to override the main cockpit.

The problem with any kind of proposal like this is that some set of controls has to be the ultimate one that can override all other systems. Whichever one it is will be the one that is used the next time someone chooses to crash a plane. If a psychotic air traffic controller overrode a plane's controls and crashed it from a distance, then we'd all be saying that it is crazy that someone can override the pilot sitting in the cockpit of the plane, who has a vested interest in landing it safely.

Having said that (and knowing nothing, really, about aviation), I don't see a downside to having an emergency password-protected button in the rear of the plane that would do nothing but put the plane into a non-overrideable auto-pilot in the even the the cockpit is taken over or the co-pilot goes off the rails. That would at least buy some time to re-establish control and prevent the plane from being intentionally crashed in the meantime.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:04 AM on March 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


is there an argument for both pilots needing to be present to disengage the autopilot or modify it from the planned route the right path at some point?

Acute illness of one of the pilots is a pretty strong argument against, I'd guess.
posted by Namlit at 7:04 AM on March 26, 2015


Wow, I'm surprised the ADS-B transponder data (the data used to indicate the autopilot was programmed to descend essentially into the ground) includes flight management computer settings, but apparently it does (PDF warning, also very technical FWIW).
posted by exogenous at 7:08 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Acute illness of one of the pilots is a pretty strong argument against, I'd guess.

Acute illness AND a serious issue that requires the plane to come off autopilot at the same time? Autopilot is capable of the entire flight, after all. Maybe manual for take off and to 10,000ft and then autopilot would be potentially safer (bird strikes etc), but autopilot from then on would be fine.
posted by Brockles at 7:10 AM on March 26, 2015


Once you’re into "Which of these multiple, highly unlikely scenarios are we going to defend against?" security design gets really hard. Demand two inputs for all actions? Well, now you’ve got a problem if one of your pilots has an aneurysm. Allow one flight officer to override the instructions of the other somehow? Now you’ve got a single point of failure that can take over the aircraft by themselves.

There’s no obvious right answer to which of these options are preferable: The situation in this flight is the flip side of mandating secure doors on the flight deck in order to keep terrorists out. i.e. no one else can get in if the flight crew go off the rails.
posted by pharm at 7:14 AM on March 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


It is no surprise to me that we are searching for some answer - any answer - that doesn't involve this being deliberate, even if all the evidence indicates that it was. There are some things so horrible they evade contemplation.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:15 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me, at this point, it's more like this:
..............................
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posted by carmicha at 7:17 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Demand two inputs for all actions?

Just to clarify, that's not what I am suggesting. I'm suggesting that the plane be flown on autopilot alone post 10,000 ft ascent. No pilot manual control at all unless *both* pilots choose to disengage autopilot. If both pilots had heart attacks at 15,000ft and/or 10 minutes into the flight, the plane could continue to its destination without any problems if the autopilot is fail-safe enough (which it appears to be).

Autonomous control is coming, obviously, it's just a matter of when that is.
posted by Brockles at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to think that jumping in front of a packed subway train on crowded morning commute was the worst, most traumatizing way to kill yourself. Until today.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:19 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


So this might be another one of those young men run amok / mass murder / spree killing incidents but this time the weapon is a plane instead of a gun or homemade bomb?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:21 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can understand wanting to kill yourself due to depression, but I cannot understand being willing to take a plane full of innocents with you. Much like the family-killer types that take themselves out last, pity gets washed away by anger.

On the other hand, I was sadly relieved to hear this crash was probably not going to provide the west with a reason to bomb yet another group of people in retaliation.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


That is scary and awful news. (Not that there was any option for good news, really.)

It makes me wonder what percentage of bus crashes have a deliberate component. They are much more common and get very little investigation compared to airplane crashes, so even a small number of deliberate crashes might never be noticed.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


GallonOfAlan: ", and ground control ability to override the main cockpit."

A system that would be almost certainly compromised over and over again if anyone was crazy enough to implement it.


Well, that is why we need a second override to override the ground control, because that will then be exactly enough.


+ "I think the victims only realised at the last moment because on the recording you only hear the screams on the last moments," says Mr Robin


This is a hell of a supposition on the part of Mr Robin. I am pretty sure that a cabin full of passengers seeing their pilot pounding on the cockpit door trying to get let back in while the plane was descending steadily toward the Alps might have some inkling that there was trouble.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:24 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I stopped flying years ago because of this stuff. Happens every few weeks now.
.
posted by colie at 7:27 AM on March 26, 2015


Time for a second set of controls at the back, and ground control ability to override the main cockpit.

Does the actions of seemingly one disturbed person really mean everything has to change?

Seems smarter to investigate the person and look for clues as to what would drive a person to do this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


That would make too much sense, BB. See: the shoes we have to take off for every checkpoint.
posted by Melismata at 7:29 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


colie: Happens every few weeks now.

That's because there is so much flying going on, not because flying is becoming less safe. It's not.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:30 AM on March 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


I stopped flying years ago because of this stuff. Happens every few weeks now.
That's silly. I'm not denying that this is creepy as fuck, but flying is very safe. It's probably the safest way to travel. I almost got hit by a UPS truck walking to work yesterday, and every once in a while a driver deliberately plows a car into a pedestrian, but that doesn't mean it makes sense to stay home every day.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:30 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, remote control of an aircraft seems like a really bad idea.

Now you not only have to worry about malicious pilots but also malicious ground control people. Not to mention the controls getting remotely hacked into.

Look, if one of the pilots goes rogue, you're basically screwed. The only 100% effective way to prevent all accident contingencies is to ground all the planes.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:31 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Start by fully automating freight flights to show people that they're safe, then phase out the pilots and add masseuses.
posted by pracowity at 7:34 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's amazing that we're flying more than ever despite social media and full-blown videophones in our pockets like we dreamed of 25 years ago. Where are all these people going?
posted by colie at 7:37 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's funny—I spent a large chunk of my existence in one of my past career lives as an NTSB subcontractor with the job of making duplicates of CVR recordings and crash-site photographs and then doing detailed QC examinations of each individual copy, so I made a hair over minimum wage to listen to people die all day while examining photographs of their usually dismembered corpses with a loupe to make sure not a single gruesome detail was omitted or obscured. It's probably why I don't really care for all the crime dramas on TV with gory special effects, which just feel like being at work in the eighties to me, but my reasons not to fly really come down to (a) it's expensive, (b) the airport is a fucking schlep, and (c) flying is vulgar and tacky. Those things notwithstanding, if you want to live and you want to get somewhere, a commercial airline flight is still your best bet.
posted by sonascope at 7:38 AM on March 26, 2015 [37 favorites]




Look, if one of the pilots goes rogue, you're basically screwed. The only 100% effective way to prevent all accident contingencies is to ground all the planes.

I was talking to an IT security consultant a couple of weeks ago and he said something to the effect "We can build exotic systems that are really difficult to hack if you're outside the company. But the really big problem is 'securing the human', and this means the people who work for you."

What he was getting at was a disgruntled employee or someone who's gone off the rails, or just circumvents one security policy or another, like using personal accounts for work stuff, are an internal threat that's actually pretty hard to control for until the damage is done - so treating your employees well is one way of controlling that risk. But people can also be unpredictable.

Anyway, the "securing the human" phrase kind of stuck with me, and it's absolutely awful to think about in this context. Stolen trade secrets are one thing. A plane full of people is quite another.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


To get back to the terrorism angle, was anybody important, in terms of political or financial or religious influence, on the plane?
posted by I-baLL at 7:44 AM on March 26, 2015


They’re saying that the pilot set the autopilot to target an altitude of 100'.

I know very little about flying an airplane... why does autopilot even allow a target that low for a commercial airliner?
posted by kmz at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe because if for some reason you do need to be flying at 100 feet above sea level (there are places in the world below sea level) then I think you'd rather have the autopilot handle that. Also, is it possible to land with the autopilot? Because if it is then maybe that's another reason?
posted by I-baLL at 7:53 AM on March 26, 2015


Stories of possible pilot suicide always make me think of Fed Ex Flight 705.
posted by drezdn at 7:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


To the extent I know a single thing about commercial aviation, I owe what meagre knowledge I have to William Langweische. I linked to his Air Egypt 990 piece upthread, but here's an archive some of his writing. An Atlantic archive here as well.

As both a pilot and a fine writer, reading his accounts of air disasters and acts of terrorism has actually made flying less scary for me because it's helped me understand how commercial airplanes work, and what the people operating them are actually doing.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


I know very little about flying an airplane... why does autopilot even allow a target that low for a commercial airliner?

This may come as a shock to you, but the commercial airliners can sit at 0 feet for long periods at the beginning and end of every single flight...

More seriously - autopilots can land commercial aircraft entirely unaided. Have been able to for years. Going to and past 100 feet while on autopilot is part of that.
posted by Brockles at 7:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


It sounds like the co-pilot had something against the airline.. but not against wider humanity, otherwise he might have driven it into a more populated area.
posted by nickggully at 8:05 AM on March 26, 2015


The evidence regarding an intentional crashing is still too circumstantial to smear the co-pilot, but I guess people want a tidy resolution quickly.
posted by Renoroc at 8:07 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


He was actively preventing the pilot from entering the cockpit.
posted by pracowity at 8:11 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The autopilot can be smart enough to see that 100' is not a reasonable input for that area. It could look at the projected flight path and recognize that it will intersect with a mountain. It seems unreasonable to me that such basic safety functionality is missing.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:13 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Couple of comments deleted; let's maybe not get off into "what about this even-more-horrible hypothetical thing terrorists could do."]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:14 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Renoroc: The evidence regarding an intentional crashing is still too circumstantial to smear the co-pilot, but I guess people want a tidy resolution quickly.

Well, unless you think there was someone else inside the cockpit disabling attempts to unlock the cockpit door from outside it, the co-pilot seems like the most likely culprit.
posted by barnacles at 8:14 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The autopilot can be smart enough to see that 100' is not a reasonable input for that area.

Based on what? I suspect the autopilot purely takes the parameters programmed into it and maintains a steady and controlled flight within those parameters. I'd be very surprised if the autopilot interprets anything at all. Even if it did flashing a 'are you sure' is all it could do. It wouldn't over ride the pilots instructions because it 'knows better'. It's automation, not AI.
posted by Brockles at 8:16 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


He was actively preventing the pilot from entering the cockpit.

Yeah. The very latest from Le Monde is simply that what they know so far is that the pilot handed over the controls to the copilot so he could go to the can, and the copilot very intentionally wouldn't let him back in to the cockpit, and issued the autopilot command to descend.

The last time I read this much French in one sitting was right after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. My French vocabulary for terrible things has been sadly getting better.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:19 AM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


From what I understand, protocol states that when one of the pilots exits the cockpit, a flight attendant must replace him/her to ensure that there are always at least two people present.

That's protocol in the U.S. and many other countries, but that's not part of the protocol for European carriers.


Do we know why they don't require it? Seems like a reasonable safety precaution, even just in the case of the co-pilot having a stroke while the pilot is out of the cockpit.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:19 AM on March 26, 2015


"Mr Lubitz's training had been interrupted briefly six years ago but was resumed after "the suitability of the candidate was re-established"

I would be interested to hear exactly what went on six years ago.
posted by Cosine at 8:21 AM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I am absolutely stunned that the cabin door system was designed in such a way to make this possible, there are about a dozen systems that could have been used to ensure that one pilot could not lock the other out and at least 10 designers should have thought of them.
posted by Cosine at 8:23 AM on March 26, 2015


We don't yet know exactly what happened and we sure as shit don't know why.

pretty sure we know what happened. A plane crashed, with the pilot locked out of the cockpit, and the co-pilot not letting him back in while manipulating the controls to descend quickly.
posted by Hoopo at 8:25 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely stunned that the cabin door system was designed in such a way to make this possible

They wanted to make sure a bad guy couldn't force the outside pilot to open the door without the inside pilot's agreement.
posted by pracowity at 8:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


The evidence regarding an intentional crashing is still too circumstantial to smear the co-pilot, but I guess people want a tidy resolution quickly.

Germanwings CEO: "We have to accept that the plane was crashed on purpose" (LA Times)

Marseille prosecutor: co-pilot's actions “could only have been voluntary” and were carried out “for a reason we do not know, but can be seen as a willingness to destroy the aircraft.”(LA Times)

[...]when a pilot wants to lock the cockpit door to bar access to someone outside, he or she can move the toggle to a position marked “locked,” [...] The doors can then be opened only if someone inside overrides the lock command by moving and holding the toggle switch to the “unlock” position. (NYT)

Analysis of Flightradar24 ADS-B/ModeS data: Autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 to 100 ft at 09:30:55 (Twitter)
posted by ladybird at 8:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


I am absolutely stunned that the cabin door system was designed in such a way to make this possible, there are about a dozen systems that could have been used to ensure that one pilot could not lock the other out and at least 10 designers should have thought of them.

It really doesn't matter. A determined person will find a way around any system. Piling on more technical solutions probably just makes it easier to game one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


even just in the case of the co-pilot having a stroke while the pilot is out of the cockpit.

The co-pilot having a stroke would not have actively disabled the lock on the door, as is the case here. Reading comprehension - the lock was deliberately held in place to prevent the other pilot re-entering.

They wanted to make sure a bad guy couldn't force the outside pilot to open the door without the inside pilot's agreement.

Do we know why they don't require it?
The existing system was designed purely around an external threat to the pilots and thus the plane. It has always been assumed that the pilots are on the plane/passenger's side until now. The idea of a rogue pilot taking over the plane hasn't been considered because they were in charge of the plane anyway. The systems make sense given that assumption.
posted by Brockles at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


They wanted to make sure a bad guy couldn't force the outside pilot to open the door without the inside pilot's agreement.

How about a fingerprint scanner and we trust the pilots to prioritize when they use it, it could end up a Sophie's choice situation for sure but that is why they are there.
posted by Cosine at 8:32 AM on March 26, 2015


It really doesn't matter. A determined person will find a way around any system.

No, the point of all such systems is to deter, slow and create opportunity for nefarious plans to go awry. In most cases they work beautifully, which is why you have a PIN on your bank card and a lock on your home. By adding cockpit doors a barrier was created that appears to have worked in several cases already, I was just saying it could have been better implimented.
posted by Cosine at 8:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely stunned that the cabin door system was designed in such a way to make this possible, there are about a dozen systems that could have been used to ensure that one pilot could not lock the other out and at least 10 designers should have thought of them.

Perhaps. But there are more than 100,000 passengers flights per day around the world. That's over 36 million flights per year. And only a handful of likely pilot suicide crashes in the past 15 years. Do you design systems to deal with a one in 100 million scenario that could make things more dangerous on the other 99,999,999 flights? And if you did, wouldn't a suicide- or terrorism-prone pilot just do something else to neutralize the other pilot?
posted by beagle at 8:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


How about a fingerprint scanner and we trust the pilots to prioritize when they use it, it could end up a Sophie's choice situation for sure but that is why they are there.

I imagine a physically strong bad guy could force the pilot to put his finger on the scanner against his will. I really don't believe there's any system that will work against both bad bad guys and bad good guys.
posted by ftm at 8:36 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


So... This would be the first (and hopefully only) copycat crime from MH-370 I guess?

The idea of a pilot saying "fuck the world" and killing himself and taking everybody with him was in the air, after all the wall-to-wall coverage last year. That shit makes copycat crimes more likely.
posted by edheil at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The idea of a rogue pilot taking over the plane hasn't been considered because they were in charge of the plane anyway. The systems make sense given that assumption.

Well not really. This is hardly the first time a flight crew member has intentionally crashed an airplane and the industry surely knows its a possibility. It's just a relatively very remote one, and very hard to defend against without making normal operation very difficult indeed. There's only so much you can do if the pilot of the plane goes rogue.
posted by Naberius at 8:40 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not surprised at all that the doors are designed this way. In almost every terrorism situation, this would be really helpful.

I remember being told that, pre-9-11, if your plane got hijacked it was probably because the hijacker wanted to go somewhere. Not because he wanted to crash the plane with everyone still inside. The whole idea seems sort of quaint now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:41 AM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I imagine a physically strong bad guy could force the pilot to put his finger on the scanner against his will. I really don't believe there's any system that will work against both bad bad guys and bad good guys.

There is already a keypad, keypad plus fingerprint is a pretty standard security measure, I'm not saying it's perfect, it just seems obviously better than what was there.

The North American rules about a member of the flight crew replacing a pilot if the pilot leaves the flight deck also seems like a good idea.
posted by Cosine at 8:41 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are already systems to prevent unintentionally flying into the ground, but there is a pilot override so if the GPS glitches, the automated systems don't fly into the ground.
posted by fragmede at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2015


There's only so much you can do if the pilot of the plane goes rogue.

In the case of Egypt Air 990, it likely came down to a physical battle for control of the plane (although it was the copilot, not the pilot going rogue), with one guy pushing his controls, the other pulling on his.

The flight data recorder reflected that the elevators then moved into a split condition, with the left elevator up and the right elevator down, a condition which is expected to result when the two control columns are subjected to at least 50 pounds (23 kgf) of opposing force.

Then, in the midst of this struggle, the copilot killed the engines. I can't even begin to imagine what a moment of supreme horror that would have been for the pilot.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:47 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I imagine a physically strong bad guy could force the pilot to put his finger on the scanner against his will. Or just cut off the pilot's finger.
posted by barchan at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The autopilot isn't the issue (and it's unclear why the copilot would use the autopilot to direct the plane to crash itself, but I digress).

Require two people to be in the cockpit at any given moment. It's a very simple solution, and although it isn't completely foolproof, it's certainly a vast improvement.

That being said, I'm surprised that the pilot was able to barricade himself into the cockpit. I'd always assumed that the pilot would have some way of regaining access to the cockpit... I'm trying to envision some sort of "Panic Button" that could allow a member of the flight crew to force the aircraft into a mode of autonomous flight, although even that seems like it could be more likely to backfire than help.
posted by schmod at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2015


Or just cut off the pilot's finger.

Fingerprint scanners require a pulse.
posted by Cosine at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are already systems to prevent unintentionally flying into the ground, but there is a pilot override so if the GPS glitches, the automated systems don't fly into the ground.

There are also cases where you want to be able to deliberately ditch an aircraft.
posted by schmod at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You guys have been watching too many movies.
posted by schmod at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2015 [40 favorites]


I am absolutely stunned that the cabin door system was designed in such a way to make this possible, there are about a dozen systems that could have been used to ensure that one pilot could not lock the other out and at least 10 designers should have thought of them.

As others have noted, any way that a pilot has to get back into the cockpit, he or she can be coerced to use.

From the way the lockout systems are described, it sounds to me like they're designed so to give the inside pilot a few minutes to tell ground control there's a hijack attempt and, if it appears the hijackers will enter, find someplace unpopulated to crash the aircraft before it can be used as a missile. Ghoulish, but sensible given the relative badness of an aircraft crash versus an intentional impact into a populated area.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Require two people to be in the cockpit at any given moment. It's a very simple solution, and although it isn't completely foolproof, it's certainly a vast improvement.

I can't imagine that a flight attendant would have much chance of stopping a co-pilot intent on crashing the plane.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2015


Some scanners do, Cosine. Not all - some scanners can be overcome with pictures of fingerprints. Anyway, it's easy enough to override a fingerprint scanner for the real motivated; look what happened with the German defense minister last year.
posted by barchan at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2015


Fingerprint scanners are technology, not magic. I suppose airlines would go for something better than the scanners you find on consumer-grade electronics, but the latter kind are notorious for providing a false sense of unbreakable security.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine that a flight attendant would have much chance of stopping a co-pilot intent on crashing the plane.

That's why they'd probably be trying to let the other pilot back in.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Germanwings CEO: "We have to accept that the plane was crashed on purpose" (LA Times)

I must correct myself here: this was the statement of the Lufthansa CEO, Carsten Spohr.
posted by ladybird at 8:59 AM on March 26, 2015


I can't imagine that a flight attendant would have much chance of stopping a co-pilot intent on crashing the plane.

Better than zero, which is all that matters for someone who is thinking about suicide. But would they just think of some other way instead? For a truly impulsive suicide, obvious barriers do appear to reduce rates. For pre-planned mass murder, it just means a different plan. I don't know which one this was.

.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:59 AM on March 26, 2015


You have to sort of wonder what the 150 passengers were doing, and if they were at all aware of what was going to happen.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:01 AM on March 26, 2015


It's automation, not AI.

clippy: it looks like you're trying to fly into a mountain. do you need help with that?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:02 AM on March 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


it's unclear why the copilot would use the autopilot to direct the plane to crash itself, but I digress).
My first guess would be because he was holding the door shut and also was prepared to fight off the other pilot if he got through the door before the plane hit the ground. If the guy was determined to crash the plane, that'd be a logical precaution on his part.
posted by Brockles at 9:03 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even commercial grade biometric fingerprint scanners are notoriously unreliable.

