Mar 13, 2016 11:08 AM
The Latest: French urge more open medical system for pilots
The Associated Press
LE BOURGET, France (AP) The Latest on the French air accident report on the 2015 Germanwings plane crash (all times local):
French air accident investigators are recommending that European aviation authorities adopt a more American-style system on mental health issues to encourage pilots to come forward about what medications they are taking.
The BEA agency says authorities in the U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada allow pilots to continue to fly while taking specific medications to treat depression as long as they are under clear medical supervision. Currently this is not done in Europe.
The French agency, in a report on the 2015 Germanwings plane crash, says co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was using several antidepressants when he crashed a plane into the Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
Germanwings says it had no knowledge of his illness, and BEA says the many doctors who treated him did not bring any concerns about his mental health issues to authorities.
A union representing German pilots is welcoming recommendations from French aviation investigators aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Germanwings plane crash, while stressing the need to protect patient confidentiality.
Markus Wahl, a spokesman for the Cockpit union, said in a statement Sunday that French investigation agency BEA's safety recommendations are "a balanced package of measures" and should be implemented in full.
The BEA has urged that laws be changed so medical workers must report concerns about pilots' mental health to authorities.
Cockpit said patient confidentiality must be protected and that "strict data protection standards" should be applied in drawing up checklists of criteria setting out what illnesses doctors must report. It said there needs to be a "careful balance" that secures "an improvement that is reliable for all sides without damaging the trust between a doctor and their patient.
A German investigator says there's no need to change German medical privacy laws despite concerns that they contributed to the crash of a Germanwings flight flown into a mountain by a suicidal co-pilot.
Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had been treated by several doctors in the weeks before the March 2015 crash that killed 150 people, including one who referred him to a psychiatric clinic fearing a psychotic episode, according to a report released Sunday by France's BEA air accident investigation authority.
The report urges world aviation authorities to require doctors to tell authorities when a patient's health could threaten public safety.
But Johann Reuss of Germany's air accident investigation agency told The Associated Press "there is no need to change the law."
Germany's criminal code says that doctors can be punished with a fine or up to a year to in prison for breaching patient confidentiality. Reuss says "it might not be easy" to loosen the rules, and suggested that authorities should instead focus on giving doctors checklists to prevent similar scenarios with pilots.
Germanwings parent Lufthansa is pledging to support the implementation of any new safety measures prompted by French investigators' probe of last year's plane crash.
France's BEA accident investigation agency on Sunday recommended that aviation agencies draw up new rules requiring medical workers to warn authorities when a pilot's mental health could threaten public safety. Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had been treated for depression in the past, deliberately crashed his Airbus A320 into the French Alps last March.
Lufthansa said in a brief statement that "ensuring the highest possible flight safety was and remains our utmost priority."
It added that "the company will of course continue to cooperate with the relevant authorities and will support the possible implementation of concrete measures" based on the BEA report.
France's air accident investigation agency says Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was using antidepressants when he crashed the plane carrying 150 people into the Alps.
A report released Sunday by France's BEA investigation agency says traces of anti-depressive medications Citalopram and Mirtazapine were found in Lubitz's system as well as the sleeping aid medication Zopiclone.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes on its entry for Citalopram that children and young adults who take the drug can become suicidal "especially at the beginning of your treatment and any time that your dose is increased or decreased."
Lubitz was 27 when he crashed the plane.
BEA chief Remi Jouty acknowledged that it's possible for pilots to be flying while using antidepressants that they don't declare to their employers.
French aviation investigators say one factor leading to the Germanwings plane crash might have been a "lack of clear guidelines in German regulations on when a threat to public safety outweighs" patient privacy.
At a news conference Sunday in Le Bourget, Arnaud Desjardin, leading the investigation for the BEA agency, described Germany's privacy rules as being especially strict. He says doctors fear losing their jobs if they unnecessarily report a problem to authorities.
Desjardin says "that's why I think clearer rules are needed to preserve public security."
The BEA report also recommends measures to remove the fear of losing a job that many pilots face for mental health issues. It says "the reluctance of pilots to declare their problems and seek medical assistance ... needs to be addressed."
But Desjardin says the investigators determined that systematic, deep psychological tests every year for all pilots would be "neither effective nor beneficial."
French investigators say that airplane cockpit rules should not be changed despite a crash by a suicidal Germanwings co-pilot who locked his pilot out of the control room.
The BEA air accident investigation agency said Sunday that it's still just as important to protect the cockpit from attackers elsewhere in the plane. Current cockpits are equipped with a code system to prevent the kind of hijackings that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States.
BEA investigator Arnaud Desjardin said "a lockage system cannot be created to prevent threats coming from outside and inside the cockpit."
Many airlines and regulators have issued changes since the March 2015 Germanwings crash in the French Alps and now require at least two people to be in the cockpit at any given time to prevent similar crashes.
French air accident investigators say the pilot certification process failed to identify the risks presented by Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz.
The BEA investigation agency, in its report on the March 2015 crash, said Lubitz had been referred by a doctor to a psychiatric clinic two weeks before he crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.
Arnaud Desjardin, leading the BEA investigation, told reporters that experts found Lubitz's symptoms at that time "could be compatible with a psychotic episode."
He says this information "was not delivered to Germanwings."
French air accident investigators say a doctor referred Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz to a psychiatric clinic two weeks before he crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.
The BEA investigation agency, in releasing a report Sunday on the March 2015 crash, said multiple doctors who treated Lubitz in the weeks before the crash did not inform authorities of concerns about his mental health.
Because Lubitz didn't inform anyone of his doctors' warnings, the BEA said "no action could have been taken by the authorities or his employer to prevent him from flying."
Investigators found that Lubitz intentionally crashed Flight 9525 en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.
The BEA investigation is separate from a manslaughter investigation by French prosecutors seeking to determine eventual criminal responsibility for the crash.
French air accident investigators are recommending that world aviation bodies define new rules to require that medical professionals warn authorities when a pilot's mental health could threaten public safety.
The recommendation comes after a Germanwings co-pilot deliberately crashed a jet into the French Alps last year, killing 150 people.
The BEA investigation agency released a report Sunday into the Germanwings crash with several recommendations to avoid such accidents in the future, notably about pilot mental health and screening before a pilot is certified.
Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had been treated for depression in the past, and the investigation found that he had consulted dozens of doctors in the weeks before the crash.
French air accident investigators are issuing a report Sunday about what led to the March 2015 Germanwings jet crash and their recommendations on how to prevent a repeat scenario.
Investigators say co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed the plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. Most victims were German and Spanish.
The report is likely to address cockpit door rules, because Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit thanks to measures introduced to prevent attackers from accessing a plane's controls. It is also expected to recommend tougher reporting requirements for pilots' doctors and urge relaxing medical privacy restrictions in cases of a threat to public safety.