From the Associated Press: Airlines around the world on Thursday began requiring two crew members to always be present in the cockpit, after details emerged that the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 had apparently locked himself in the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane into the mountains below.
This represents an organization's typical response to a problem. The crash, which by all accounts was caused by a single deranged individual, has been perceived as the result of a “system error” and will be dealt with as such.
The idea that a flight attendant going into the cockpit whenever one of the pilots has to pee will prevent anything seems a bit absurd to me. How is a 5’2” 120 pound female flight attendant supposed to stop a 6’3” 210 pound pilot who is hell-bent on committing suicide by airplane?
When I tweeted a similar thought yesterday, someone suggested that she could simply sound an alarm and unlock the cockpit door. I suppose that’s true as long as the crazed pilot does not punch her in the face and knock her out or shoot her first.
After 9/11, a federal law was passed allowing pilots who were properly screened and trained to carry guns. If an armed pilot decides to commit suicide, an unarmed flight attendant will not be able to stop him or her.
According to a CNN story, Andreas Lubitz, the pilot who drove the plane into the mountain, had passed all medical tests before being hired. He recently had been given a medical leave note by a doctor. However, Lubitz ripped it up and threw it in a wastebasket in his apartment. He did not disclose the fact that he had been undergoing medical treatment to the airline. So much for self-reporting which is standard for pilots.
Why didn't the doctor tell the airline? I don't know. Do they have HIPAA in Germany?
The two people in the cockpit rule is smoke and mirrors. The airlines can now say that they have taken steps to prevent something like the Germanwings crash from happening again so don't worry, it's still safe to fly. But as I have pointed out, a determined maniac will be able to easily overcome this system solution.
I am reminded of the proposals like arm the janitors, arm the teachers, or give them shields or scissors that always come forward after school shootings.
1. "Two people in the cockpit” is not an FAA regulation but is said to be a standard policy for US airlines. It's purpose is not to prevent a suicide but to have someone available to let the other pilot back into the cockpit in case the pilot who did not leave passes out or is otherwise disabled.
2. The Germanwings incident represents an unintended consequence of reinforcing and locking cockpit doors after 9/11.