This is not a problem to be solved by technology and biometrics. There is serious value in having a system that cannot be overridden from the outside - having two people inside at all times is a more reliable and safe system.... but more controls from a technology perspective - outside of well implemented redundancy - actually increases the likelihood of failure. This is a well know engineering principle.

The problem here is a "human" problem, which is unfortunately a much more complicated problem - but not one that can have technology thrown at it.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:05 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of the discussion of a solution seems like over-complicating a situation to deal with a very rare result. At the end of the day, as long as a person is in charge, he/she can overcome any system. For instance, one solution I see is to diversify the control. Like the thing about how the nuclear launch codes are known to three different people and all three have to enter their code to work. You could divide override control between pilot, copilot, and air traffic control. I suppose you could conceive a system that autopilot doesn't let you go below X feet unless 2 of the 3 override it or how you could unlocking the cabin door if 2 of the 3 agree. Stuff like that. But again, a nefarious person could override that stuff too by cutting of remote connection with ATC or the 2 on board could work together and override ATC. There's simply no way to prevent intentional tragedy in all instances.
posted by dios at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


How about a fingerprint scanner and we trust the pilots to prioritize when they use it...

If you're trusting the pilots (which you have to do), then the 1 in a million rogue pilot is going bypass that system with ease.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:11 AM on March 26, 2015


This video from the link Skorgu posted near the beginning of the thread describes how the Airbus cockpit door lock works. There is an override code to get in but there are delays built in. The code pad is blocked for five minutes after the door switch is set to lock, and after that the override code alerts the cockpit for 30 seconds before opening the door. Add in time before the pilot would decide to use the override and it's sadly too long in this case.
posted by exogenous at 9:12 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Everyone trying to imagine a technological "solution" to this very specific scenario needs to stop, take a deep breath, and start imagining potential downsides to the solutions you're proposing (the obvious one: imagine a hypothetical random situation in which one member of the crew is outside the cockpit and the other members of the crew are inside and trying to prevent that crewmember from returning. In a randomly selected instance of such a situation, how likely is it that you're going to be on the side of the person the crew are trying to keep out rather than on the side of the people on the inside?).

Secondly, you need to pull back your focus on this particular horrible event and ask yourself "how serious a threat to passenger safety is the possibility of a suicidal pilot?" Fortunately, this is not something you have to simply guess at. We've been running this experiment for decades of commercial flight. We have an excellent understanding of the magnitude of the threat posed by suicidal pilots. The answer is: so miniscule as to be all but nonexistent. In other words, any steps we take to prevent future cases of this kind will have to be pretty much guaranteed to have no possible downsides in order to be worth implementing, and to the extent that they take resources away from preventing other, far likelier causes of future passenger death, are almost certain to be a net negative rather than a net positive.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on March 26, 2015 [50 favorites]


Good news for Airbus, I guess.
posted by Flashman at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


You have to sort of wonder what the 150 passengers were doing, and if they were at all aware of what was going to happen.

The fifth paragraph of this BBC story answers your question.
posted by Thing at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2015


I know the timing of such a thing is pretty remarkable, but the "breathing normally" part strikes me as odd.

I'd note that the case of Egypt Air 990, Ahmad al-Habashi, the pilot, made it back to the cockpit within sixteen seconds of the beginning of the copilot initiating the plunge. As he reacted in horror, his copilot remained perfectly calm, according to the flight data recorder:

Habashi was clearly pulling very hard on his control yoke, trying desperately to raise the nose. Even so, thirty seconds into the dive, at 22,200 feet, the airplane hit the speed of sound, at which it was certainly not meant to fly. Many things happened in quick succession in the cockpit. Batouti reached over and shut off the fuel, killing both engines. Habashi screamed, "What is this? What is this? Did you shut the engines?" The throttles were pushed full forward—for no obvious reason, since the engines were dead. The speed-brake handle was then pulled, deploying drag devices on the wings.

At the same time, there was an unusual occurrence back at the tail: the right-side and left-side elevators, which normally move together to control the airplane's pitch, began to "split," or move in opposite directions. Specifically: the elevator on the right remained down, while the left-side elevator moved up to a healthy recovery position. That this could happen at all was the result of a design feature meant to allow either pilot to overpower a mechanical jam and control the airplane with only one elevator. The details are complex, but the essence in this case seemed to be that the right elevator was being pushed down by Batouti while the left elevator was being pulled up by the captain. The NTSB concluded that a "force fight" had broken out in the cockpit.

Words were failing Habashi. He yelled, "Get away in the engines!" And then, incredulously, "... shut the engines!"

Batouti said calmly, "It's shut."

Habashi did not have time to make sense of the happenings. He probably did not have time to get into his seat and slide it forward. He must have been standing in the cockpit, leaning over the seatback and hauling on the controls. The commotion was horrendous. He was reacting instinctively as a pilot, yelling, "Pull!" and then, "Pull with me! Pull with me! Pull with me!"

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:23 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


so miniscule as to be all but nonexistent

Well, not really, though. I mean, I know statistically, that's technically true, but we've had [perhaps] two large incidents in the last thirteen months that have killed hundreds of people. Luckily, I guess, neither of those planes went down in metropolitan areas.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:23 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It does sound like he wasn't happy with his employers. Is it too soon to say patriarchy? It's a pity he couldn't talk to someone about his problems. Tight margins mean that the squeezable parts of the budget will suffer, wages being one of them.
posted by asok at 9:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ultimately, the pilot has final authority on operation of the aircraft, above air control, above the autopilot, and that's a very good thing. We are trusting these people to make the most informed decision in possibly critical moments. Requiring clearance from an outside source wastes precious seconds. The role of a pilot is to, "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate", in that order, and nothing should get in their way of maintaining control of the aircraft.

The issue with forcing autopilot to take precedence over the pilots, or not allow what appear to be dangerous procedures, is that sometimes the autopilot is wrong. Instruments can be faulty, or freeze, or break in a fire, and it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult for the computer to discern which instruments to trust, which is why we need a human element to make that call. Many planes go down because of this, a combination of conflicting instrumentation with poor visibility like fog, as the pilots themselves can't determine what readings to follow. So pilots need the ability to disregard the autopilot, which can't weigh all considerations like a pilot can. There are situations where a plane might need to reduce altitude rapidly, and the pilots need to be allowed to do that.

Once you let the pilots into the cockpit, it's already too late, they have the ability to crash the plane, if desired. If this is truly a problem, I think the solution is not to remove the ability, but to remove the desire. And that could be done through less stressful work shifts, more counseling, and monitoring of their behavior. Though I do think having a flight attendant sub when any pilot leaves the cockpit is a good idea, and probably should (and will) be implemented. It's also helpful during emergencies when the pilot in command needs another pair of hands to do something.
posted by Skephicles at 9:34 AM on March 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Is it too soon to say patriarchy?

Yes?
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [47 favorites]


Is it too soon to say patriarchy?

Not at all, right now is the perfect time to bring it up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:37 AM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Worth remembering that the autopilot failing was the first step in the crash of Air France 440.
posted by localroger at 9:37 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, not really, though. I mean, I know statistically, that's technically true

No, statistically it is simply true. The objection "but look, it just happened!" is the cause of the illusion that makes the truth (temporarily) hard to grasp. Humans are just bad at grasping statistical truths intuitively.
posted by yoink at 9:39 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


yoink, I guess I just disagree with you. Just because something happens an infinitesimally small percentage of the time doesn't mean it isn't a significant problem. As I mentioned, neither MH370 or Germanwings went down in a crowded city. What if they had?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:43 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


via NYT: Norwegian Air Shuttle, a European discount airline, will now require that no one ever be left alone in the cockpit during its flights
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:44 AM on March 26, 2015


I wonder if neurological damage is an occupational hazard with airline pilots: BA pilot killed by organophosphate poisoning from breathing contaminated cabin air
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:47 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Two thoughts:

1. Put a toilet inside the cockpit.

2. Interesting to analyze the differences in dissemination of information between these most recent plane disasters.
posted by Emor at 9:47 AM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


What if they had?

All causes of air crashes can potentially bring the plane down in a "crowded city." All we know about pilot suicide in commercial airliners is that in a century of commercial flight that seems never to have happened.

And, sure, it might happen tomorrow. But so might all kinds of other things--some of which have actually happened before. My vote is to deal with the ones which seem statistically likely to happen rather than with "whatever one happens to be in the headlines right now."
posted by yoink at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


As I mentioned, neither MH370 or Germanwings went down in a crowded city. What if they had?

Seriously, who gives a shit? Is 150 people not 'bad' enough in some way?
posted by Brockles at 9:49 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it too soon to say patriarchy?

Well obviously patriarchy. That goes without saying. It's behind everything from global warming to me having to settle for so-so seats at Wolf Trap last summer. But lots of planes don't fly into mountains every day - despite the patriarchy. So the point is, this airplane flew into a mountain because of patriarchy (of course) plus what else?
posted by Naberius at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


Seriously, who gives a shit? Is 150 people not 'bad' enough in some way?

Wow, way to be rude. 150 dead people is completely horrible.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2015


1. Put a toilet inside the cockpit.

Will it have a door? If so, that one in a million rogue pilot can bar and the other 999,000 are annoyed by having to smell their co-pilots shits.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it too soon to say patriarchy?

It's always too soon to say something like this with no elaboration whatsoever.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:54 AM on March 26, 2015 [25 favorites]




Return to having a flight engineer as a third crew member. Trained in Krav Maga. Rotated in opposition to pilot and first officer teams. If it adds 10k to the cost of the flight, well, so do the life vests and rafts that are almost never used. A third capable crew member solves for one going bad. Gotta change cockpit configuration, so a big capital expense. But the only foolproof way to outguess a human in a complex scenario without fixed decision parameters is with another human, especially one trained to incapacitate a threat under risky conditions.

I know, costs too much. But it addresses much more than just this scenario.

Or accept the risk, since it's so low.
posted by spitbull at 9:57 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, way to be rude. 150 dead people is completely horrible.

Of course it is. So saying 'what if it happened in a city' is pointless, just as much as the people who try and rank its seriousness by highlighting the number of children on it. It's already horrible. It's a lot of people dying, and so saying 'we should do something, despite how unlikely this scenario is statistically, because NEXT time it may happen over a city' is pointless. 150 people is enough to consider this serious. 50 people is enough, but statistics mean this is (as far as we know) a very unlikely scenario to happen a lot. It's nonsensical to try and diminish those statistics by suggesting that it is more worthy of consideration if the next unlikely crash happens over a city. Or a school. Or an orphanage.
posted by Brockles at 9:58 AM on March 26, 2015


roomthreeseventeen: "As I mentioned, neither MH370 or Germanwings went down in a crowded city. What if they had?"

A few hundred more people may have died with more injured. We've already experienced within an order of magnitude what is probably the worst case I'd guess.

spitbull: "But the only foolproof way to outguess a human in a complex scenario without fixed decision parameters is with another human, especially one trained to incapacitate a threat under risky conditions.
"

You just increased the odds of having a suicidal person in the cockpit by 50% and this time they are specifically trained in hand to hand combat techniques designed to incapacitate others.
posted by Mitheral at 10:02 AM on March 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


If a pilot wants to kill a plane, there's nothing we can design to stop it. All of aviation is predicated on the idea of the Pilot in Command who is responsible for the safety of the flight. If you can't trust the PIC you are screwed. It's a risk we try to mitigate, btw, pilots are regularly screened for psychological issues. (Albeit imperfectly.) The only solution would be to remove human authority over the aircraft. If you stop and think about that a moment, you realize how insane that is. Particularly with the current state of aviation technology. I guess you could try to have two or three people in the cockpit suspiciously watching each other, ready to kill each other if necessary. Let's hope the sane one wins? And whatever weapons or training we give the ninja-pilots doesn't somehow backfire?

I'm impressed at the detailed description of the door locking protocol. Lockable from the inside, the lock can be overridden, the override can be overridden. But it all requires constant action from inside the cockpit to keep the door locked. Very nice solution to making it very difficult for a bad guy outside the cockpit to force or coerce entry while also handling the case where the pilot is incapacitated.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Or accept the risk, since it's so low.

Or mitigate the risk by having a flight attendant in the cockpit when a pilot leaves, as mentioned already and is apparently current policy in the US.
posted by mazola at 10:03 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Require flight crew balance a hyper-intelligent squirrel on their head and if they do something suspicious the squirrel bites them
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:05 AM on March 26, 2015 [36 favorites]


Then we have to worry about rogue squirrels.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:08 AM on March 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Not if the schnauzer does his job.
posted by spitbull at 10:12 AM on March 26, 2015 [30 favorites]


"As I mentioned, neither MH370 or Germanwings went down in a crowded city. What if they had?"

No need to speculate, as this has already happened multiple times.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:13 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


If we're going to keep people in charge (we shouldn't, but people are timid about change), the safest system would be one that lets someone (an unidentified air marshal with a remote device?) issue a command that pops the aircraft irrevocably into autopilot.

The air marshal presses a button and the aircraft immediately assumes a safe altitude and speed based on its internal guidance system, weather reports, local air traffic, etc., and flies to the nearest airport suited to that aircraft type while emergency beacons warn air traffic control that the plane is coming with a load of trouble. Some guy might be dismembering passengers and eating them with little bags of peanuts, but he's not going to take control of the plane itself.
posted by pracowity at 10:14 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mitherial, point taken but you've doubled his or her burden of oppisition. ; )
posted by spitbull at 10:14 AM on March 26, 2015


Require flight crew balance a hyper-intelligent squirrel on their head and if they do something suspicious the squirrel bites them

:-)

but seriously, there is no such thing as security. if you delve into the question in any arena at all you will soon understand that there is always a point at which one has to trust - someONE or someTHING. and that is ALWAYS the Achilles heel.

a perfectly secure computer, for example, is one placed in an impenetrable vault with no connections to the outside and which is never powered on. such a secure computer is, of course, useless.

a perfectly secure airplane is one which is never operated, occupied, or even assembled. useless.

a perfectly secure human being...? well...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


The problems with this complex security technology that was implemented in reaction to a specific previous incident could easily be solved, if only everybody would just implement my idea for a complex security technology that I'm sure would have prevented this specific incident.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:26 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


smell their co-pilots shits.

Aircraft have easy access to effective ventilation.
posted by No Robots at 10:26 AM on March 26, 2015


There have been instances of Pilots going postal in mid flight. There have been studies showing changes in brain structure for people who have constant exposure to high altitudes...

But then that wouldn't explain why it doesn't happen as often to frequent flyers.
posted by manderin at 10:32 AM on March 26, 2015


I heard on the news earlier that when authorities learned the co-pilot was responsible, they went to where families of the victims were gathered and removed the co-pilot's family to a different location before announcing the news. I can't imagine what his loved ones are going through. The whole thing is terribly sad and scary and I feel so awful for everyone, especially of course the passengers and crew on that plane.
posted by JenMarie at 10:35 AM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


manderin: I assume instances of air rage are fueled by the fact that the plane is only pressurized to about 8000ft. An altitude that I have trouble breathing at.

Is the cockpit better pressurized?
posted by Cosine at 10:36 AM on March 26, 2015


I would guess it's because the number of people flying as passengers at least twice a week for years upon years is really small. If someone started behaving erratically you could chalk it up to the stress of a job that makes you fly twice a week for years and years.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:37 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can't allow easy access to the cockpit because a terrorist could get in.
You can't prevent all access to the cockpit because a rogue pilot might take sole control of the plane.
You can't allow a plane to be solely controlled from the cockpit, because a lone person can do whatever they want with the plane.
You can't allow outside control of a plane because no software is 100% secure and this opens up the ability for a terrorist to take control of the plane without even being on the plane.
You can't have a perfect emergency autopilot who can fly to a safe place/the nearest airport, because what if 20 planes stacked above an airport all have that emergency autopilot activated at once? Do they all try and land simultaneously?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is the cockpit better pressurized?

No, think about it: the cockpit door would have to be hermetically sealed and the cockpit relatively depressurized every time it was opened. I've heard of pilots using their emergency oxygen to relieve hangovers, though.
posted by exogenous at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2015


I heard on the radio this morning that they thought it was an intentional act by one of the flight crew. I commented to my partner, "I wonder if the guy was white?" and then the radio report said it was not going to be investigated as an act of terrorism and my partner said "well, I guess he was white."
posted by rmd1023 at 10:43 AM on March 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


Judging from the Guardian article posted up thread the co-pilot seems like a relatively "normal" guy who was interested in flying and enjoyed doing it. His gap may be relevant, who knows. It may be irrelevant. It could even be irrelevant but misconstrued to be relevant. All we know is that he was a normal guy who liked flying, enjoyed techno music, and went to the Golden Gate Bridge once. It's a little ridiculous to think that all of a sudden he turned into a murderous schizophrenic, a disease that manifests in early adulthood and affects .3%-.7% of the population. Tell me how many people just suddenly have a psychotic break like that.

“They will also be interviewing pilots he has flown with over the last few weeks to see if there is anything about his behaviour, attitude or professional conduct that could be potentially relevant here,” Bor said.

“It’s an extremely rare thing for a pilot to crash his own plane.”


Shit happens, and as much as this is terrible sometimes you can't prevent these things. It may be a freak occurrence and we shouldn't be tripping over ourselves to prevent every hypothetical we can imagine.
posted by gucci mane at 10:46 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


gucci: It has been revealed that his training was interrupted until his "viability" could be reestablished, that is the piece I am waiting on.
posted by Cosine at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2015


I was reading an article that briefly addressed the psychological trauma to the rescue personnel there. Due to the violence of the impact, they are navigating through a site "carpeted" with debris and body parts. That part punched me in the face. My heart flies to my throat when I think of those poor people on the plane. Their realization that in a few seconds, they will be gone. It drops back down to my feet when I think of the people who love them and who have lost their people. I just have to stand here and bow down to those who literally pick up the pieces of people. That word. Carpeted. Those people will need waves of mental health support.

I learned a lifetime ago that people wear masks. That guy that everyone loves and is an asset to his community might also beat his wife (or worse, see John Wayne Gacy or Ariel Castro). The mom who gets it all done could be using meth to get all that energy. Your priest could be a child molester. Your kid is getting bullied at school but doesn't want to tell anyone. The masks we all wear to fool all the people. This seems no different to me.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


Cosine: gucci: It has been revealed that his training was interrupted until his "viability" could be reestablished, that is the piece I am waiting on.

When was this revealed? From what I've read no one has come forward with why there was a gap, and when he returned from it he passed the examinations afterward.
posted by gucci mane at 10:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


EndsOfInvention: "You can't allow easy access to the cockpit because a terrorist could get in.
You can't prevent all access to the cockpit because a rogue pilot might take sole control of the plane.
You can't allow a plane to be solely controlled from the cockpit, because a lone person can do whatever they want with the plane.
You can't allow outside control of a plane because no software is 100% secure and this opens up the ability for a terrorist to take control of the plane without even being on the plane.
You can't have a perfect emergency autopilot who can fly to a safe place/the nearest airport, because what if 20 planes stacked above an airport all have that emergency autopilot activated at once? Do they all try and land simultaneously?
"

Every 1980's comedian called, obvious solution is to build the entire plane out of blackboxes.
posted by wcfields at 10:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


AFAIK he was breathing normally, he didn't say a word, and he didn't open the door. How do they know he wasn't asleep? Ambien, for example, has been linked to several aviation accidents.

I assume they've looked at the control inputs to see that he was actively piloting the plane in some way.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:55 AM on March 26, 2015


"training had been interrupted for several months six years ago, but was resumed after "the suitability of the candidate was re-established".
posted by Cosine at 10:55 AM on March 26, 2015


Robot: He took deliberate action to lock out the pilot when the pilot left the cockpit. He also aimed for the ground, I believe both of these are covered in the article.
posted by Cosine at 10:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


AFAIK he was breathing normally, he didn't say a word, and he didn't open the door. How do they know he wasn't asleep?

He was pressing buttons.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:57 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did he deliberately lock the door, or is it just the usual practice to lock the door during flight even if only one crew member is in the cockpit?

I did RTFA and see that he triggered the descent autopilot while alone. Still doesn't totally rule out some other form of medical distress that causes confusion, though I assume the investigation will consider all these possibilities -- all of these early theories are from the French prosecutor.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2015


Did he deliberately lock the door, or is it just the usual practice to lock the door during flight even if only one crew member is in the cockpit?

I believe he used the override function for the lock, which is not normal.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"training had been interrupted for several months six years ago, but was resumed after "the suitability of the candidate was re-established".

This could mean: "training had been interrupted because the candidate was found to be unsuitable...," or it could mean "training had been interrupted because the candidate donated a kidney to his brother/took paternity leave" or [insert any other innocent reason for wanting a few months off of work]

The only thing that sentence says for sure was that he was retested to whatever standards the airline required.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:05 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


those who literally pick up the pieces of people. Those people will need waves of mental health support.

I knew a guy who used to spend all day in a protective suit with a team of guys digging up year-old mass graves for the UN. He said the amount of booze they sank every night was unbelievable.
posted by colie at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did he deliberately lock the door

You will learn more if you read the fine articles that are being published and linked in this thread.
posted by Nelson at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


We need to bring back flight engineers as part of the flight crew. Pilot, co-pilot, engineer.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 11:09 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]




Suicide is generally not a rational action

So let me start this off by saying that I've seen my therapist and I'm back on track but just this past Monday, driving home and depressed, something happened that had not previously happened. Specifically, I became suicidal. I had not been thinking of suicide up to that moment but suddenly there was a tree and a large stone wall about 100 yards in front of me and I started accelerating towards them. This was not planned at all, I just suddenly felt like this read the only thing that made sense to do.

I stopped only because a guy came around the corner jogging with his dog and my brain went "dog" and it was like the episode passed. I was immediately seized with terror about what had just happened. I pulled over, called my therapist and, like I said, I'm cool to be out and about again

I'm in no way qualified to say that this is what happened to the co-pilot. I also can't say if I would have snapped out of it if the guy hadn't had his dog with him. I would have felt much worse about hurting the person than the dog but in the moment saving the dog brought me out it.

My point being yeah, suicide can be totally irrational. There would have been no note and no explanation because Monday wasn't even a bad day for me. There could be a dozen reasons the co-pilot did this but straight up suicide - maybe even compulsive suicide - is one possibility.

Jeez. Hyperventilating now thinking about the passengers. Man fuck this depression.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:23 AM on March 26, 2015 [71 favorites]


For some perspective: your odds of dying in any plane crash are about one in ten million. You're literally more likely to be struck by lightning, by an order of magnitude. Factor in the tiny percentage of those crashes that were intentional and the problem really is infinitesimal.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:24 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm glad you stuck around and got help, Joey!
posted by gilrain at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2015 [39 favorites]


Why do cockpit data recorders or whatever they're called not include video?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


your odds of dying in any plane crash are about one in ten million.

Does this include the possibility that you don't fly anywhere but still get killed by a plane falling on your head? What do those odds look like?

I'm kind of serious because I've been too scared to fly anywhere for over ten years and it means I can't go on family holidays etc. (although I also think we need to chill out on the flying anyway for obvious planet reasons).
posted by colie at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2015


There's no pressure to pretend to be mentally sound in my community and getting help is supported and encouraged... except by my father who was a commercial air pilot his whole career. He would have advised me not to get help because he believed having that on your record could impact your employment.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:31 AM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


2014/15 have, however, been unusual in accidents that don't have easily explainable physical defects or weather related issues.

This is a direct result of flying becoming so safe. When you make planes which to a first approximation do not suffer catastrophic mechanical failures all that's left are the weird crashes. So its not that we have more unusual crashes than we used to (we have less), it's that we've eliminated the vast majority of non-unusual crashes.

In fragile systems, the fix for the last problem often contributes to the next problem.

Exactly!

Look at it this way; those reinforced cockpit doors we put in after 9/11 which seemed like a no-brainer? They've now killed hundreds of people and saved none.
posted by Justinian at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


[A few comments deleted; casting this as men vs women is a great way to start a fight that will lead far afield from the actual topic.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Did he deliberately lock the door

You will learn more if you read the fine articles that are being published and linked in this thread.


Or any of the many comments pointing this out. I mean, seriously.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Why do cockpit data recorders or whatever they're called not include video?


It's discussed regularly but the main objections have come from pilot representatives who feel it is too great a violation of the flight crew's privacy, and that the camera footage could be too easily used for purposes other than safety, i.e. disciplinary actions.
posted by cardboard at 11:37 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only time I have an expectation of privacy at work is when I'm in the washroom. I've worked in more than one place that had security cameras. Pissed me off, yes, and yet I wasn't responsible for flying a large fibreglass and metal tube carrying hundreds of people through the air. If I were, I'd probably be less annoyed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:40 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Pilots don't want video because they're sleeping all the time. Really. They're only supposed to sleep one at a time but it's not exactly a secret that both doze off at the same time sometimes.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Commercial Pilot unions have done an outstanding job of assuring protection and confidentiality for pilots who voluntarily seek help for psychiatric and substance abuse issues. I would imagine similar unions in Germany would have done the same. As has been said before, in this situation there seems to be well documented data (at this time) regarding what happened--the whys and motivations are purely speculative and will remain that way for a while, or perhaps indefinitely. we all know that an army of professionals will be asking the same questions.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:42 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it wasn't such a tragic event, the number of monday morning quarterb... engineers in this thread would be rather funny. But as it stands, a collective

.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:43 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why do cockpit data recorders or whatever they're called not include video?

Vastly more storage, and wouldn't tell you much more. I'm guessing we'll have automated planes first.

Does this include the possibility that you don't fly anywhere but still get killed by a plane falling on your head?

I believe those stats are for passengers, so like the lottery you have to pay to play. Despite one outlying day a decade ago, the odds of people on the ground being impacted by a crash are smaller still.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:44 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


They've now killed hundreds of people and saved none.

It's not known how many people they've saved because their positive effect would be to dissuade terrorists in the planning stage of a 9/11-like airliners-as-guided-missiles attack.
posted by The Tensor at 11:45 AM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I wonder if the pilot was on any medications that have a chance of causing a psychotic break? Because that stuff happens sometimes. Probably more than we realize.
posted by I-baLL at 11:48 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pilots don't want video because they're sleeping all the time. Really. They're only supposed to sleep one at a time but it's not exactly a secret that both doze off at the same time sometimes.

So... pilots don't want video because it'll catch them flouting safety regulations? To me, that is an ironclad argument in favour of cockpit video, no matter how much they whine about it. With great power comes etc.

Vastly more storage, and wouldn't tell you much more.

Not that much more storage, no. 12 hours of HD video is a few gigabytes, which fits on a chip the size of your thumbnail. And if nothing else, video of the cockpit in the relevant few minutes would put to rest all of the nonsense about "maybe he was incapacitated while he was actively preventing people from entering the cockpit."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:48 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


. for all the victims.
posted by Poldo at 11:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not known how many people they've saved because their positive effect would be to dissuade terrorists in the planning stage of a 9/11-like airliners-as-guided-missiles attack.

That's true, but the actual thing which stops those sorts of attacks is that the passengers now instantly beat any potential hijackers into submission before they can say "Parcheesi". The airliners-as-missiles tactic became impossible within minutes of the first plane hitting the towers. Look at Flight 93.
posted by Justinian at 11:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not that much more storage, no. 12 hours of HD video is a few gigabytes, which fits on a chip the size of your thumbnail.

Multiplied by 100,000 flights each day, every day.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:53 AM on March 26, 2015


The only time I have an expectation of privacy at work is when I'm in the washroom. I've worked in more than one place that had security cameras. Pissed me off, yes, and yet I wasn't responsible for flying a large fibreglass and metal tube carrying hundreds of people through the air. If I were, I'd probably be less annoyed.

It's not clear to me that having video in this case would make any significant difference. We know what the co-pilot did, all that's left is guessing at the "why." Deliberate suicide/murder or psychotic episode or freak medical condition or what have you. I doubt video would help us perform a "diagnosis." And, in the end, what difference does it really make? Whatever the cause it's still, essentially, the kind of "black swan" event that's just not worth designing specific countermeasures for.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not known how many people they've saved because their positive effect would be to dissuade terrorists in the planning stage of a 9/11-like airliners-as-guided-missiles attack.

That threat ended in a field in Pennsylvania. The fact that we're still shitting the bed over it is a disgrace.

12 hours of HD video is a few gigabytes

That's not HD, no matter what YIFY says.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:56 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Multiplied by 100,000 flights each day, every day.

Is flight recorder data commonly kept permanently?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:58 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Am I missing something - it's not a storage problem, they just record over the data when the plane gets there safe?

Every crappy little nightclub in the western world has had CCTV recording its doorway each night for 20 years and the tapes just roll over until there's a violent incident.
posted by colie at 11:59 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Multiplied by 100,000 flights each day, every day.

Well, no. You'd only need storage for the last hour at most, consistent with the data recorder time scale (30 minutes or so maybe?). But yes, it'd have to be multiple views, maybe, per aircraft. 2-3 cameras x 1 hour is still less than a thumb drive of storage.

it's not a storage problem, they just record over the data when the plane gets there safe?

Exactly. It doesn't even need the whole flight, it just needs to record over itself every hour maybe. Big deal. The sleeping pilots just need to make sure they are both awake for the last hour of each flight which, frankly, seems like a good thing to me. They can both sleep as much as they like in the rest of the flight, because they'd only get caught if the plane crashed, which would make the sleeping kind of irrelevant, surely.
posted by Brockles at 12:02 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's already a network of microphones recording sounds in the cockpit and a data recorder measuring 88+ parameters of the aircraft performance, including flight control force inputs. At this point there is no evidence that there is a problem that video recording would provide a solution to.
posted by cardboard at 12:02 PM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


If the pilots don't want to be constantly recorded, perhaps have the cameras set up such that they only turn on in instances that imply danger (say rapid descent or ascension).
posted by drezdn at 12:03 PM on March 26, 2015


James Fallows at The Atlantic: Could the Germanwings Crash Have Been Avoided? Probably not. Here's why.
posted by maudlin at 12:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


At this point there is no evidence that there is a problem that video recording would provide a solution to.

Interpreting sound-only is far more ambiguous than interpreting sound + video.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Links to relevant Airliners.net threads.

Sidenote: the Malaysian Air thread continues to Part 69 at last count…
posted by mazola at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2015


OK, even in this outlying case what would a camera tell you that's useful? That he locked the door? We know that. That he was calm up until impact? We know that too. Seems like the purpose would be a more complicated system for no other reason than voyeurism.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot update, including an overview of psychological pressure on pilots and the screening protocol.
People will be asking: how many pilots out there are ready to crack? Is the mental health of pilots being evaluated properly by airlines and government regulators?

In the U.S., airline pilots undergo medical evaluations either yearly or twice-yearly. A medical certificate must be issued by an FAA-certified physician. The checkup is not a psychological checkup per se, but the FAA doctor evaluates a pilot on numerous criteria, up to and including his or her mental health. Pilots can be grounded for any of hundreds of reasons, from heart trouble or diabetes to, yes, depression and anxiety. It can and does happen. In addition, new-hire pilots at some airlines must undergo psychological examinations prior to being hired. On top of that, we are subject to random testing for narcotics and alcohol.

I’m uncertain what more we should want or expect. Pilots are human beings, and no profession is bulletproof against every human weakness. All the medical testing in the world, meanwhile, isn’t going to preclude every potential breakdown or malicious act. For passengers, at certain point there needs to be the presumption that the men and women in control of your airplane are exactly the highly skilled professionals you expect them to be, and not killers in waiting.
posted by maudlin at 12:12 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interpreting sound-only is far more ambiguous than interpreting sound + video.

True, but interpreting sound with hundreds of streams of data is much, much easier than just sound. Also, it's not very often the crash investigators that cry out for video, which is telling. If THEY wanted video in the planes and considered it essential you'd damn well see it installed.

The crash has been diagnosed within hours. The detail that video would give (mental state of deliberate-acting pilot) is not relevant information from the crash investigation perspective. They know why the plane crashed.
posted by Brockles at 12:13 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


As I said, it would at the very least silence the people who are going on about the copilot being incapacitated.

In any case, I simply see no valid reason whatsoever for video to not be part of the data the cockpit records. Storage? Nope, already dealt with. Privacy? Nope, you're at work. Disciplinary uses? Again, you're at work. If being on camera is going to expose how you're ignoring safety regulations, you should be fired. Cost? Minimal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:20 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


As I said, it would at the very least silence the people who are going on about the copilot being incapacitated.

Nothing's going to stop people not reading all the sources.
posted by kmz at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


But we don't need video to know the people going on about the copilot being incapacitated are wrong. It seems very likely based on what we already know only a day later that they are wrong, and it should be known whether they are wrong to a certainty fairly soon.
posted by Justinian at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2015


Being filmed while doing your job is indeed standard for perhaps most people, but it's still a marker of low status even if what you do affects the lives of others (nobody is filming bankers or even surgeons without their say so).

Being an airline pilot used to be a very high status, high pay job, but the erosion of this might also be some kind of a factor in some of these recent accidents.
posted by colie at 12:24 PM on March 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Privacy? Nope, you're at work. Disciplinary uses? Again, you're at work. If being on camera is going to expose how you're ignoring safety regulations, you should be fired. Cost? Minimal.

I sort of agree, but I'd hate to spend my entire working life being filmed. If there was a strong consensus from crash investigators and safety experts that filming was necessary, then sure, no problem, but otherwise I think we have become very casual about surveillance in the workplace without a lot of examination of the real costs and benefits.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:24 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


As I said, it would at the very least silence the people who are going on about the copilot being incapacitated.

None of them are people involved in the investigation, and frankly I don't care what they go on about. I certainly don't want to see us devoting resources to appease them.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:26 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]




Cost? Minimal.

You may be underestimating the cost of avionics-grade hardware, software, testing, manufacturing, and installation; particularly for flight data recorders which necessarily have to be bulletproof.

(By comparison, here's airlines screaming about the cost of cockpit door retrofits in 2002.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:31 PM on March 26, 2015


NYT: The autopilot on Flight 9525 was manually reset to take the aircraft down to 96 feet, according to FlightRadar24, a web site that tracks aviation data. The website surmised that 96 feet was the lowest altitude setting the system would accept.

The change was made just before the plane began a steep descent that lasted more than 8 minutes. The aircraft struck a mountainside at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.

“Between 09:30:52 and 09:30:55, we can see that the autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 feet,” FlightRadar24 posted in a forum on its site, adding that nine seconds later, “the aircraft started to descend, probably with the ‘open descent’ autopilot setting.”

(The times mentioned are in Zulu or UTC time, which right now is one hour behind local time in France and four hours ahead of Eastern time.)

FlightRadar24 posted the raw transponder data it examined to reach that conclusion, and said it turned the data over to investigators on Tuesday.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:35 PM on March 26, 2015


fffm, can you describe a scenario where video would make a difference?
posted by desjardins at 12:36 PM on March 26, 2015


As I said, it would at the very least silence the people who are going on about the copilot being incapacitated.

None of those people matter. Nobody who actually has the information thinks the copilot was incapacitated. No-one in crash investigation or in the inquiry so far has suggested they need video. Just people guessing who don't have the information at hand and (mostly) aren't even reading the stuff we DO have available.

You may be underestimating the cost of avionics-grade hardware, software, testing, manufacturing, and installation; particularly for flight data recorders which necessarily have to be bulletproof.

No kidding. By several orders of magnitude. NOTHING in a plane has minimal cost, and particularly if it is mandated for crash investigation. Flight recorders are currently something like $60,000. A comparable data recorder for a race car is 1/10th of that cost and in another harsh environment. It's not like you can throw a GoPro in the corner.

Consider these requirements for the memory:

What is a Crash-Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU)?

It is fair to say that the one aspect of an FDR that distinguishes it from any other technological product ever made is its ability to survive an accident and still allow recovery of the stored data. This is accomplished by the Crash-Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU), which is collectively the solid-state memory chips and a hardened metal container filled with specially designed heat insulating material. It is this container that provides the survivability, for it is able to withstand massive crushing loads, intense heat, and exceptionally high G-forces, all of which is proven by crash survivability testing.

Elements of crash survivability include:

Resistance to impact and G-forces: The CSMU must not only withstand an impact at very high speed, but sudden deceleration which produces extreme G-forces.
Resistance to crushing loads: The CSMU must be able to withstand the weight of tons of debris under which it may be resting following an accident.
Resistance to intense heat and "heat soaking": The CSMU must not only be able to withstand the intense heat of a raging fire, but the often more damaging effects of "heat soaking," which means a lower level of heat to which the unit is subjected to for hours, such as residual fire that may burn for an extended period following an accident.
Resistance to submersion at great depths: The CSMU must be able to withstand the tremendous pressure of being submerged thousands of feet below the ocean's surface.
posted by Brockles at 12:37 PM on March 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Has anyone from NTSB or any agency responsible for aircraft crash investigation asked for video? It strikes me as something that's not really needed except to quench a thirst for some morbid media voyeurism.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:38 PM on March 26, 2015


I imagine video would be useful in training, in analysis of problematic situations, and gain a better sense of how something went wrong. Say there's a mechanical error, and video shows that the error happened because the pilot reached for something and inadvertently hit a button. That video would show that thing happening, and lead to design improvements.

Still, though, I see no valid reason against it. In any case, I for one am sick of this derail.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2015


Metafilter: Still, though, I see no valid reason against it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Still, though, I see no valid reason against it.

Cost, which is significant, and the massively complex requirements of adding a whole new system to a very expensive part of the aircraft. This also would need to be developed and tested and proven, as well as tested to ensure no interference with the existing aircraft systems (including current draw through all possible scenarios) and wiring the systems to cope with the extra demand. It would need redundancy and crash survivability specs and these would need to be tested and proven to FAA/CAA etc specs (which are stringent and long-winded).

I worked with the people designing the carbon fibre first class seats for Virgin Airlines nearly 20 years ago (the ones touted as the first full reclining seats). They had to do massive testing just on the electrical draw of the seat motors and spent weeks tweaking the design, the motors and the gear set to make sure that the seat draw fell within extremely strict parameters. They had to prove that the seat would do this (and still remain within those draw parameters) for a massive amount of range of possibilities (passenger weight, size, temperature of cabin etc). Putting something in a commercial airliner is *not* in any way a minor engineering challenge. And that was a seat ffs. An electronic component in the cockpit (already very crowded) would be a major piece of engineering.

In any case, I for one am sick of this derail.

Don't start a derail if you don't want to have it discussed, I guess. You can't just throw something out there and wash your hands of the rebuttals if you don't like them.
posted by Brockles at 12:49 PM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


[Maybe let's call the video thing well-addressed at this point, so we don't just go in circles on it?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:51 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has anyone from NTSB or any agency responsible for aircraft crash investigation asked for video?

I'd note that its quite striking what can be understood about the final moments of a flight from the existing methods of capturing data and reconstructing wreckage. Read, for example, the NTSB report on Egypt Air 990 (pdf).

Even more striking in the sense that 990 and Germanwings A320 are very much alike. Had the copilot been able to lock out the pilot, maybe even more similar.

Reading these things, though, this is the phrase that gets me every time:

END OF RECORDING
END OF TRANSCRIPT

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:51 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


At one time, many (most?) commercial pilots were originally trained in the military (at least in the US). Not that being in the military is a guarantee someone is free of mental health issues, of course. Is that still the case?
posted by tommasz at 12:53 PM on March 26, 2015


A journalist on Twitter just asked about Meerkat/Periscope streams for a fire in NYC, and there were several working replies. If there's onboard unrestricted wifi, soon we might have footage of flight accidents from inside the plane before a crash. *shudder*
posted by shortfuse at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Somewhat relevant: until 2010, in the US having ever taken anti-depressants in your life pretty much immediately disqualified you from being allowed to fly planes. The FAA changed the policy and offered an amnesty to all the pilots who'd previously been lying about their prescription drug histories. The intent was to encourage more honesty and also encourage pilots who needed treatment to seek it out. There's still significant risk and penalty to a working pilot for disclosing treatment for depression, including a mandatory 12 months grounding "for evaluation". I have no idea what the company rules for pilots in this situation are but given the generally shitty compensation pilots receive, I imagine it's not good.
posted by Nelson at 1:03 PM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


tommasz, I don't think that's necessarily the case anymore outside of the USA, at least. This answer by an Air Canada pilot says as much.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 1:03 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


'scuse me while I go watch some Maru videos
posted by desjardins at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Even commercial grade biometric fingerprint scanners are notoriously unreliable.

damn, i can't read anymore of this overly technical solution stuff about the pilot being locked out of the cabin by the co-pilot and what to do ...

you put a little portable camper pottie in the cockpit so the pilot doesn't have to leave to go pottie

there should be room for one somewhere on the cockpit floor
posted by pyramid termite at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


solution 2, if that's unfeasible -

depends
posted by pyramid termite at 2:01 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


You don't need a technological solution at all. You simply do what US based (and many other) airlines already do and require two people in the cockpit at all times.
posted by Justinian at 2:03 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Depends on what?
posted by frimble at 2:04 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the pilots.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:15 PM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Depends puts you back in the pilot's seat. Feel like your old self with control over bladder leakage.
posted by floam at 2:17 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"i'm john glenn and i can fly and piss at the same time"
posted by pyramid termite at 2:18 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


but, seriously, justinian, two people in the cockpit at all times needs to be enacted in europe NOW
posted by pyramid termite at 2:20 PM on March 26, 2015


We know really so little about mental illness, but it's possible to think that this was a compulsive but not a malicious act (given the most recent descriptions of the copilot). There was an article in the New Yorker some years ago about people who compulsively destroy parts of their own body, like maybe gnaw a finger off - that's an example (I'd guess, being utterly unqualified here) of the autonomic nervous taking control. When you look at the aerial photos of the crash site, it may have been a stunning enough visual to have triggered some primeval desire to merge with it, completely oblivious to the other humans, or political considerations.
posted by mmiddle at 2:22 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's a serious reach. Occam's Razor would suggest that if you crash a plane with 150 people on it you did so because you wanted to kill 150 people.
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: I'd guess, being utterly unqualified here
posted by gilrain at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


Its weird to me that if it was suicide/suicide-murder he, from what I have seen, did it via autopilot. Perhaps it does make sense as he also had to keep the other pilot out, but it seems odd to just turn the auto-pilot to hit the ground and then just sit there for several minutes. I would think you would at least want to take the controls manually if that was really your intent...
posted by rosswald at 2:37 PM on March 26, 2015


Not necessarily, Justinian. Suicidal ideation--any self harm--can become almost a compulsion; I must do this, and I must do it now. There is no better time for me to do this. If he was indeed suicidal, I wouldn't be surprised--not that we can ever know of course--if his only motivation was "I must die now."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:38 PM on March 26, 2015


" Occam's Razor would suggest that if you crash a plane with 150 people on it you did so because you wanted to kill 150 people."

No. Occam's Razor says:

When you have many hypotheses then the one you test out first is the one with the least assumptions.

It is not a tool for "suggesting" or deciding things. It's a tool for deciding what to test first. The amount of times I see it being used to prove something is... a lot.
posted by I-baLL at 2:42 PM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


But in order for that to be the case you have to posit that this compulsion hit, of all possible times, at exactly the five minutes that the other pilot happened to leave the cockpit. Not at home alone. Not on the way to the airport. Not on takeoff. And not 30 seconds before the pilot left or 30 seconds after he came back. The only reasonable inference is that he planned to do it and deliberately waited for the pilot to leave the cockpit.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I-baLL: That's pretty pedantic and, as I'm sure you know, not actually how it tends to be used in casual conversation. Additionally, the reason you test the hypothesis with the least assumptions first is that it is most often the truest one.
posted by Justinian at 2:47 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Perhaps. What I'm suggesting is maybe--if he was suicidal--his motivation may well have just been "I must kill myself in the most surefire way I know," and the other 150 people on board didn't even enter into his calculations. Or maybe he'd been contemplating suicide, and the moment the pilot left a lightbulb went off and he thought "now's my chance." The next-to-last time I came close to suicide I had been depressed for a (very) long time and thought about it endlessly, and then found myself crossing a bridge. "Now's my chance" is exactly what I thought.

Or maybe he wanted to kill 150 people. We'll never know. Point being, it could just as reasonably be either explanation; when you're focused on suicide you're often not caring much about how it's going to affect people in an immediate (cleanup, collateral damage, etc) sense. You're too wrapped up in your own pain. Obviously some people are different--they try to stage their suicides to seem accidental, they set their affairs in order, and so forth. Not everyone does, particularly if it's a more impulsive and not very planned act. Which this could easuly have been.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:51 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


a complicated history: "From what I understand, protocol states that when one of the pilots exits the cockpit, a flight attendant must replace him/her to ensure that there are always at least two people present.

That's protocol in the U.S. and many other countries, but that's not part of the protocol for European carriers.
"

IN CASE THE RAPTURE HAPPENS GUISE!

Seriously though... This shit is terrifying, to think your co-pilot, who, as far as I can tell, didn't seem to show any issues to anyone and clearly didn't seem enough of a worry to leave him in control, can do that. I mean, it's still probably safer than going to a movie (or school, or mall, or post office, etc...) in the United States, but there's at least a feeling that you could escape. But in this situation, what can you do? Especially since everything is all reinforced now. I don't get it. Clearly there has to be a better way to deal with this. It's like pushdown/popup situation: we "solve" a problem, and then some other thing happens and now we have to "solve" that, while also making sure the previous solution doesn't come undone, and then...???
posted by symbioid at 2:51 PM on March 26, 2015


fffm: Maybe you're right, but given he killed so many people I'm not going to worry too much about giving him the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Justinian at 2:55 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was going to suggest something similar to precowcity. A function in the autopilot that overrides the cockpit controls completely, flying the plane to the nearest airport and landing. This would only be activated by a code, either sent remotely from air traffic control, or a member of the cabin crew.

This would be useful against suicidal pilots, decompressions in the cockpit, and September 11 style attacks.

As the technology improves, at some point it's going to be safer to trust the autopilot than the human pilot. I'm not sure if we're there yet. But hopefully when we do reach that point we can recognise it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:05 PM on March 26, 2015




I am not a commercial pilot, but I do hold a pilot certificate and an FAA medical. It's worth noting that there is a severe stigma attached to mental health in the aviation industry.

Many pilots do not seek treatment because very often treatment is a grounding cause. For someone who depends on that medical certification as their livelihood, treatment is a non-starter.

The FAA has, very recently, begun allowing Special Issuance on med certs for certain medications (several SSRIs, as far as I know - I haven't looked into it specifically.) I imagine this kind of situation was considered when they were relaxing those regs.

Also - FWIW - I've been told by an AME (aviation medical examiner) that certain meds have different physiological effects at altitude and that's one of the reasons the FAA is so drug-averse.
posted by Thistledown at 3:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Looks like Canada mandated a two-in-the cockpit rule today.

Not to sound like a broken record, but in the example of Egypt 990, if there had been someone else in the cockpit, they could have intervened at an earlier stage, and at minimum, fought for control of the plane before it was already in a dive so steep it was testing the limits of the airframe. We can only speculate if the outcome would have changed, but it would have been a fighting chance, all other things being equal.

And this is irrespective of whether this was planned in advance out of malice, or a spur-of-the moment compulsion brought on by suicidal ideation.

As it was, Captain al-Hibashi was left with rushing back to the cockpit and having to make sense out of three simultaneous emergencies: his copilot had lost his shit (but was outwardly calm), had put the plane into a suicidal dive, and then killed the engines. And there was no indication of this when he got up to go to the loo...

Captain Habashi was more religious, and was known to pray sometimes in the cockpit. He and Batouti were old friends. Using Batouti's nickname, he said, in Arabic, "How are you, Jimmy?" They groused to each other about the chief pilot and about a clique of young and arrogant "kids," junior EgyptAir pilots who were likewise catching a ride back to the Cairo base. One of those pilots came into the cockpit dressed in street clothes. Habashi said, "What's with you? Why did you get all dressed in red like that?" Presumably the man then left. Batouti had a meal. A female flight attendant came in and offered more. Batouti said pleasantly, "No, thank you, it was marvelous." She took his tray.

At 1:47 A.M. the last calls came in from air-traffic control, from Ann Brennan, far off in the night at her display. Captain Habashi handled the calls. He said, "New York, EgyptAir Nine-nine-zero heavy, good morning," and she answered with her final "EgyptAir Nine-ninety, roger."

At 1:48 Batouti found the junior co-pilot's pen and handed it across to Habashi. He said, "Look, here's the new first officer's pen. Give it to him, please. God spare you." He added, "To make sure it doesn't get lost."

Habashi said, "Excuse me, Jimmy, while I take a quick trip to the toilet." He ran his electric seat back with a whir. There was the sound of the cockpit door moving.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there's a deep metaphorical lesson to be considered in this sad event, in that you thought your efforts (security theatre?) would protect you from the Enemy when you eventually learn that your methods would alas not save you from yourself.
posted by polymodus at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2015


Also EasyJet and Air Canada
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2015


I wonder if neurological damage is an occupational hazard with airline pilots: BA pilot killed by organophosphate poisoning from breathing contaminated cabin air
posted by a lungful of dragon

There's some very interesting and possibly apposite stuff behind a lungful of dragon's July 28, 2014 link:
A British Airways pilot who died at 43 after complaining he was being poisoned by toxic fumes may have been right, according to new research.

Richard Westgate, from Edinburgh, suffered years of ill health including severe headaches, mental confusion, sight problems and insomnia before he died in December 2012 at the age of 43.

Just before he died, he instructed lawyers to sue BA for health and safety breaches, convinced his problems were related to his being exposed to toxic chemicals on board the planes he flew.

Now, new scientific research has provided compelling evidence that exposure to cockpit air contaminated with hazardous organophosphates caused his death.

Lawyer Frank Cannon, who was instructed by Mr Westgate before his death, said: 'We believe that constant exposure to fuel leaks in planes contributed to Richard's death.

'This scientific research proves that Richard suffered from chemicals called organophosphates which cause chronic brain and other problems.

'This happens because of constant exposure working aboard aircraft.'

The new findings - the results of a wide-ranging study which took in evidence given by Mr Westgate - have just been published in the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry.

They show that scientists found organophosphates did affect Mr Westgate's health.


Mr Westgate, a world record-breaking paraglider, died within days of the death of fellow BA pilot Karen Lysakowska, 43, who also claimed she had been poisoned by contaminated air.

Mr Westgate, who was not married and had no children, died in Amsterdam, having stopped there for treatment on his way to Swiss suicide clinic, Dignitas.

Records from the Civil Aviation Authority reveal that pilots and crew have to put on oxygen masks at least five times a week to combat suspected 'fume events'.

Mr Cannon's Glasgow-based firm, Cannons Law, is acting for 25 people who believe they are suffering ill-effects from hazardous fumes on planes.

Another BA pilot, Karen Lysakowska, 43, also died in December 2012, and claimed she too had been poisoned

Pilot John Hoyte, head of support group the Aerotoxic Association, is among those who believe the fumes are endangering the health and safety of crews and passengers, and is campaigning for toxic air detectors on board all flights.

He said: 'Countless air crew and passengers are suffering, but this scientific report finally gives us the recognition that exposure to toxins from oil fumes can cause serious illness.'

Last year, a pilot flying from Heathrow to Philadelphia was forced to make an emergency landing at a remote military base in Canada after toxic fumes seeped into the cockpit.

And last month, three cabin crew went off sick after complaining about fumes on a flight from Heathrow to Newcastle.The problem was found to be caused by oil dripping into a motor at the rear of the plane.'

A BA spokesman said: 'It would be inappropriate to comment or speculate on the cause of death of an individual.

'The safety and security of our customers and crew are of paramount importance to British Airways and will never be compromised.'

Warm air is pumped into jets from the engines to provide a comfortable environment. But chemicals in engine oil can also enter cabins, despite safety devices meant to stop fumes, causing a condition called aerotoxic syndrome.
The last of the comments included on the page, by someone who calls themself toxicair8, dares to name the chemical they think is responsible, and specifies a route of exposure:
It is not fuel fumes (altough they are carcnogenic if inhaled) it is the oil mix in the engines with a component called Tri-Crysl-Phosphate ( a lubricant ) which has been identified as a nerve agent that attacks the body and the nervous system The chemical enters the cabin air via the 'Bleed air' intakes on the engines. When present in the cabin there is a sweet nauseous smell akin to a wet dog or sweaty socks, as well as a fine mist coming from the air vents.
This poisonous industrial lubricant has a tragic history dating back at least to the 1930s, when it was responsible for one of the largest poisoning incidents in US history, the Ginger Jake affair:
Jamaica Ginger extract, known in the United States by the slang name "Jake," was a late 19th century patent medicine that provided a convenient way to bypass Prohibition laws, since it contained between 70-80% ethanol by weight.
...
"Jake" was not itself dangerous, but the U.S. Treasury Department, which administered the Prohibition laws, recognized its potential as an illicit alcohol source, and because of this, it required changes in the solids content of Jake to discourage drinking. The minimum requirement of ginger solids per cubic centimeter of alcohol resulted in a fluid that was extremely bitter and difficult to drink. Occasionally, Department of Agriculture inspectors would test shipments of Jake by boiling the solution and weighing the remaining solid residue. In an effort to trick regulators, bootleggers replaced the ginger solids with a small amount of ginger and either castor oil or molasses.

A pair of amateur chemists and bootleggers, Harry Gross and Max Reisman, worked to develop an alternative adulterant that would pass the tests, but still be somewhat palatable. They sought advice from a professor at MIT who did not realize it was meant for internal consumption. They settled on a plasticizer, tri-o-tolyl phosphate (also known as tri-ortho cresyl phosphate, TOCP, or Tricresyl phosphate), that was able to pass the Treasury Department's tests but preserved Jake's drinkability. TOCP was originally thought to be non-toxic; however, it was later determined to be a neurotoxin that causes axonal damage to the nerve cells in the nervous system of human beings, especially those located in the spinal cord. The resulting type of paralysis is now referred to as organophosphate-induced delayed neuropathy, or OPIDN.

In 1930, large numbers of Jake users began to lose the use of their hands and feet. Some victims could walk, but they had no control over the muscles which would normally have enabled them to point their toes upward. Therefore, they would raise their feet high with the toes flopping downward, which would touch the pavement first followed by their heels. The toe first, heel second pattern made a distinctive “tap-click, tap-click" sound as they walked. This very peculiar gait became known as the jake walk and those afflicted were said to have jake leg, jake foot, or jake paralysis. Additionally, the calves of the legs would soften and hang down and the muscles between the thumbs and fingers would atrophy.

Within a few months, the TOCP-adulterated Jake was identified as the cause of the paralysis, and the contaminated Jake was recovered. But by that time, it was too late for many victims. Some users did recover full, or partial, use of their limbs. But for most, the loss was permanent. The total number of victims was never accurately determined, but is frequently quoted as between 30,000 and 50,000. ...
Note that Richard Westgate, the pilot who claimed he was poisoned by British Airways, apparently died on his way "to Swiss suicide clinic, Dignitas."

Westgate and the Germanwings pilot were both paragliders; the Germanwings pilot got into piloting from paragliding, not via the military, and if he shared that with Westgate as well, that would mean that neither one of them went through a process that would presumably select out pilots with greater than average sensitivity to tri-ortho cresyl phosphate.
posted by jamjam at 3:08 PM on March 26, 2015 [21 favorites]



I was going to suggest something similar to precowcity. A function in the autopilot that overrides the cockpit controls completely, flying the plane to the nearest airport and landing. This would only be activated by a code, either sent remotely from air traffic control, or a member of the cabin crew.

This would be useful against suicidal pilots, decompressions in the cockpit, and September 11 style attacks.

As the technology improves, at some point it's going to be safer to trust the autopilot than the human pilot. I'm not sure if we're there yet. But hopefully when we do reach that point we can recognise it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:05 PM on March 26 [+] [!]


What you think of as "autolanding" systems are exceedingly rare, and require a lot of special training for crews to monitor those systems and operate them properly. Also, some of those systems require specific equipment installed on the ground to give the aircraft proper accuracy.

Automation can already fly the plane better in high-altitude environments better than humans. Look up a phenomenon known as "coffin corner" to get an idea.

What it cannot do is think.

I know we all want a magic tech-based solution to things like this, but a well-trained aviator is still the best, most reliable piece of safety equipment you can have on an airplane.
posted by Thistledown at 3:10 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well the EgyptAir flight had two in the cockpit and it didn't do them a lot of good.

I think the use of the autopilot is interesting. There is a mindset that could frame that as "not suicide," since he didn't fly the plane into the ground himself he just told the autopilot to go low and hey, if the stupid plane hits a mountain, it's not on me. Which is of course not reasonable but a lot of people aren't reasonable.

So he told the plane to do something stupid and then sat calmly, making sure nobody else could interfere, and watched hte plane do the stupid thing until his last thought was something like ha, stupid plane, I knew it.

I tend to think the other 149 people simply didn't enter into consideration. He may not have even thought of himself as being real at that point, much less anybody else.
posted by localroger at 3:13 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


It might well be we never know what happened. He could have been planning this forever and picked this moment. It could have been a crime of opportunity.

Or there could still have been a medical component - there are medical conditions like strokes or epilepsy which can come on with no warning and dramatically change your personality. Petit mal epilepsy has occasionally resulted in people performing long sequences of activities without any memory of what they are doing - admittedly generally with ridiculous results rather than tragic ones (like "cooking an omelette with cigarettes").

I'd call these theories, "Unlikely but not impossible." And you can come up with others in the "very unlikely but not impossible" category.

There might be more evidence that reveals the secret - or it might be that we will never know.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:16 PM on March 26, 2015


"I-baLL: That's pretty pedantic and, as I'm sure you know, not actually how it tends to be used in casual conversation. Additionally, the reason you test the hypothesis with the least assumptions first is that it is most often the truest one."

Uh, no, that's not being pedantic.

you said:

"Occam's Razor would suggest that if you crash a plane with 150 people on it you did so because you wanted to kill 150 people."

Occam's Razor does not suggest that. Just because people don't understand the concept when in casual conversation doesn't mean that that use of it is in any way correct. You're basically suggesting that a false statement is true if enough people say it.
posted by I-baLL at 3:17 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Well the EgyptAir flight had two in the cockpit and it didn't do them a lot of good.

Not so. The crime was committed when the pilot was in the toilet. By the time he came back, the chances of the flight recovering were basically zero.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:17 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you feel a need to fix something, fix traffic accidents. All of us are much, much more at risk from them than anything else in our lives.

IOW, keep a sense of proportionality here.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:28 PM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is anyone aware if the out of cockpit pilot's name has been released?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:29 PM on March 26, 2015


I was going to suggest something similar to precowcity. A function in the autopilot that overrides the cockpit controls completely, flying the plane to the nearest airport and landing. This would only be activated by a code, either sent remotely from air traffic control, or a member of the cabin crew.

Yeah no.

What you're suggesting will create another hole for a person or group to crash a plane. Now you don't even have to be on the plane (easily bypassing airport security), just grab an air craft controller, torture them, get the code, take over the plane and at the very least, order it appear at certain place (auto return to nearest airport) where your group can easily shoot it down, probably over a populated area.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:30 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lupus is right about the EgyptAir flight; the second pilot only returned to the cockpit when it was too late to save the aircraft.
posted by Justinian at 3:34 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Extremely tight psychological screening plus 2 in cockpit at all times. In the old days there were always 3 in the cockpit but the flight engineers have been designed out of the picture.

There is no technological solution to this because humans. As with anything else in life, there are no certainties.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:37 PM on March 26, 2015


Is anyone aware if the out of cockpit pilot's name has been released?

Yes, The Grauniad names him as Patrick Sonderheimer.
posted by progosk at 3:41 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Extremely tight psychological screening plus 2 in cockpit at all times.

The two in the cockpit at all times rule is a no brainer and watching the news just now, a number of airlines are announcing they'll begin doing that immediately.

I do hope investigators find some clue as what drove the co-pilot to do this. Mass shootings are unnerving enough, having someone snap when lives are literally in their hands is a whole 'nother level
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think "extremely tight" psychological screening is likely to help much. It's not exactly a hard science with definitive results and, like the TSA, I think would have all sorts of crappy follow on effects.
posted by Justinian at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm generally very skeptical of the competency of government, corporations and other authority figures - due to seeing how bad the results are.

But the air safety authorities have my respect for doing an excellent job - a much better job than almost any other comparable body. One of the things that I've noticed is that there are almost never crashes due to the same mechanical or design defect more than once. Another one is that as time goes on, crashes become more and more due to pilot error - this is what you'd expect in a system that's perfecting itself, because that's the one area you can't use technology to fix.

But more than anything else, it's the steady decline in air fatalities. When I first started travelling by air, in the 70s, there were typically a dozen serious crashes a year. In 1985 in particular, there were 27 serious accidents killing 2500 people. But today we fly far more miles, and have far fewer fatalities.

So I'm unwilling to second-guess them about video this or streaming wifi that. I just hope they continue to do the excellent job that they've been doing for my whole life and I'm happy to tip my hat to them and not pretend I know a fraction of what the experts do.

Also: Ask The Pilot weighs in.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:45 PM on March 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


This would only be activated by a code, either sent remotely from air traffic control, or a member of the cabin crew.

The event only lasted a few minutes (8-10). It was over before ATC really even knew what had happened.

With some frequency, pilots don't call for mayday immediately. The order of things is : Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. In the event that they are struggling against a damaged or malfunctioning aircraft, locking them out of the controls could prove disastrous (c.f. UA232). So in the time that ATC can notice something is awry, make a determination that the pilots are indeed the cause, and then lock them out of the controls, the plane is already crashed.

And that leaves aside that your plan to cut faulty humans out of the decision loop puts other also faulty humans into the decision loop.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:47 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think "extremely tight" psychological screening is likely to help much. It's not exactly a hard science with definitive results and, like the TSA, I think would have all sorts of crappy follow on effects.

True, but what's the alternative to rigorous screening as one step to competency, then?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2015


The alternative is requiring more than one person in the cockpit at all times with violating that rule in anything but extremely dire circumstances being a firing offense... and that's it. There is always a tendency to overreact in these situations but it ends up being counter productive a lot of the time.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The recording shows that he was having normal conversation throughout the flight and then suddenly, when the captain began going over landing protocol his responses became laconic.

Once the Captain started going over the landing protocol he knew, it was 'time' so he got quiet and got ready. I'm thinking this was premeditated and not just a guy snapping in the middle of flight.
posted by manderin at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, I agree and said as much above.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking this was premeditated and not just a guy snapping in the middle of flight.

I don't know, from another angle it looks rather that he was already a broken man. That's the paradox of trying to demarcate intent.
posted by polymodus at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2015


True, but what's the alternative to rigorous screening as one step to competency, then?

No one knows. The investigation just started, no one knows if the reason will be found. Considering the rarity of this event, it's wise to wonder whether any major rule changes need to be done.

The two-person-in-the-cockpit rule is already being put in place. It sounds like this is the only change that could have prevented this tragedy. Even that's a maybe, as no doubt stuff will come up during a flight with seasoned crews where they'll ignore the rules and boom, that's all it takes.

I'd be interested to know how often and how long the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit on, say, he previous three flights.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Even that's a maybe, as no doubt stuff will come up during a flight with seasoned crews where they'll ignore the rules and boom, that's all it takes.

No, pilots don't do that - they don't ignore safety rules not nohow. How long before pilots forget this crash? Many, many decades. There will be systems and rules to enforce this, and they will be mechanically observed every single time, and this will never happen again - in this specific form at least.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:15 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm struggling to come up with an explanation for why the rule change appears to be happening so rapidly after this crash but apparently wasn't even considered after the EgyptAir crash. An explanation which doesn't come down to "well, he was a Muslim and our pilots are not."
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Possibly - I can only conjecture - because EgyptAir has always loudly and categorically rejected the suicide conclusions and nobody wanted to poke a possible hornet's nest?

But many parties in charge around this issue all seem to agree that it's a suicide, and fairly quickly after the fact. That may make the difference.
posted by angeline at 4:28 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't believe anyone takes EgyptAir's denials seriously, though. Besides they could have changed the rules with no commentary. No direct link to EgyptAir in that case.
posted by Justinian at 4:33 PM on March 26, 2015


There's mention, by the mom of a school friend that Lubitz apparently confided it to, that his break in training was due to "burnout, a depression", though the wording isn't unequivocal as to whether it's the mom's own speculation or his actual verbatim.
posted by progosk at 4:34 PM on March 26, 2015


I just hope they continue to do the excellent job that they've been doing for my whole life and I'm happy to tip my hat to them and not pretend I know a fraction of what the experts do.

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:45 PM on March 26


I once listened to a guy sitting a couple of seats over bitching that the plane we were on had to stop for de-icing. In winter. In Canada.

Then, there was the lady on a flight who wouldn't stop muttering about how it was "ridiculous" that we were waiting while they tried to locate the owner of a piece of checked luggage who was not on the flight. I almost turned to her and said "How about you fucking Google 'Air India Bombing.'"

On further reflection, I thought it might not be so wise to reference a mid-air bombing while we were preparing for takeoff, so I just gave her the stink eye instead.

A lot of people don't get how many things have to go right to make sure you walk out of the arrivals gate in one piece. These people need to be force fed a few NTSB final accident reports.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:39 PM on March 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


I once listened to a guy sitting a couple of seats over bitching that the plane we were on had to stop for de-icing. In winter. In Canada.

I frequently fly multi-leg journeys across Canada, much of the time in winter, and agree that fellow passengers can be a significant source of travel stress and irritation. Thank god for the grown-up beverage cart.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 4:54 PM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm struggling to come up with an explanation for why the rule change appears to be happening so rapidly after this crash but apparently wasn't even considered after the EgyptAir crash.

Nor after frighteningly similar TM470, for that matter...
posted by progosk at 4:55 PM on March 26, 2015


'This happens because of constant exposure working aboard aircraft.'

Lubitz only had 630 hours in the seat.
posted by spitbull at 5:05 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


those reinforced cockpit doors we put in after 9/11 which seemed like a no-brainer? They've now killed hundreds of people and saved none.

Short of having a control parallel-universe without reinforced cockpit doors and seeing how many copycat hijackings there were in that world, the latter claim is not one that can be made.
posted by acb at 5:08 PM on March 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


As has been said repeatedly, what stops hijackings is the fact that the passengers will instantly beat down any hijackers, not the cockpit door.
posted by Justinian at 5:12 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


You can't know whether it's the doors or the combat-ready passengers without performing the experiment. The solution: A/B testing. We'll run an experiment where in 10% of the flights the plane has an old-style flimsy door instead of a reinforced door. After only a few years, we should have a large enough sample to make statistically significant conclusions.
posted by The Tensor at 5:21 PM on March 26, 2015


That's pretty much what happened after 9/11. Turns out even the people trying to bring down planes weren't foolish enough to try an old-school hijacking.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:32 PM on March 26, 2015


I almost turned to her and said "How about you fucking Google 'Air India Bombing.'"

Incidentally, that disaster was the direct consequence of a CSIS operation. Their man organized and ran the group, facilitated materials procurement, etc. If it weren't for CSIS, it would never have happened.

Yes, the same CSIS being given Patriot Act powers by the current government. Brilliant.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:37 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


From the DailyMail but ...."His recently deleted Facebook page appeared to show him in a dark brown jacket posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in California. The page was wiped at some time in the past two days."

Two days ago? Definitely premeditated. He knew exactly what he was gonig to do well before he got on that plane.
posted by manderin at 5:37 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


You can't know whether it's the doors or the combat-ready passengers without performing the experiment. The solution: A/B testing. We'll run an experiment where in 10% of the flights the plane has an old-style flimsy door instead of a reinforced door. After only a few years, we should have a large enough sample to make statistically significant conclusions.

That experiment was effectively performed in the time it took to reinforce cockpit doors. It wasn't like they announced the change and the next day the doors were all upgraded -- it took a long time to effect. People weren't knocking down the doors during that time.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2015


Definitely premeditated. He knew exactly what he was gonig to do well before he got on that plane.

That was always going to be the case. The whole "maybe he suddenly snapped and just had to die immediately" idea is just a way for people to try to deal with the shock.
posted by Justinian at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The coordinates for the crash site are 44°16'50.41"N, 6°26'18.95"E, if anyone is interested. I narrowed it to there based upon information from various sources and comparison of Google Earth imagery and news video. That location is actually where some of the wreckage has been found -- some landing gear -- but I think that the wreckage is spread all over that ravine and the actual impact was higher up the slope to the west. That altitude of those coordinates is about 5,230ft, although reports have been saying 6,000ft.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:46 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, that disaster was the direct consequence of a CSIS operation. Their man organized and ran the group, facilitated materials procurement, etc. If it weren't for CSIS, it would never have happened.

Oh, no argument. CSIS shit the bed so hard on that one that we're left with no choice but to throw out the mattress, box spring and frame.

That said, what I was getting at is that ensuring all checked bags belong to someone on the plane isn't totally unreasonable. Because there are other examples of this.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:00 PM on March 26, 2015


You can't know whether it's the doors or the combat-ready passengers without performing the experiment. The solution: A/B testing. We'll run an experiment where in 10% of the flights the plane has an old-style flimsy door instead of a reinforced door. After only a few years, we should have a large enough sample to make statistically significant conclusions.

And which airline would be willing to face the PR consequences of having one of their "10%" planes brought down, justifying it as a necessity in the service of A/B testing?? Safety measures on aircraft aren't analogous to the usability of a webpage, for crying out loud.
posted by modernnomad at 6:03 PM on March 26, 2015


I don't think he was serious.
posted by Justinian at 6:08 PM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


That was always going to be the case. The whole "maybe he suddenly snapped and just had to die immediately" idea is just a way for people to try to deal with the shock.

Except premeditation and snapping are not opposite properties. For simplicity let A = {premeditated, off-the-cuff} and B = {snapped, rational}. Then A x B gives four possibilities, not two, if the point of this was to develop a theory of mind.
posted by polymodus at 6:10 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


While I'm sure there was a hefty dose of racism involved in perceptions of the Egypt Air disaster, one thing that I'm wondering about in terms of the rapity of responses--other airlines changing to a 2-person rule-- is how quickly the voice recorders here were recovered and examined. I mean, it was what, a day before reports were definitively pointing the finger at the copilot with this? I'm fuzzy on the details about the Egypt Air flight, but I'm guessing it took them a bit longer to recover the black box from the ocean, and that's a lot more time that's spent chasing other possibilities about mechanical failure, bombing, etc.
posted by TwoStride at 6:18 PM on March 26, 2015


The big difference with the Egypt Air crash was in this case it seems he deliberately locked out the pilot, while in that case it started with the pilot out of the cockpit but he was able to return.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:25 PM on March 26, 2015


That was for simplicity?
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 6:27 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


There were also political complications, let's call them, around the Egypt Air 990 investigation and the release of the information around it. Langweische goes into a fair bit of detail about how that unfolded. So the details emerged much more slowly than they did with Germanwings.

I'm guessing it took them a lot longer to recover the black box from the ocean...

Also, yes, absolutely, the location of the crash in the ocean was a huge complicating factor. Not to mention recovering the debris for reconstruction purposes, a huge undertaking.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:30 PM on March 26, 2015


TheophileEscargot: "I was going to suggest something similar to precowcity. A function in the autopilot that overrides the cockpit controls completely, flying the plane to the nearest airport and landing. This would only be activated by a code, either sent remotely from air traffic control, or a member of the cabin crew.
"

Totally ignoring the immense cost of retrofitting the current fleet. IIRC it was something like 50K each to retrofit locking doors. $250-500K each probably wouldn't be an unreasonable minimum. This crash beginning to end took less than 15 minutes. In that time you'd need to
  1. Identify there is a problem being aware people might try to spoof problems like they do with swatting.
  2. Verify the problem is something that can be solved with an override (you don't want to irrevocably redirect a plane making an emergency landing because of fire or something).
  3. Determine the unique identifier for the airframe in question. Boy howdy hope you don't get this wrong.
  4. Contact the people (Manufacturer or Government I guess) who have the code.
  5. Verify the destination airport is capable of receiving the plane.
  6. Send the code.
  7. deal with the fall out.
This system has to work when essentially no one involved has ever had previous experience with a live event with the possible exception of the code keeper.

And the airplane system has to be 100% secure because a cracker gaining the ability to invoke multiple planes with this system at the same time would probably be a loss of life level incident. IE: imagine an exploit that allowed you to invoke this on every Airbus within range of Heathrow or something. All those planes are landing on autopilot as soon as they can.
posted by Mitheral at 6:37 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


You could crowd source the plane flying with all the passengers having a vote similar to Twitch Plays Pokemon wait that might not be the best idea.
posted by um at 6:54 PM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's super simple. The president has to fly the plane. Every plane.
posted by gilrain at 7:18 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]



posted by clavdivs at 7:24 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Any time you place your life or safety in the hands of another, you roll the dice. That goes for pilots, cab drivers, doctors, pizza chefs, anyone. There is always the chance that the person you are trusting will decide to murder you.

But, the alternative is to hide in a cave, never trusting, never risking, living and dying completely alone.

There is no solution for this. No wisdom to be gleaned from this tragedy. No safety upgrade to be made to future aircraft. It's the same old problem we've always had as a species: sometimes we just decide to be monsters.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 8:47 PM on March 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


William Langewiesche has spoken briefly with Vanity Fair. When asked " Is it unusual for an investigator or prosecutor to make such a bold announcement so soon after a crash?", his reply was:
Yes, it’s unusual, and, in a way, it’s a little inexplicable. The French system is different from the American system. It’s quite good, but it divides into two parts. There’s the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (B.E.A.), which is the technical investigators—the equivalent of our N.T.S.B. They’re very cautious, when it comes to releasing information—too much so. But there’s also always, in France, a parallel criminal investigation, because deaths are involved, and a Napoleonic mindset requires this.

That’s who this prosecutor in Marseille is. These are not people who are experienced with airplane accidents. The quality of these criminal investigations varies, depending on the quality of the consultants they bring in. Sometimes they’re quite good, even better than the B.E.A. In this case, I don’t know.

Were this an N.T.S.B. investigation, we would see a very different kind of information release. I would expect that we would see a neutral release of what we found in the recorder, and not pointing the finger at the co-pilot. You can include that we heard breathing, and the pilot hammering on the door, and that the cruising altitude was reselected, but leave it at that at for a few days. Let others point fingers, I say. ...
There's more at the link.
posted by maudlin at 9:07 PM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you for posting that. The announcement formally blaming the copilot just struck me as grotesquely premature and obscene, even if it does turn out to be true. There's a way to make that announcement and just bursting out the gate running around yelling about he "decided to destroy the plane" doesn't seem right to me.
posted by bleep at 9:53 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
posted by Coaticass at 11:12 PM on March 26, 2015


There's a way to make that announcement and just bursting out the gate running around yelling about he "decided to destroy the plane" doesn't seem right to me.

Different countries do things differently and if the aviation governing bodies are going to implement swift change to protocols and procedures (2 in a cockpit at all times), it's important that the reasons why get out there because lives could be saved. Understatement and innuendo are fine at cocktail parties.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 11:38 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


According to german trash newspaper Bild the pilot was institutionalised six years ago for severe depression. quoted in this Dutch language article
posted by jouke at 12:42 AM on March 27, 2015


*Sigh* OK, OK, the remote controlled landing thing is obviously completely impractical and only an idiot would have thought of it.

Obviously it's absurd to think that an airport could handle all the traffic going through that airport. And a hijacker with the ability to shoot down an airliner could use this to take control of a plane and shoot it down... rather than just shoot down a plane on a normal manned approach.

And also, after checking this morning, I see Boeing have already patented it...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:41 AM on March 27, 2015


So it's likely murder, then. Oi.
posted by Wolof at 3:24 AM on March 27, 2015


The solution to lone madman problems in the cockpit is pilot diapers not fancy complicated computer systems.
posted by srboisvert at 4:09 AM on March 27, 2015


Whenever I get in taxi, on a bus, train, plane or ferry, I put my life in the hands of others.
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:36 AM on March 27, 2015




Oh great.

My understanding is that pilots are already loath to admit mental health issues in case it affects their employment. After this publicity you can pretty much guarantee that no pilot is ever going to admit that they have a problem, which in turn means we’re going to end up with more untreated mental illness in the pilot community, not less. How does that help anyone?
posted by pharm at 5:12 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


It helps sell tabloid newspapers, which helps enrich oligarch owners, which helps them afford private jets, which helps save their lives.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:21 AM on March 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm becoming a bit frustrated with the NYT and their headlines. " Co-Pilot in Germanwings Crash Hid Medical Condition From Employer, Documents Show" in no way conveys "torn up sick note found", rather it implies that he was unfit to fly for a long period of time and had been hiding it from the airline/authorities/whomever. For all we know, that was the case, but for all we know, it wasn't.
posted by hoyland at 5:28 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you take out 150 innocents you are a crazed madman. Depressed or not.

If depression explains conduct culminating a mass murder then it makes sense to worry about other depressives (etc.) in the same future position to kill.

I don't really see being PC-level defensive about stigmatization here. I manage depression myself and have had severe periods of it. And knowing that, I don't want my f'ing pilot to be severely depressed any more than I want him to be on the verge of a heart attack.

OK, the press is insensitive. But they are describing a mass murdeter who just ruined thousands of peoples' joy. I give them a pass for language like "crazed madman," unless he had some hidden political motive. What would you suggest, "misdiagnosed victim of mental illness stigma kills 150 in violent thing that happened to him?"

Depression doesn't remove one's agency or responsibility. I don't care if he was afraid to reveal his condition or of the stigma or not. He was a pilot. He was responsible for getting help or flying the plane safely.
posted by spitbull at 5:36 AM on March 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


Presumably qualified pilots must resign themselves to a battery of regular medical checks that could abruptly interrupt or end their career on a large number of counts - mental illness included. I guess that, if I were a pilot, I would seek to insure myself against this - and I'd expect my employer to help me out in this regard. Don't airlines provide this?
posted by rongorongo at 5:55 AM on March 27, 2015


The usual knee-jerk idiots who call radio phone-ins have already started to make calls for people with depression to be banned from doing jobs where they might potentially put people in danger, working with children, vulnerable people etc. (If you think about it, that includes a lot of jobs!)

I've just got a new job working with kids and young adults with special needs. I also, like an awful lot of people, have a history of depression which is treated and is in my confidential medical record. If we did what these people are saying, we'd have a lot of unemployed people.


I'm torn, though. As someone with a history of (mild, thankfully) depression, I do wonder a lot how this condition influences people around me, for example any children I could raise. But it would be unfair and wrong for it to be a factor of systematic discrimination against anyone.

And I'm all for encouraging people to overcome their shortcomings (illness, disadvantages, etc) and become "all they can be", protect themselves from stigma through privacy, etc. But if* someone encouraged this man to become a pilot and aided him in attaining that goal, while knowing he had a condition potentially dangerous to others under his responsibility, that is screwed up.

Mental illness is unfortunate, involuntary, and no excuse to judge people's abilities a priori. But having one gives you an added responsiblity towards others.

I'm not trying to judge anyone here. Just expressing how, for me, the way this case is starting to turn out highlights how important it is to take responsibility for your own state of mind in relation to others. And, well, I guess, the role of family, friends, professionals... And like I said, in a way torn between those two attitudes.

(*big if, as nothing is confirmed yet: responsibilities, diagnose, reasons... just speculating based on the information given so far in the media.)
posted by ipsative at 6:19 AM on March 27, 2015


This, just in:

'... the head of the Deutsche Fliegerarztverband, the German aviation doctors association who said it was “utterly irresponsible” to fly after a doctor had given him a certificate saying he was not fit for work.'

more, here:
grauniad

posted by Mister Bijou at 6:51 AM on March 27, 2015


OK, well, if your doctor says you are unfit to fly, what is his/her responsibility to the airline, without breaking a privacy law?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:02 AM on March 27, 2015


Horror and outrage are all perfectly valid reactions to the actions of this man, and anyone directly affected by this absolutely has a right to whatever emotions are coursing through them right now.

And if you can read through profiles of the victims without tearing up, I'd wonder about you.

But what some of the worst of the worst headlines are asking their readers to do is work themselves up into a frothing rage over something they have no control over owing to the fact that it's sadly already happened.

I guess my concern is that rage, turned elsewhere, could lead to more stigmatization of mental illness. But that doesn't diminish the necessity for the "BFORs" (bona fide occupational requirements) for a commercial pilot being far, far higher than for occupations where life and limb of others is not at risk.

That being said, it takes quite a while for an accident to be investigated thoroughly - as lupus_yonderboy pointed out upthread, the institutions that carry this out still deserve to have a fair amount of faith placed in what they do and how they do it.

I'm guessing that we'll see recommendations for making sure a medical assessment that grounds a pilot can't slip through unnoticed.

But I guess I shouldn't be surprised when the tabloid press cranks up the outrage machine rather than the solemn reflection machine.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:11 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This "Lubitz had a medical condition" story is spiraling recklessly out of control. Both the WSJ and NYT articles are very careful in their reporting that the nature of the medical condition was not disclosed, not even "whether it was related to a psychological issue." And yet everyone is immediately jumping not just to a mental health question, but specifically depression. Sure it's a plausible explanation, but it's speculative. And I have no idea what to make of the German aviation doctor's reported statement "It’s utterly irresponsible that he flew even though he had a certificate saying he was not ready to work". Um, did he have a certificate that said that? Does that aviation doctor know more than what was reported in the WSJ/NYT stories about a generic medical condition and doctor's note?

Thanks to maudlin for posting Langweische's opinion on the rapid rush to judgement in the press. The NTSB process in the US is very good and professional. Sometimes it takes awhile to get an answer out, but it's OK to wait, you know? I'd much rather read absolutely nothing more about this Germanwings case for, say, a month until the investigators can put the whole story together. Dribbling this out hour by hour for a breathless public is the enemy of the truth.
posted by Nelson at 7:16 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


tl;dr Langweische:

"One of the world's really important divides lies between nations that react well to accidents and nations that do not. This is as true for a confined and technical event like the crash of a single flight as it is for political or military disasters. The first requirement is a matter of national will, and never a sure thing: it is the intention to get the story right, wherever the blame may lie. The second requirement follows immediately upon the first, and is probably easier to achieve: it is the need for people in the aftermath to maintain even tempers and open minds."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:25 AM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


But what some of the worst of the worst headlines are asking their readers to do is work themselves up into a frothing rage over something they have no control over owing to the fact that it's sadly already happened.

Please do not link to Mail Online sites without letting people know. It is discourteous.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:36 AM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd much rather read absolutely nothing more about this Germanwings case for, say, a month until the investigators can put the whole story together. Dribbling this out hour by hour for a breathless public is the enemy of the truth.

So, so true Nelson. Suddenly this guy has a history of depression and THAT is the one and only reason why he decided to take out 149 people with him? Well, perhaps it really is that 'simple'. But it's highly unlikely that it is the beginning and the end of it. In the meantime, society's attitudes towards one of the most common mental illnesses (ie depression) are being shown for what they still are. If you're depressed then that is a full explanation for mass-murderous tendencies, at least according to the tabloids.

I don't see how the media storm around this, though inevitable, is helping anyone at all. Least of all the families and friends of the victims.
posted by rubbish bin night at 7:38 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Capt. Sullenberger: Aviation culture needs to allow pilots to get help (sorry about the damnable auto-playing video)
posted by exogenous at 7:39 AM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


" Um, did he have a certificate that said that? Does that aviation doctor know more than what was reported in the WSJ/NYT stories about a generic medical condition and doctor's note? "

I think this is the relevant part of the NYT's article:

"Prosecutors said that among the items found at Mr. Lubitz’s home was a doctor’s note excusing him from work on the day of the crash, and another note that had been torn up. These documents “support the preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues,” the prosecutors said in a statement."

The "certificate" probably is the "note" referenced in the article. This puts that line of the article into a more clearer context because if it was a doctor's note then the guy must've asked the doctor for it but then why would he tear it up? It sounds like he got a certificate of unflightworthiness or whatever it's called the day before but tore it up and went to work.
posted by I-baLL at 7:44 AM on March 27, 2015


Right, but how do we get from "note excusing him from work" and "note that had been torn up" to "certificate saying he was not ready to work"? I can't tell if that's pure speculation or if the German doctor being quoted knows something that was not reported in other places.
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on March 27, 2015


A note being a certificate. A certificate being an official document stating a fact. Doctor's notes are certificates.

Case in point:


http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Sick-Note


"A sick note, which is sometimes referred to as a doctor’s note, doctor’s excuse, or an M.C. (medical certificate),"

EDIT: Yeah, apparently the "official" term for doctor's notes really is 'medical certificate".:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_certificate
posted by I-baLL at 8:08 AM on March 27, 2015


Thank you, I'm familiar with colloquial English. (Arguably colloquial German would be more useful in this case). Now how about going from "excusing him from work" to "not ready to work"? They mean different things, at least in English.

It could very well turn out the two stories are consistent and talking about the same facts and the guy was murderously depressed and tore up his prescription for anti-psychotics. Or maybe the doctor's note was an excuse for a sinus infection and the torn up note was about an embarrassing skin rash. My reason for parsing this in minute detail is it's an example of how the reporting is speculative, breathless, misleading. I absolutely hate the international 24 hour news cycle and rush to judgement.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Except it's not conjecture. Even if the note in question isn't the specific certificate mentioned, the other part of the NYT article did say:

"“However, documents were secured containing medical information that indicates an illness and corresponding treatment by doctors,” Ralf Herrenbrück, a spokesman for prosecutors in Düsseldorf, said in a statement."

So the notes weren't the only documents found.

" if that's pure speculation or if the German doctor being quoted knows something that was not reported in other places."

My point is that those aren't the only 2 possibilities. To me the whole thing reads as a continuation of the NYT article. If somebody here reads German maybe they can find the direct quotes from the investigators and link to them here so we can figure out what was said exactly since, yeah, the press does tend to twist quotes out of context and you have to read between the lines to try and make sense of what's really going on.
posted by I-baLL at 8:23 AM on March 27, 2015


That's the thing, we just don't know. And inevitably things get lost in translation anyway (even between different dialects of the same language). So I agree with you, it would be great if they'd just hold off for a bit. But no, gotta earn more money.
posted by rubbish bin night at 8:24 AM on March 27, 2015


honestly, complaining about the vagaries of the 24-hour news cycle is like complaining about the weather. It's your right but ultimately rather pointless.

Being conscious that it's a breeding ground for dangerous bullshit -- well, that's good, and one of the reasons I find Metafilter such a useful resource. And speaking of breeding grounds ...

'd much rather read absolutely nothing more about this Germanwings case for, say, a month until the investigators can put the whole story together

A month? Seriously. I can't help but feel that such would be the ultimate for conspiracy thinking.
posted by philip-random at 8:42 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


At this point, without the FDR, it is impossible to say for sure it was a deliberate act and not the effects of hypoxia. That's not to say that there is anything wrong with implementing a two person rule posthaste, but it seems excessive to assume that someone experiencing a lack of oxygen necessarily was in a state to notice the difference between the flight director being set at 10000 feet and 100 feet.

That is why we should be waiting before declaring that we know what happened. It may well turn out it was suicide, as has happened before, but it could very well be something else. I just hope the BEA investigators are keeping open minds. Wrongly blaming the FO is in some ways worse than convicting someone of a crime they didn't commit. If there was a defect in the aircraft or procedure, it could kill far more people than a criminal that escapes prosecution because it was pinned on some other poor schmuck.
posted by wierdo at 9:22 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


it is impossible to say for sure it was a deliberate act and not the effects of hypoxia

Are you breathing normally and making deliberate moves int he cockpit during hypoxia?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:29 AM on March 27, 2015


Are you breathing normally and making deliberate moves int he cockpit during hypoxia?

Potentially, yes. Humans have very poor ability to sense low oxygen environments and don't automatically respond to them with an increase in respiration, or even feel any particular discomfort. Some people react by feeling euphoric, even.

We also get really "stupid" well before becoming unconscious. Military pilots (among others) often get training in a high-altitude chamber to be able to observe their own symptoms of hypoxia, as they vary a lot between individuals and are often quite subtle.

There are some good videos of this where everything seems to be going fine until they ask one of the students to put their mask back on. And then the instructors have to help them out, because they can't figure out how to do it any more.
posted by FishBike at 9:39 AM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


FishBike, the fact that the co-pilot overrode the door lock indicates to me that there was some motive, and not just hypoxia.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


For sure, I'm not trying to push the hypoxia theory at all, just saying it's hard to tell from an audio recording if that's going on or not.
posted by FishBike at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2015


it is impossible to say for sure it was a deliberate act and not the effects of hypoxia.
The cockpit is not pressurised independently of the rest of the plane. The actions occurred rapidly after the captain left the cockpit. The co-pilot had to manually over-ride the unlocking of the door and programme an autopilot.

That this happened due to oxygen deprivation yet, under the same atmospheric conditions, another pilot knocked politely and then increasingly urgently on the door is next to impossible. It's a door, not an airlock and the co-pilot didn't have time for hypoxia to have taken effect and it not to have affected the rest of the crew.
posted by Brockles at 9:48 AM on March 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm not trying to push the hypoxia theory at all, just saying it's hard to tell from an audio recording

Have you heard the audio recordings of people on Hypoxia? It is very easy to tell if someone is suffering from it long before they lose their ability to function. Try this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IqWal_EmBg

Also, there is much, much more information available to investigators than just the audio recording, which people seem to be forgetting.
posted by Brockles at 9:50 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since we're spouting unsupported theories, what if the medical condition is something like a brain tumor? That would certainly change a person's behavior.
posted by desjardins at 9:51 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


it is impossible to say for sure it was a deliberate act and not the effects of hypoxia

Hypoxia is unlikely to make you reset the autopilot and then actively prevent people from entering the cockpit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:53 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


METAFILTER: Since we're spouting unsupported theories, what if
posted by philip-random at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2015 [26 favorites]


For me, the biggest mystery is that he was breathing normally and completely silent.

I can't imagine there being no physiological change as you watch the side of a mountain getting closer and closer. Even if you wanted it to happen. No quickening in breath anticipation, excitement or fear. No last words. Not even mumbling a prayer or mantra to psych yourself up or remind yourself it's the right thing to do.

That's not to disbelieve the current theory. It's just haunting.
posted by politikitty at 11:00 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I've been about as close as it's possible to get without actually dying more than once, and except for the last time I was calm as hell. There's a peace in knowing that all your demons are about to be gone. Experiences may differ on that point.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:09 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Honestly, the media on this has been utterly irresponsible.

All we know with any certainty is that Lubtiz took some months out of his training ( a few years ago) for an unspecified medical condition (described as depression by the equivalent of an “unnamed source”), and that he had been receiving medical treatment at the Universitatsklinikum Dusseldorf in February, and then had a check-up for “diagnostic clarification” on the 10th of March (in their press release, the UKD denies that the issue involved was depression; for all we know he had a complicated appendicitis). We further know that a sick note was found torn up in his flat which said he should not go to work.

I am appalled by the Guardian, which builds a lot of this article on "information" from Bild, which they describe as a newspaper which is normally “a reliable source of news”. Contrast this with the Wikipedia article on Bild; for more on how it is widely viewed in terms of a reliable source of news check the entry in the German Wikipedia.

So, unless I have missed something, there is absolutely no reliable information that the guy actually ever suffered from depression.

But even if he has, at some point, had a depressive episode – how on earth can that even remotely be considered to be an explanation of what happened?! I’ve had two bad episodes myself, and know tons of people who have been diagnosed with depression and other mental illnesses, and NONE of them (us) have ever shown even a slight inclination to become violent. Nor do I remember ever reading any study that argues that depression in and of itself can turn a peaceful person into a violent, homicidal maniac. Quite the contrary, in my personal experience, you are way more likely to find people become overly sensitive, with some suddenly becoming vegetarian, or suffer at the suffering of the world, over-empathizing with small lives (ex. insects) being squashed on a daily basis etc. Yes, we can be incredibly selfish and self-absorbed – but there is an unbridgeable chasm for 99.99% of the people between that and deliberately harming others. Being suicidal doesn’t change this one bit; again, I’ve known quite a few people who have had suicidal thoughts, or who have attempted suicide etc. – but in no way, absolutely no way, would these people have dreamt of taking somebody else with them. In some cases, it was precisely the thought of the harm their act would inflict on others (the sorrow of friends and family members) that pulled them back from the brink.

There is absolutely no necessary overlap between depression, or suicidal ideation and the intention, or even only the willingness to kill 150 people.

If depression in and of itself has an impact, I would seek it more in cases where maybe bad judgment is apparent than in this case, which is described as “intentional destruction of the airplane”.

This doesn’t mean that there are not people with depression who also have murderous thoughts; there just doesn’t seem to be any basis in assuming that there is a mysterious affinity between depression, or suicidal ideation, in and of itself and the desire to extinguish 150 lives, certainly no more than in any other random group of people.

There just seems to be this urge to find a reason for what happened, where quite possibly no reason that we could easily understand and accept can be found. Lubitz being depressed has zero explanatory power (and, as I said, so far there seems to be no reason to assume he was depressed).

If this was indeed an intentional act as per the investigators, nothing that we will find out will make it easier to mentally handle this tragedy, and nothing can be done to avoid similar situations with 100% certainty.

I just can’t stop thinking and hoping that the passengers really didn’t know what was happening until moments before impact. This is the nightmare of all nightmares – to live for long minutes with the knowledge that you are going to die, and to be impotent to do anything about it.
posted by miorita at 11:20 AM on March 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Honestly, the media on this has been utterly irresponsible.

The media is largely reporting what the French government has been releasing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:23 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The media is largely reporting what the French government has been releasing.

My point is that they are NOT doing that - in fact quite a lot of what has accrued over and above the initial press conference is from other sources, a lot of them German newspapers, which quote further, unspecified sources, or misquote specific sources which then issue press statements as corrections, such as in the case of the UKD (the German version of their press statement is linked in my comment above).

The Guardian, which has live updates on events, is extensively quoting Bild in the article I linked to above, other English-language articles that have been linked in this thread are quoting Bild and other German newspapers. Bild, which appears to be a major source for other-language newspapers, is a tabloid known to be sensationalist, partisan, and not too fussed about verifying its sources etc. Some refuse to even consider it a newspaper, because it consistently displays a complete lack of concern for journalistic integrity.

The first time "depression" was mentioned, an old acquaintance of the guy was cited as a source (no name, no verification, nothing much beyond that).

Still, this is neither here nor there. Even if the guy WAS depressed, my point was that depression alone as a diagnosis is insufficient to explain what happened here. To talk about his possible depression as THE reason he did this is superficial (like any explanation will do, as long as we can pinpoint a reason), and quite possibly incredibly damaging to millions of people (even billions, given the incidence of depression and other mental illnesses).

It's possible that once emerges on his mental state, and on the specific way a putative mental illness manifested in this person, we can conclude that, in his case, the writing was on the wall. But that is about HIM, not about depression.
posted by miorita at 11:37 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I understand the calmness in making the decision. Turning on the car in the garage, stepping off the ledge, pulling the trigger. But my understanding is that the body still fights. You weigh yourself down because otherwise your body will fight to get oxygen. You die of a heart attack before the fall kills you because your body reacts. For other methods, you are depriving your body of the awareness you are losing your life through slow blood loss or medication or gas.

He changed the auto-pilot. Ostensibly so he couldn't easily change his mind. And after that he spent 8 minutes waiting for nature to take it's course.

I know it's an incredibly morbid line of thought. Blame a long history with suicide, starting with my uncles death when I was two.
posted by politikitty at 11:37 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


He changed the auto-pilot. Ostensibly so he couldn't easily change his mind.

That rationale makes little sense to me. Disconnecting the autopilot is simple and quick to do--it's one button press on the stick. Seems more likely he would do that to ensure the plane still crashes if he has to go and fight someone to prevent them from getting control back.
posted by FishBike at 11:45 AM on March 27, 2015


politikitty: 8 minutes, but he wasn't irrecoverably committed until much later. I do wonder, if the FDR is ever recovered, if it will show the controls being manipulated at the very end. Morbid speculation.
posted by Leon at 11:46 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


So maybe he pressed all the buttons, pulled all the switches, closed his eyes and laid back into his chair, taking slow, relaxing breaths while the airplane dropped. That would explain the breathing. This guy had discipline and he was smart, and he'd had therapy. He probably knew how to calm himself down when he needed to be calm, otherwise he would not have made it this far.

Some Spanish media (TV) spoke of a psychotic breakdown this morning, not depression, as they were reporting on the documents found at his parents' house. But I don't know where they got it from.
posted by ipsative at 11:53 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


There just seems to be this urge to find a reason for what happened, where quite possibly no reason that we could easily understand and accept can be found. Lubitz being depressed has zero explanatory power (and, as I said, so far there seems to be no reason to assume he was depressed).

And that's the hard part to grapple with, the realization that no system is 100% 'people proof'. We eventually put our trust into others, as it must be, but we live in a chaotic and unpredictable world. Not to make light of this tragedy, but the ending of always enlightening "Burn After Reading" comes to mind:
CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Officer: I don't know, sir.
CIA Superior: I don't fuckin' know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
CIA Superior: I'm fucked if I know what we did.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it's, uh, hard to say
CIA Superior: Jesus Fucking Christ.
posted by mazola at 12:06 PM on March 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


It means we civilization should have systems in place so that people who are becoming mentally sick can get help without fear society's shame or loss of income.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on March 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


it means that modern, industrialized culture MUST come with a functional social safety net. So the penalty for being somehow damaged (maybe permanently, maybe not) is not oblivion.
posted by philip-random at 1:43 PM on March 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wonder how much risk there is to any pilot expressing potential mental health problems that (s)he will be immediately grounded and possibly unemployable. Seems like a lot of incentive to mask or hide those issues, or not seek help.

This applies to so many other types of jobs and/or places in our society. We really do need to support people more. This entire situation is quite sad.
posted by Fizz at 1:54 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


The guy killed 150 people. I'm not that worried about his income or shame. He was a german citizen which means that he did have a pretty good safety net. If the guy had a history of severe depression and something was going on that was bad enough that a doctor wrote him a note that he shouldn't work, then he should not have been an airline pilot. There's an if there because we don't know what the doctor's note was about.
posted by rdr at 1:57 PM on March 27, 2015


it means that modern, industrialized culture MUST come with a functional social safety net.

Doesn't Germany have that? I know someone who became unemployed there (not even a citizen! She's Canadian!) and got enough benefits to live on for nearly a year (it might have been able to last longer, but she found a job).
posted by desjardins at 2:04 PM on March 27, 2015


No doctor would write a one day sick note for depression. Either the note (s) was for something else or it was for an extended time.

If indeed he was depressed, I do suspect it is significant that the note was described as ripped up. In my very lengthy and comprehensive experience of clinical depression it seems to me that the first step in actually getting better is accepting you have a serious disease and therefor taking all steps to ameliorate it very seriously indeed.

As others have pointed out though, depression alone is almost certainly insufficient to gain insight into his actions.
posted by Rumple at 2:21 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


it means that modern, industrialized culture MUST come with a functional social safety net.

I think you'll find that Germany has a functional and comprehensive social safety net.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:38 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


We do need to support people more. We need to de-stigmatize depression. We need to make it possible for a person to take months off work, if necessary, to become okay enough to function again (what 'function' means in terms of being able to work will differ vastly between careers). And we need to go much further than that - we need to make it possible for people to re-enter their workplaces, schools, what-have-you without feeling guilt and shame after they've recovered (enough) to return. I personally know that if I had to take a leave from my job because of my depression, I would not know how to return gracefully and I would probably quit. That is a hugely effective deterrant to me taking time away even when I sorely need it. Luckily my 9-5 job doesn't involve any responsibility for anyone's life.

There's something else we need to do. At least, in my opinion. We need to talk more about suicide and as part of that conversation we seriously need to heap shame upon suicides that inadvertently or purposefully kill other people.
posted by kitcat at 2:49 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]




OK, well, if your doctor says you are unfit to fly, what is his/her responsibility to the airline, without breaking a privacy law?

Zero, hopefully. The responsibility for this atrocity lies with Lubitz. It is also entirely possible that the treating physician didn't know his profession. Lubitz could easily have lied about that to the doctor (especially given pilot culture and their attitudes about illness).

What's more, can you imagine a world where people couldn't trust their doctor? Where people with treatable conditions avoid seeking help because of a fear that their doctor will notify their employer? Or where doctor's become liable for the actions of their patients?

Airlines run regular medical checks of their pilots to ensure the safety of their passengers. They may very well have to change their protocols as a consequence of this event, depending on what the illness was and how foreseeable/diagnosable it was. But if Lubitz went out and saw his own doctor for a recently-developed condition and then hid that from his employer then there isn't much anybody could have done.

It is possible that he was diagnosed with something that would render him unfit to fly for the rest of his life. It's possible that, even though his own doctor found it first, the airline would have identified the condition in his next medical check-up. A feeling that his time was running could very well have precipitated this despicable action. The responsibility for this still lies with Lubitz.

I once knew an airline pilot who was diagnosed with cancer (it eventually took his life). When he was first diagnosed, he was devastated that he would never fly for the airline again. Pilots live to fly. Once they're bitten by the bug they cannot imagine anything doing else for the rest of their life. If Lubitz was diagnosed with such a condition, I feel for him in that moment. But there will never be an excuse for his later actions.
posted by kisch mokusch at 3:01 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


So maybe he pressed all the buttons, pulled all the switches, closed his eyes and laid back into his chair, taking slow, relaxing breaths while the airplane dropped. That would explain the breathing. This guy had discipline and he was smart, and he'd had therapy. He probably knew how to calm himself down when he needed to be calm, otherwise he would not have made it this far.

This is the most sensible scenario I have seen to explain what we know. Once the autopilot was set all he had to do was tap the stay-locked button regularly. Eyes closed and you're not tempted to change it up as the mountain rears up. You won't even feel it when it happens. And if they get through the door, well, no blame there either.

Investigators class mass and serial murderers as "organized" and "disorganized." This is very organized behavior. I can't agree with my wife that it was "planned for years," but it was obviously a plan and one he executed with precision. A lot of psychosis manifests as a sense of unreality, either of the world or of one's own self, and I'd guess it was something like not feeling anything was real rather than a desire to massacre 149 other people that cause d him to pick this particular method. Having access to it it has a kind of practical elegance few other suicide methods would offer, if you're not concerned with the other people thing.
posted by localroger at 3:05 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Does anyone still believe that the passengers didn't realize what was happening until the last moments? I doubt that the pilot pounding on the door and trying to break it down with an axe went unnoticed.
posted by amro at 3:21 PM on March 27, 2015


Pilot used axe on locked cockpit door

What? Those are usually kept in the cockpit, FWIU.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:25 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The WaPo article is basing the ax thing on Bild. This really is a media race to the bottom. (Sorry, but I can find no other way to picture it right now.)
posted by progosk at 3:39 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah that surprised me. Can't bring nail clippers if they have a nail file attached, but there's a weapon for an ax-murder spree in the passenger cabin accessible?
posted by floam at 3:40 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems that it wasn't an axe, i.e. a tool with a blade, but a small crowbar (pied-de-biche), according to this. As with the axe, its purpose is firefighting.
posted by dhartung at 3:58 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This doesn’t mean that there are not people with depression who also have murderous thoughts; there just doesn’t seem to be any basis in assuming that there is a mysterious affinity between depression, or suicidal ideation, in and of itself and the desire to extinguish 150 lives, certainly no more than in any other random group of people."

I wouldn't use the word affinity, but I think that there's a small correlation.

As a lifelong sufferer of chronic major depression, who's been hospitalized for it a couple of times, I share the concerns about stigmatizing mental illness and particularly depression, and also about the sensationalist media reactions and such.

But as someone whose family is haunted by a suicide (my paternal grandfather), as well as seeing how suicide attempts by myself and other members of my extended family (including my father) have hurt others, I think that suicide all by itself is inherently a hurtful act that necessarily requires the person who commits suicide to discount the harm to others that will result of it relative to their own pain. And there's a not-insignificant portion of suicides which explicitly involve others, like those who drive into oncoming cars, or jump or drive in front of trains, or suicide by cop. And then there's the most extreme category of murder-suicides. The last group demonstrates the fact that a considerable portion of suicides are motivated by rage. Rage against specific others, rage against the world.

It's a continuum. And there's a huge territory from one side to the other -- when I've been actively suicidal and planning my suicide, I've agonized over how it would hurt others and thought very hard about ways in which all possible hurt could be minimized. But just the act itself would hurt a lot of people; that fundamental truth has always been one of the two things that have ultimately stopped me from doing it. Other people feel differently. Other suicidal people are so centered in their own pain and despair that they simply cannot really see other people at all and how other people might be hurt is as distant and vague as another galaxy. Still other suicidal people just don't really care. And yet others want to hurt those left behind.

It's a big mistake to generalize across all suicidal people, even more so across all depressive people. I totally agree that it's both empirically wrong and dumb to worry that any given seriously depressed person is a threat to others. They're almost certainly less of a threat to others than people in a mania, for example. But some depressives are a threat and it probably makes a lot of sense to find ways to clinically differentiate between suicidal ideation without a strong component of externally directed anger, and suicidal ideation with a strong component of externally directed anger. And I guess there's a third category where there's a risk -- where's there's not really any external anger, but a kind of solipsism that just erases the universe left after the suicide, such that the family in that oncoming van or the passengers in the plane or whomever just don't really exist at all.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:59 PM on March 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


and he'd had therapy. He probably knew how to calm himself down when he needed to be calm

If only any known form of "therapy" reliably produced such a result at anything above the level of treating a mild phobia or anxiety condition. It's interesting in a morbid way to wonder how the idea to commit mass murder formed in Lubitz's mind.

I know a case of someone who was driving on an interstate at 70mph, with his girlfriend at the wheel, and another friend in the back seat, and probably high, who just reached forward and grabbed the wheel from the girlfriend, who was sober, and swung that thing off the road and into a culvert and finally a tree. He gave no warning. He claims not to remember. It's a good case for German engineering that everyone lived, but the front seat occupants were pretty badly messed up anyway. Just a sudden, impulsive death wish that could easily have killed two people to whom he was very close (as you can imagine, that's over). That unfolded in seconds. So potentially impulsive or intrusive thoughts and delusions can be quite dangerous. But by the point you're 8 minutes into a dive you know will kill 150 people, that's not an intrusive thought. That's a cold, calculated, plot to murder.

I see it as quite a stretch to attribute that kind of psychopathology to any level of "depression." Either he was delusional or he was coldly homicidal. The actions seem so rageful, and purposive, and plotted.
posted by spitbull at 3:59 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's profoundly annoying to hear that they found a torn-up doctor's note at home without being told *what it was for*, but presumably that's because they're doing a thorough investigation, and we'll just have to be patient. We know why the plane crashed now, and we know there was something wrong with this young man, but we don't know what yet -- and at best we're going to get the opinions of one or more doctors who spoke to him, and if he kept stuff from his employer he may not have been thoroughly honest with them either.
(Is anyone else out there a little surprised that the sound recording on the black box is good enough to hear a person breathing? Does that mean he had his headset on the whole time?)
In the interest of introducing a little levity, for those who find long German words amusing, FAZ refers to the "sick notes" as "Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigungen".
posted by uosuaq at 4:50 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Is anyone else out there a little surprised that the sound recording on the black box is good enough to hear a person breathing? Does that mean he had his headset on the whole time?)

There's a ambient microphone system in the cabin, but I don't know if it would pick up breathing, particularly "calm" breathing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:06 PM on March 27, 2015


(Is anyone else out there a little surprised that the sound recording on the black box is good enough to hear a person breathing? Does that mean he had his headset on the whole time?)

Likely, yes.

Some NTSB reports refer to "hot mics," meaning that the data recorder is picking up the pilot or copilot headset versus the ambient mic in the cockpit. Both are recorded.

Reading an NTSB report just for the documentary evidence, it reveals about all sorts of accidents, because the way crashes are reconstructed rides on a lot of data - the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) is sometimes only a small piece of that.

For example, from reconstructing the wreckage, they can figure out the position of certain controls at the time of impact, and then work backwards and try the same control manipulation in a simulator, or in a working model of the identical aircraft. They did that with Air Egypt 990 to confirm that one control being pushed by the pilot and the other pulled by the copilot, in opposition, would achieve the tail elevator situation (one up, one down) that was found in the wreckage.

In human error (or human-induced) crashes, this definitively rules out mechanical failures.

With 990, this confirmed the fight for control of the plane.

Also, from page 58 (pdf) (relief first officer refers to the copilot who crashed the plane)...

Nor did the relief first officer exhibit any audible expression of anxiety or surprise
or call for help during the airplane's initial dive or at any time during the remainder of the
recorded portions of the accident sequence. Further, the relief first officer did not respond
to the captain's repeated question, "Whatís happening?î"after the captain returned to the
cockpit. Rather, he continued his calm repetitions of the phrase "I rely on God" (which
began about 74 seconds before the airplane's dive began) for 2 to 3 seconds, and then
became silent, despite the captain's repeated requests for information.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:28 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]




Lufthansa (the parent company of Germanwings) just announced that they're issuing payments of up to 50,000 Euros (in French) for bereaved families to deal with "immediate" expenses. This is apparently before any insurance claims.

It's the lead story on Le Monde. Sadly, the runaway speculation absent a completed investigation is still front page everywhere else I looked, at least as of a few minutes ago.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:47 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


We need to talk more about suicide and as part of that conversation we seriously need to heap shame upon suicides that inadvertently or purposefully kill other people.

Heaping more shame upon people who are already dying of shame isn't likely to help.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:37 AM on March 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm OK with our culture shifting from producing people who want to die in the most spectacular way possible to producing people who want to their suicides to do as little harm to other people as possible.

It would be better if no one committed suicide and everyone had a happy and contented life but we live inside a machine that generates alienation and loneliness. We live in such an interconnected world that any one person can do a great deal of harm to other people. We need to discourage seeing murder/suicide as some final act of revenge on the world or as a way to grab quick infamy . If shame is the way to do that, then I'm fine with that.
posted by rdr at 1:38 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think you understand. Making people who are already at their nadir feel worse is not going to help. Period. What we need to do is fix the problems of alienation and the stigma around mental health issues.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:46 AM on March 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not talking about how Andreas Lubitz felt. I'm talking about the way he chose to murder 149 other people.

I don't see the problem as being a stigma around mental health treatment. We are guessing but it's a good guess that he sought help and got it. He then rejected the recommendation of his doctor. He should never have been a pilot in the first place.
posted by rdr at 1:57 AM on March 28, 2015


I don't see the problem as being a stigma around mental health treatment. ... He should never have been a pilot in the first place.

There is absolutely a stigma about mental health treatment, particularly for pilots, as mentioned many times above. "You should feel ashamed for the thoughts you are having" is exactly 100% how not to help.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:05 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't want to turn this in a two person discussion when we're the only ones awake but I will reply to this. If there were no stigma associated with mental health treatment, then Lubitz could have sought help openly. Then the airline could have removed from the co-pilot position. In this particular case the problem doesn't seem to be that Lubitz couldn't get treatment. He did get treatment. The problem seems to be that he wasn't willing to accept the outcome of that treatment.
posted by rdr at 2:17 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because pilots are given a choice between treatment and flying. There's no good reason for that in the vast majority of cases.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:22 AM on March 28, 2015


And that's the way it is going to have to be. Because what treatment usually means is that you are unsafe to fly a plane, and in fact you may never be an acceptable risk to fly a plane again. If you are clinically depressed, you shouldn't be in charge of a airliner. Most other serious mental conditions will disqualify you as well, just like things like epilepsy and angina do.
posted by tavella at 2:59 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're mistaking my point. Pilots have the option of talking about and getting treatment for their problem, or losing the thing that gives them the greatest joy and purpose. Which leads, assuming that this was a matter of untreated depression, to more dangerous situations. Not fewer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:05 AM on March 28, 2015


or losing the thing that gives them the greatest joy and purpose.

Well, that's just tough luck. Life isn't always fair.
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:25 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, okay. Life isn't always fair. And which choice are you, honestly, most likely to make when one choice means forever losing the thing that makes you the happiest? Don't you think it's likely that the prospect of such loss is going to make you feel even worse?

People, especially clinically depressed people, rarely make the totally rational and logical choices. If we did, we wouldn't be choosing suicide in the first place. Presenting someone with a binary choice between 'you get to get better after a long time and a lot of work' and 'you get to keep doing the thing you love most of all' is going to have a pretty predictable outcome almost all of the time. And that outcome, as I said, is more dangerous than treatment without being grounded.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:44 AM on March 28, 2015 [5 favorites]



What's more, can you imagine a world where people couldn't trust their doctor? Where people with treatable conditions avoid seeking help because of a fear that their doctor will notify their employer? Or where doctor's become liable for the actions of their patients?

This is why doctors in the Netherlands are not allowed to write doctors notes at all. I was surprised to find out that apparently doctors in Germany do. In the Netherlands, there are special work-doctors who declare you fit or unfit for work, and "regular doctors" who will do treatment. See this letter which says KNMG thinks it‘s important your consulting physician focuses on your treatment and establishes a confidential relationship with you. Your physician should not become involved in a situation of conflicting interests. To prevent this, a clear distinction is made between the treatment of a patient and the assessment on certain facilities. This is to ensure that you feel no hesitations in giving your physician all the information necessary for your treatment.
posted by blub at 3:46 AM on March 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


But. Importantly, there is no provable association between being "clinically depressed" and being a murderer.
posted by spitbull at 3:50 AM on March 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Depression is strongly correlated with murder suicide. You're right that murder/suicide is rare in general and also among depressed people but there's a very high rate of depression among people who commit murder suicides.
posted by rdr at 4:04 AM on March 28, 2015


The yearly rate of major depression among Americans is about 70,000 per 1,000,000 people. The yearly rate of murder-suicide is about 3 per 1,000,000. And not all three of those murder-suicides are committed by depressed people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:26 AM on March 28, 2015 [11 favorites]



You're mistaking my point. Pilots have the option of talking about and getting treatment for their problem, or losing the thing that gives them the greatest joy and purpose. Which leads, assuming that this was a matter of untreated depression, to more dangerous situations. Not fewer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:05 AM on March 28 [+] [!]


Most of the guys I know who fly in airline jobs (and they number in the dozens) lost their "love" of flying a long time ago. It's mostly about just being a job. To a man, they'd tell you that they work hard at the job not because they love it, but because they are supporting a family - that's the motivator.

We're never really going to know his motives. Not really.
posted by Thistledown at 4:44 AM on March 28, 2015


Also there's a significant correlation/causation ambiguity when dealing with such statistically irrelevant and tiny numbers. If I were feeling murderous impulses and intrusive thoughts of destroying my name forever in a blaze of criminality, I might be depressed about it. Or my depressing life could have led to some co-morbid compulsive or obsessive thoughts or behavior or made me more susceptible to some ideological pitch. In addition, non-depressed people are certainly and regularly possessed of murderous thoughts, rages, and conduct. Who is to say that co-varies in any significant way with the vast, incredibly widespread, spectrum of depressive conditions?

Murder/suicide entails an externalization of whatever the killer is experiencing as rage and blame on others. Sociopathy is a lonely experience, by all accounts. It also takes time to develop into the will to kill many people. I imagine it's depressing as hell to realize you are losing an internal fight with delusional or sociopathic rage. Doesn't mean your depression made you a sociopath.


The vast majority of depressives are not killers. It's a spurious correlation unless you can show a mechanism by which depressive ideation and violence are connected (and there are such mechanisms, not least addiction).

It's a short circuit to see "depression" as an explanation for this mass murder. It explains nothing. I'm sure many depressed pilots are landing safely as I write this.
posted by spitbull at 4:52 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know that upthread it was said that the "men" thing was a derail, but I have to wonder, if it is okay to discuss the role of depression, shouldn't it be considered reasonable to have the discussion of the role of gender too? The prevalence of mental illness is very high (nearly half of Americans (46.4%) reported meeting criteria at some point in their life for either a DSM-IV anxiety disorder (28.8%), mood disorder (20.8%), impulse-control disorder (24.8%) or substance use disorders (14.6%) and In the prior 12-month period only, around a quarter (26.2%) met criteria for any disorder—anxiety disorders 18.1%; mood disorders 9.5%; impulse control disorders 8.9%; and substance use disorders 3.8% (wikipedia)) There are more people who meet the "mental disorder" criteria in any point in their life than there are working age men. Why is it considered so controversial to point out that almost all people who engaged in mass killings were men, but totally okay to keep on speculating about the role of depression (and we don't even know if he suffered from that!), even though, as said before, that association is not clear at all (and these kind of super mass killings are so rare that it's hard to make any kind of association at all).

I'm not suggesting that men shouldn't be pilots, but if people think it's okay to set super ultra high standards and minimize even the tiniest amount of perceived risk than it seems clear that men are way more likely to kill than women, and that the association between men and mass killings is clearer than that between depression and mass killings. To say it another way: mass killings are rare in general and also among men, but almost all mass killings in the past years were by men.
posted by blub at 4:57 AM on March 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I completely see a gendered dimension to mass murder in modern society in general. It is undeniable. I think the objections upthread were to the glibness with which the subject was introduced. But you're right, on a causal basis the fact that Lubitz is a (white) male is statistically about as likely as a diagnosis of "depression" to predict his behavior.

There are more women pilots than there used to be. I'd be really interested to read intelligent thinking on the gendered culture of the cockpit and the career, and how it might be a problem.
posted by spitbull at 5:02 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the Süddeutsche Zeitung (I'm putting this here because this is what I've been wondering, with the English media drifting between 'note' and 'certificate', one of which sounds much more binding than the other):
Um das Thema Krankschreibung ranken sich viele Legenden. Oft hört man die Klage, dass man tagelang nicht arbeiten dürfte, weil der Arzt das so angeordnet habe. Doch das stimmt so nicht. Es ist zwar in der Regel sinnvoll, auf den Rat seines Mediziners zu hören. Zwingend vorgeschrieben ist das aber nicht. Wer sich gesund fühlt, kann in der Regel trotz Krankschreibung arbeiten gehen. Die Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, wie sie offiziell heißt, stellt lediglich eine Prognose des Arztes dar, wie schnell sich ein Patient voraussichtlich wieder erholen wird. Deshalb muss man sich auch nicht gesundschreiben lassen, wenn man früher wieder ins Büro möchte. Entgegen der weitläufigen Ansicht, gelte auch der Versicherungsschutz der gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung, sollte man trotz Krankschreibung am Arbeitsplatz erscheinen, sagte der Sprecher der Dachorganisation Stefan Boltz. Es gibt bei dieser Regel aber auch Einschränkungen, wie der Münchner Fachanwalt für Medizinrecht Rudolf Ratzel sagt. Dies komme auf den Grund der Krankschreibung an. Wenn beispielsweise ein Lehrer an einer hochinfektiösen Krankheit leide und trotzdem zum Unterricht erscheine, sei das rechtswidrig. Wenn aber ein Arbeitnehmer freiwillig mit Rückenschmerzen im Büro sitze, dann sei das seine Entscheidung.
Translation (mine, sorry):
There are many legends surrounding the topic of sick leave/medical certificates. One often hears the complain that one isn't allowed to work for days because the doctor ordered it. But that is not true. Of course, it is generally advisable to listen to the advice of one's doctor. However it is not compulsory. When one feels well, one can generally work despite the certificate. The Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinung [certificate of lack of fitness to work], as it is officially called, states merely a prognosis from the doctor as to how quickly a patient will regain their fitness. Therefore, one need not be declared fit to return to the office. Contrary to the widely held belief, should one go to work despite a sick note, statutory accident insurance continues to offer coverage, said the spokesman for the parent organisation, Stefan Boltz. There are limitations to this rule, as Rudolf Ratzel, a Munich lawyer specialising in medical law [bad translation]. This depends on the reason for the sick note. For example, if a teacher suffering from a highly infectious disease came to teach, that would be contrary to the law. However, if an employee voluntarily sits in the office with back pain, that's their decision.
posted by hoyland at 5:09 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Folks, I understand that tragedies in general, and Big-News total-media-saturation tragedies especially tend to bring up a lot of related thoughts that people feel like talking about, but we have had and continue to have tons of posts and threads on both gender issues and mental health issues, and this is the only place to discuss the actual facts and updates of this incident, so let's try to reign in the big derails and keep the discussion a bit focused. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:17 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suppose it's one thing to be unfit for work temporarily (due to a contagious disease, or minor depression or what not) and a whole other thing to have "clinical depression". If the doctors had diagnosed the latter for Lubitz (which I do not know), it was clear he was about to lose his job, driving him into despair and murder/suicide. There is an ethical conflict here for his physician, either way you look at it.
posted by carmina at 5:19 AM on March 28, 2015


"What’s it like to listen to a black box recording? After every air disaster, finding the black box recorder becomes the first priority – but for the crash investigators who have to listen to the tapes of people’s final moments, the experience can be incredibly harrowing."

grauniad
posted by Mister Bijou at 5:55 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Capitalism: A Love Story, approximately twenty minutes of Moore's movie is devoted to the thesis that being an airline pilot is about the shittiest, and perhaps the most disillusioning, job on the planet right now. Pilots with second jobs. Pilots on food stamps. &c.
posted by bukvich at 7:00 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


NYT: Co-Pilot in Germanwings Crash Hid Mental Illness From Employer, Authorities Say. Yesterday the NYT was non-specific about the nature of the illness.

The Guardian: Germanwings co-pilot's home town stunned as health details emerge. Includes much more detail about the time of his training at the Lufthansa flight school in Phoenix, albeit some of it sourced to Bild.
posted by Nelson at 7:45 AM on March 28, 2015




Vision and psychological problems? Is it possible this man had a brain tumor?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2015


That's what I said yesterday. However, strong evidence against that is that he appeared to be acting/conversing normally that day.
posted by desjardins at 8:24 AM on March 28, 2015


Wall Street Journal: Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Concealed Depression From Airline. Has way more medical specifics than I've seen elsewhere from a credible newspaper. The lede is "Mr. Lubitz had been excused from work by his neuropsychologist for a period that included the day of the crash, this person told The Wall Street Journal, but he decided to ignore the advice and reported to work."
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on March 28, 2015


The precariat

More than one in six of Europe’s pilots are now employed through a temporary job agency, are self-employed or work on a zero-hours contract with no minimum pay guaranteed. As one pilot once remarked to me: “There’s a long queue of desperate young pilots looking for a first step on the career ladder and happy to take my place. If I don’t turn up for work one day, I might not be called again.”

Last December the European Cockpit Association called on Europe’s transport ministers to take action against what it labelled unfair labour practices, including zero-hours contracts and “bogus self-employment” – where pilots are contracted to work via their own limited liability company but prevented from working for other airlines.

If you mention the word slavery to a group of airline pilots, they’ll laugh and one company will always appear at the top of everyone’s list. Frequently that’s the only route, much like 19th-century indentured servitude, to a successful, less stressful and perhaps well-rewarded, tax-free flying career in one of the larger airlines, Middle Eastern carriers preferred.

grauniad
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:10 AM on March 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been seeing something new around the reporting in the past 24 hours. I wasn't sure if I should include it here, because it's straight up irresponsible think/reporting. But ask I keep seeing it in comments and facebook, find it worrying. People are blaming antidepressants for the crash, claiming without any evidence that Lubitz must have been on antidepressants and that caused any number of reactions, from wanting to kill everyone to being disassociated with reality. AFAIK, we're not even sure depression was the cause, seems likely, but the facts aren't all confirmed). But with no shred of evidence, there are lots of people claiming antidepressants caused the crash.

It seems to come from here:
http://www.naturalnews.com/049137_Germanwings_depression_antidepressant_drugs.html
I won't do it the dignity of actually linking to this article, but leave it for cp if anyone wants to take a look. It's mostly a complete fabrication, yet people are repeating it everywhere.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:27 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


naturalnews.com is a purveyor of fractally-wrong bullshit. Pay it no mind.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:53 AM on March 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


naturalnews.com is a purveyor of fractally-wrong bullshit.

but, but ...

Adams calls himself a "holistic nutritionist"[16] and is a raw food proponent[17] who opposes food that contains sugar,[18] food that was cooked[19] or made to last,[20] "red" meat,[21] McDonalds brand chicken nuggets,[22]

I'm pretty sure those nuggets aren't even food.
posted by philip-random at 10:28 AM on March 28, 2015


People are saying that it could be anti-depressants which get prescribed for things other than depression.
posted by I-baLL at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2015


I haven't seen it mentioned here, but a number of relatively reasonable news outlets (e.g., SMH) are reporting he had recently broken up with his girlfriend of seven years. Considering he was 28, that's most of his adult life. Two interesting points that come from this:

1. She is quoted as saying, "When I heard about the crash, there was just a tape playing in my head of what he said: 'One day I will do something that will change the system and everyone will then know my name and remember me.' I did not know what he meant by that at the time, but now it's clear."

2. And it also appears that he bought her a brand new Audi in order to try to win her back, which she appears to have refused. Which is also a sort of grand gesture.

Regarding the eye issue, I'd expect a tumour to be far down the list of probability. For example, I have an eye disorder (keratoconus) which would prevent me from being a pilot, it typically has onset between puberty and age 30, and is thought to affect around 1 in a thousand people (so fairly common as these things go).

A scenario of a psychologically vulnerable young man receiving twin hammer blows of a breakup with a long-term partner and a threat to his career (psychological or physical) (especially considering how some careers can be like an identity) seems plausible to push someone over the edge.
posted by Rumple at 11:28 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you mention the word slavery to a group of airline pilots, they’ll laugh and one company will always appear at the top of everyone’s list.

That's quite the tease... What company do you suppose this refers to?
posted by spitbull at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2015


Rumple, have any of those reports about the girlfriend's comments been sourced to anything other than Das Bild?
posted by Nelson at 11:41 AM on March 28, 2015


Nelson: I don't know, I haven't done the geneology of it all. They are presented as direct quotes from her, which makes it slightly less likely that they are made up out of whole cloth, I think.
posted by Rumple at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2015


The Süddeutsche Zeitung (good newspaper) has posted an analysis by a suicidologist, which I found interesting.

If case you don't read German: I just read it through Google Translate and it does a good job of creating a legible English text.
posted by ipsative at 12:20 PM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The girlfriend that is quoted is not the woman he was living with when he crashed the plane, it's some ex from awhile ago. I remember reading that she contacted the paper, so it's possible she doesn't even know him but is seeking attention.
posted by desjardins at 12:45 PM on March 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's more re-reporting of the Bild story about the girlfriend (link is to the Telegraph, not sure how generally reputable they are). They dated for 5 months.
posted by desjardins at 12:48 PM on March 28, 2015


How annoying is "Maria (not her real name)" as a journalistic convention? She's not named Maria either, so call her "Lubitz's former girlfriend." For the rest of the article she is randomly "Maria." Like it's fiction.
posted by spitbull at 12:48 PM on March 28, 2015


Oh, I'm referring to the SMH story.
posted by spitbull at 1:18 PM on March 28, 2015


If you mention the word slavery to a group of airline pilots, ... What company do you suppose this refers to?

Well, the author speaks very highly of Middle Eastern airlines, so they obviously treat their pilots better than their cabin crew. There are some unsatisfactory things about Ryanair's terms and conditions which, from that thread, are not great and amongst the poorest of the large European carriers. Germanwings has agreeable enough terms and conditions that it would be tenuous to think of them as in any way a contributing factor.
posted by ambrosen at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Die Welt says (says CNN): Anti-depressants found at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
posted by floam at 4:54 PM on March 28, 2015


I wonder how much the attraction of the middle eastern airlines amounts to them all, as far as I know, only having one hub.
posted by PMdixon at 5:00 PM on March 28, 2015


Kinda uncomfortable for me how the apparent wild speculation/discountable rumors keep ending up being semi-confirmed 12 hours after I initially set them aside with this one.
posted by floam at 5:33 PM on March 28, 2015


I find it amazing that the French prosecutors have been able to make all this information public without launching a formal inquest. Seems a little ad hoc.
posted by Nevin at 7:39 PM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you mention the word slavery to a group of airline pilots, they’ll laugh and one company will always appear at the top of everyone’s list.

That's quite the tease... What company do you suppose this refers to?


If the way it treats its customer is any indicator, my guess is low-cost, short-haul Ryanair.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:58 PM on March 28, 2015


It would be better if no one committed suicide and everyone had a happy and contented life but we live inside a machine that generates create alienation and loneliness.

Well. Maybe we should stop doing that.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:19 PM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


“The one wild possibility missing from most of the equally baseless Germanwings speculation,” Mark Ames, Pando Daily, 26 March 2015
The only reason I bring [the intentional crash of PSA Flight 1771 by a disgruntled employee in 1987] up is, again, because if we’re going to wildly speculate without evidence, then it’s worth looking at the company as well as at the individual. It turns out that Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, have been experiencing labor strife over the past year.

Last month, Germanwings pilots — which presumably included Andreas Lubitz — staged a two-day strike, as Reuters reported:
A long-running row between Lufthansa management and German pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) over pay and conditions shows no sign of ending soon after the union called for a two-day strike at the group’s budget airline Germanwings.
Part of the dispute had to do with Lufthansa cutting pilots’ benefits, but the larger dispute has to do with using budget airlines to bust labor union power[.]
posted by ob1quixote at 3:24 AM on March 29, 2015 [4 favorites]




That Greenspun piece is terrific, thanks. His comments on pilots and divorce were especially interesting.
posted by spitbull at 5:29 AM on March 29, 2015


Yeah, the Greenspun article is great. However...

Our legal system has decided we no longer want that person as a parent for the children (except for a few days per month). Why then would we want that person having the power of life or death over hundreds of none-the-wiser ticket-buying customers?

is a little misguided. Just because the court system is sexist and favors women/mothers doesn't mean that someone's employer should be, assuming we are talking about male pilots. Giving people who are going through a divorce/custody issues a lot more support seems like a better solution than firing them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:51 AM on March 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


That article took a strange detour.
"Are pilots generally mentally competant?"
"Yes, you can't become unless a pilot unless you're mentally competent, but slutty waitresses and housewives are money-grubbing baby factories that take advantage of the fact that pilots are gone most of the time to bilk them out of everything! Pilots make so little money that they can't take time off to be less suicidal. Therefore these pilots should be fired. But it's too hard to fire a pilot because the airlines are "targeted" by unions."

So the answer is to fire them pre-emptively or give them custody of kids even though they're gone most of the time, and not strengthen the unions to give them better working hours and pay?
posted by bleep at 7:17 AM on March 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Man like 45 minutes later that article is still bothering me. And the answer is also not tell them to close their legs or wear a condom, the way women get told to do that for every single problem they have? That nonsensical little jag makes me question the entire rest of the article.
posted by bleep at 7:55 AM on March 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


That article goes completely off the rails once he starts talking about "crazy or depressed" pilots. And "If psychologists can’t treat depression consistently how do we know that they can recognize it?" doesn't make sense. There are many conditions that can't (yet) be treated consistently yet which can be recognized.

Plus, despite his fig leaf usage of "the pilot he-or-she", the stench of misogyny off the latter part of it is too strong for me to want to consider the rest of his arguments in any depth. I'm sure there are other knowledgeable people writing about the crash who don't appear to think that women (sorry, I mean "stay-at-home spouses") are lying, slutty, golddiggers who are out to screw over the noble pilots… so hey, airlines should be able to fire the pilots at the first sign of relationship trouble. (What?)
posted by Lexica at 9:03 AM on March 29, 2015 [6 favorites]




Last I read in Germany newspapers though is that a psychocsomatic cause for his eye problems could not be ruled out. Die Welt (quoted in the MSNBC article as saying the police had clear evidence for it) is not quite as bad as Bild but nowhere near as careful with its diction as Süddeutsche, Faz, Zeit.
posted by ipsative at 9:57 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I do tend to wonder how much of this is getting lost in translation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:01 AM on March 29, 2015


What would even constitute clear evidence of a psychosomatic illness? Is there any way to know that an illness is psychosomatic other than ruling out all other causes, which you could never conclusively do?

I feel like maybe it's time for journalists to admit that they're not going to learn anything substantive for a while and they should stop giving this the breaking news treatment.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:08 AM on March 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


But how will news outlets keep their audience engaged with the story if they don't take every tiny little unconfirmed detail and extrapolate it into a major update as quickly as possible?

(Ok, I'm being a bit snarky there, but I feel like that's the driving force behind far too much news reporting these days.)
posted by FishBike at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Airbus A320 crash landed at Halifax Airport last night. Nobody seriously injured, thank goodness.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 2:55 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the record, depression is now off the table, with a new statement issued today by the German inquiry: Germanwings co-pilot was treated for suicidal tendencies (albeit prior to earning his pilot's license).
posted by progosk at 10:28 AM on March 30, 2015


How can you have suicidal tendencies without depression?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:57 AM on March 30, 2015


Another lost in translation comment? Does not compute otherwise.
posted by futz at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2015


Wikipedia:
Depression is a major causative factor of suicide, and individuals suffering from depression are considered a high-risk group for suicidal behavior. However, suicidal behaviour is not just restricted to patients diagnosed with some form of depression.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:05 AM on March 30, 2015


Let's ban anyone who has ever been suicidal from professions where other people's lives are at stake. That makes sense. I mean, no more doctors, no more firefighters, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


FWIW, my wife is a psychiatrist, and this is one of her areas of research - not everyone who is suicidal is clinically depressed.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:16 AM on March 30, 2015


FWIW, my wife is a psychiatrist, and this is one of her areas of research - not everyone who is suicidal is clinically depressed.

Interesting. As layperson with no medical training or education, that almost seems impossible. It would be great if those with such education could weigh in.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:19 AM on March 30, 2015


I know that suicidal thoughts can be part of intrusive thoughts with anxiety, and impulsive actions with ADHD. I've had very brief "I could just jump off this bridge and boom!" thoughts that have not coincided with depressive episodes.
posted by politikitty at 11:24 AM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Brandon--perhaps the clearest examples are persons (usually elderly but not necessarily) who have terminal illness or intractable pain. Also, persons with certain delusions commit suicide, not because of depression, but due to the nature of the delusions (grandeur, command, redemption, etc). I also agree with politikitty that severe anxiety can > suicide as time and the experience of pain is experienced as intractable and interminable.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


rmhsinc: "perhaps the clearest examples are persons (usually elderly but not necessarily) who have terminal illness or intractable pain. Also, persons with certain delusions commit suicide, not because of depression, but due to the nature of the delusions (grandeur, command, redemption, etc)."

Great examples. Makes total sense now that you mention those. Thank you for that.

But let's bring it back to the co-pilot. Terminal illness is out, so delusion is it? Of course this is all speculation.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:56 AM on March 30, 2015


"Of course this is all speculation"--I have not the faintest idea--and I spent 25+ years as the Exec. Dir of an emergency psychiatric services organization that assessed/treated 6,000 +/- different persons a year. This is beyond me until there is more information and even then it may stay beyond all of us if we are honest with the limitations of our science and knowledge
posted by rmhsinc at 12:03 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


let's bring it back to the co-pilot. Terminal illness is out, so delusion is it? Of course this is all speculation.

If we're sure he wasn't passed out when it happened then we're left with that sickness makes people want to bomb marathons, shoot school kids and movie audiences, etc.
posted by bleep at 1:13 PM on March 30, 2015


bleep: "If we're sure he wasn't passed out when it happened then we're left with that sickness makes people want to bomb marathons, shoot school kids and movie audiences, etc."

Oh, that sickness. How I hate that. The guy must have been awake and functioning because the descent was 8 minutes so he would have needed to keep resetting the cabin door lock button. I'm getting sick just thinking about this. I should probably step away from the thread.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:38 PM on March 30, 2015


My wife adds: Lots of things are associated with suicide - schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders (esp alcohol), OCD, PTSD - all of which can occur without depression.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:41 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


People with depression still know right from wrong. As horrible as suicide is, there's a world of difference between offing yourself in a bathroom somewhere and murdering a planeload of people. This guy made a conscious choice to murder people, and is functionally no different than an ISIS commander or serial killer. As a privileged white male myself, I have zero sympathy for his choices. It's a bummer that this case is resulting in a lot of "OMG he had depression!" news bites when that's not why he did it. My money's on "entitled asshole who felt that society owed him more than trading in a pilot's job for a job at McDonalds."
posted by freecellwizard at 1:58 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]




The guy must have been awake and functioning because the descent was 8 minutes so he would have needed to keep resetting the cabin door lock button.

As I understand it, you can prevent the door from being opened with the code from the outside for various lengths of time, up to like 20 minutes.
posted by hoyland at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2015


I believe its 5 minutes, which means he had to do it at least twice.
posted by Justinian at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2015


This guy made a conscious choice to murder people, and is functionally no different than an ISIS commander or serial killer.

In other words, "what I really hate in the current situation is exactly the same as some other things I really hate, therefore it's all the same, let's hate them all in a glorious ball of hatred."

This is indeed a way of thinking that will help us understand the situation and provide us with better guidelines for future action. What are your thoughts? Drone attacks on people to be declared depressive after the fact?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:49 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Drone attacks on people to be declared depressive after the fact?

Actually...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2015






oops!
posted by futz at 11:01 AM on March 31, 2015


I've just seen on the BBC (and CNN are saying it too) that Bild and Paris Match have seen video filmed inside the flight of the final few minutes of the flight and they've described it (the CNN video, I hasten to add, is just a report of this). This is all being denied by the authorities. Personally, I hope that this isn't true. I know it's unlikely, but I hope that the vast majority of the passengers didn't know what was happening until the very last few seconds, so there would be no video (as this is reported to have been filmed from the back of the plane. If such a video does exists I also hope that it doesn't get out and it's passed on to the authorities to aid them with their investigation. Of course, if it isn't true this means that someone has faked a video which is also terrible. Ugh.
posted by ob at 4:27 PM on March 31, 2015


I hope that the vast majority of the passengers didn't know what was happening until the very last few seconds

This was a commuter flight and a lot of the people who were on it take that very flight every week. They know where the Alps are supposed to be way down there and not towering around the windows of the plane. The flight voice recorder caught screaming along with the sound of the pilot trying to break into the cabin. I hate to break this to you but they knew. Had I been on the plane I have no doubt I would have known.

If such a video does exists I also hope that it doesn't get out and it's passed on to the authorities to aid them with their investigation.

These are not mutually exclusive.

Of course, if it isn't true this means that someone has faked a video which is also terrible.

Then we can all make parodies of it like the ones of the guy who wasn't actually on the WTC observation deck with the plane coming in from the background.
posted by localroger at 5:52 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Correct me if I am wrong but reports have said that there was yelling and screaming for 5 minutes before the crash. Many people may have recorded what was going on. Ugh.
posted by futz at 9:13 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


This BBC article goes deeper into the state of mind question, and is more informative than anything I've read so far. Apparently, aside from the antidepressants (Agomelatine), he received Olanzpine injections (antipsychotic).

Also:

Many people have been asking how likely it is that depression could result in this sort of horrific action.

In a word: "Unlikely," says Dr. Charles Raison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona.


Note the awesome fact that the psychiatrist's name is "Raison".
posted by ipsative at 3:20 AM on April 1, 2015


This was a commuter flight and a lot of the people who were on it take that very flight every week. They know where the Alps are supposed to be way down there and not towering around the windows of the plane. The flight voice recorder caught screaming along with the sound of the pilot trying to break into the cabin. I hate to break this to you but they knew. Had I been on the plane I have no doubt I would have known.

As someone who flies very regularly, I know this. But thanks for taking my words at face value. Yes, I was hoping for something which is massively unlikely. How very non MeTa of me.

These are not mutually exclusive.

Perhaps not.

Then we can all make parodies of it like the ones of the guy who wasn't actually on the WTC observation deck with the plane coming in from the background.

Brilliant!
posted by ob at 7:57 AM on April 1, 2015


Correct me if I am wrong but reports have said that there was yelling and screaming for 5 minutes before the crash. Many people may have recorded what was going on. Ugh.

It would appear so. It would also appear that this is a really leaky investigation. Normally it takes months to get a lot of this information out. There's no way to tell exactly how accurate it is, of course, but someone's leaking an awful lot to the press.
posted by ob at 8:00 AM on April 1, 2015


I have not been impressed by whoever is running this. The NTSB does this like professionals, not attention seekers leaking shit all over the place. If someone in their investigation sold video to the tabloids, people would go to jail.
posted by tavella at 8:45 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This BBC article goes deeper into the state of mind question"

Eh, that's CNN so its accuracy is questionable.
posted by I-baLL at 8:54 AM on April 1, 2015


CNN thinks that Lubitz also downed MH370.
posted by desjardins at 10:15 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


If someone in their investigation sold video to the tabloids, people would go to jail.

I think you're missing the point - the investigation is asking that this purported video be turned over to them. They don't even have it yet, so they sure as hell didn't leak it.
posted by Brockles at 11:28 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


If so, an inability to secure the scene and thus allowing looting of the corpses and wreckage isn't much better. Someone still should be going to jail, and I hope they do.
posted by tavella at 11:33 AM on April 1, 2015


There is absolutely no evidence at this point that the video came from the accident scene either, just as much as it didn't come from the investigators. This may have been uploaded to someone's icloud or something automatically. Or auto emailed or anything. We don't know, so lets not get all 'someone needs to go to jail' until we find out exactly what happened.
posted by Brockles at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh no, my bad! :x That was probably wishful typo-ing, as I'd been reading other BBC news.
posted by ipsative at 2:18 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


How exactly were they getting signal to automatically upload to icloud? If there was signal to send an automatic email there would have been signal to send texts, and nobody sent any texts.
posted by Justinian at 12:23 AM on April 2, 2015


Justinian: How exactly were they getting signal to automatically upload to icloud? If there was signal to send an automatic email there would have been signal to send texts, and nobody sent any texts.
In-flight WiFi? Although then you'd think there'd be Facebook messages or e-mails or something.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:28 AM on April 2, 2015


Exactly, no-one sent any kind of message. The most obvious explanation is that no-one could send a message, including this video.
posted by Justinian at 2:20 AM on April 2, 2015


If the phone survived the drop, it may have had a data connection when it was on the ground after the impact. It's not *that* far out of the realms of possibility. Auto upload of videos is reasonably likely.
posted by Brockles at 5:36 AM on April 2, 2015


I am sure debris is being cataloged, collected, and moved to a warehouse, where the device would pick up cell or wireless signal and auto upload to the cloud.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:39 AM on April 2, 2015






Investigators found an iPad belonging to Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot, at his apartment here in Düsseldorf that included his browser history between March 16 and March 23 — the day before the crash.

“During this time the user was searching for medical treatments, as well as informing himself about ways and possibilities of killing himself,” they said in a statement. “On at least one day the person concerned also spent several minutes looking up search terms about cockpit doors and their safety measures,” the statement said.


(I still don't get why they're making these statements is drips and drabs, instead of just one comprehensive statement a week, say. Do they really like to see their names in the news cycle quite that much?)
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:12 AM on April 2, 2015


The bbc are reporting that the second black box (flight data recorder) has been found.
posted by pixie at 9:14 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"How exactly were they getting signal to automatically upload to icloud? If there was signal to send an automatic email there would have been signal to send texts, and nobody sent any texts"

Well, we don't really know that. We didn't know that there was any video taken on-board the plane and now it seems like we do.
posted by I-baLL at 10:17 AM on April 2, 2015


I am sure debris is being cataloged, collected, and moved to a warehouse, where the device would pick up cell or wireless signal and auto upload to the cloud.

This is the most likely answer, to me. Texts would have timed out, but email and/or video would upload as soon as they got within cell range if they were set up that way. I suspect the phones were collected and moved, I doubt they would have been collected and *turned off* and moved.
posted by Brockles at 11:04 AM on April 2, 2015


Good point! The phone could have auto-uploaded after the crash, not before. That's plausible. And very creepy.
posted by Justinian at 1:10 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


They'd need some pretty remarkable battery life, wouldn't they?
posted by rory at 2:21 PM on April 2, 2015


Hardly 'remarkable' battery life. Good to above average, maybe - My phone will last 2-3 days if I'm not on it a lot. If the crash site had service (which is not unlikely given it is not really that remote) then it had plenty of time to happen after the crash itself.

I am assuming it was uploaded very soon after the crash and only recently discovered in that auto uploaded location, not only just uploaded.
posted by Brockles at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2015


I doubt it was in network range when it was lying at the bottom of that alpine valley, but I suppose if a phone were recovered within 48 hours and removed to a location with mobile coverage it's possible.
posted by rory at 2:53 PM on April 2, 2015


BBC News: Germanwings crash: Co-pilot Lubitz 'accelerated descent'
"Data from the second 'black box' flight recorder belonging to the Germanwings plane that crashed in the Alps suggests that the co-pilot deliberately accelerated its descent, French investigators say."
posted by amf at 6:15 AM on April 3, 2015


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