A320 Down In France (Germanwings)


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Disclaimer, I am in a mood for a soap box. Probably not my best post to follow. Here's why. DH today, in uniform, seated next to a rather medicated business fellow armed with a newspaper and a snoot

I've been bubbling to say something, but figured enough of you know this already.... now I can't keep quiet. "a quiet guy with depression having a bad day" doesn't intentionally kill a plane load of

Hmmmm. Does anyone else find it odd that the reports on the FO's behaviour all mention 'silent' along with regular breathing? I'm no specialist, but if someone was awake and engaged in such a massive

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How about a code to get in that is agreed to and entered by both pilots at the beginning of each flight and can only be reset by a complete touchdown? The code couldn't be guessed since it would start existing less than a few minutes before the flight and couldn't be effectively be changed.

Sorta like the changeable code on hotel room safe's, perhaps with 5 or 6 digits? Pilot takes over aircraft, changes code, advises other pilot(s) & In Charge. It would be a start.

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One can only wonder why the investigators have so quickly leaked information and their hypothesis to the media, some of whom in England are also quick to call the co-pilot a mass-murderer!!! Is this for anything else than to deflect attention and criticism from Airbus so people continue flying on them? Otherwise why not wait for due process and responsible and thorough investigation void of corporate and media influence, but respectful and compassionate for the people touched by this disaster?

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One can only wonder why the investigators have so quickly leaked information and their hypothesis to the media, some of whom in England are also quick to call the co-pilot a mass-murderer!!! Is this for anything else than to deflect attention and criticism from Airbus so people continue flying on them?

In a word, probably. The Airbus has garnered a lot of negative attention lately for descents that were not commanded by the crew. Everyone was focussed on that possibility when this news first broke. I know I was.

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I like Moon's idea of a daily or individual door code. We have passwords for just about everything we do in today's world so how hard could it be to program something only you will know and use. At no time should a Captain (or FO) be locked out of the flight deck of his/her airplane. The thought of ending my career by pounding away on a bullet proof door is not what I've planned.

Also, when this has been determined to now be a criminal act, why do we care about patient/doctor confidentiality? If he had an on going medical problem, what was it?

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Inch man...

Were you married to a flight attendant? Doesn't appear you hold them in the highest regard.

Both at Canadian and Air Canada sop was for an fa to replace a flight crew member who went to use facilities.

When was that changed---and why?

I am currently married to a flight attendant and consider them an important part of the crew, the company and she, in particular, an important part my personal life.

cp fa translated my position on this quite well, so I'll leave it at that.

If a pilot really wants to bring down an aircraft full of people, they don't need more than 5 seconds to do it and could do so with the other pilot sitting right there, let alone someone watching over them from the jump seat.

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Sorta like the changeable code on hotel room safe's, perhaps with 5 or 6 digits? Pilot takes over aircraft, changes code, advises other pilot(s) & In Charge. It would be a start.

Until the In Charge winds up with a knife to their throat and divulges the code and there is now no way to prevent entry.

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I like Moon's idea of a daily or individual door code. We have passwords for just about everything we do in today's world so how hard could it be to program something only you will know and use. At no time should a Captain (or FO) be locked out of the flight deck of his/her airplane. The thought of ending my career by pounding away on a bullet proof door is not what I've planned.

Also, when this has been determined to now be a criminal act, why do we care about patient/doctor confidentiality? If he had an on going medical problem, what was it?

Ahh, but then the Not Criminally Responsible dependence. Then he walks (assumingly not atomized along a mountainside in the Alps). Tough time defending the other 149 methinks.

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John, not a rant at all...very well considered, and said.

While two-in-the-cockpit is one measure that may have been successful in preventing this incident and other such events-to-come, the key is not only responding to what has happened with layered defences but, as with all aviation defences that have produced a remarkable and enviable safety record, having in place processes which anticipate such problems in the first place including those associated with human factors needs wider examination.

While the industry manages technical risk superbly, it handles the far-greater factor in aircraft accidents today, the human factor, overall still quite poorly.

Pilots are not immune to such problems as are being discussed but it is interesting that it has taken so long just for that notion to break the cultural meme that “pilots are invincible”, to become accepted and understood. What does anyone believe at the moment that the propensity for a pilot to self-report symptoms of depression and anxiety is as high as it should be?

The problem with knee-jerk responses that satisfy the impatience of an instantly-informed world unfamiliar with the way flight safety works is that they are usually narrowly-conceived and inevitably brittle. The original notion of the cockpit door after 9/11 was such a notion, in my view. Fear should not drive solutions in aviation and that includes fear of the media.

I think an answer to consider here is some distance “upstream” from the cockpit.

Setting aside the factors which have left the industry in such a state that young people are choosing the profession in vastly reduced numbers, the peer-to-peer concept has been successfully implemented at many Canadian and U.S. airlines.

Along with two-in-the-cockpit after 9/11, Air Canada pioneered a "P2P" (Peer-to-peer) Program decades ago, to address these very human, very real problems. Today, many U.S. carriers and most in Canada have such programs but I’m uncertain as to other carriers of other nations.

Such programs reduce or at least isolate the stigma attached to some of these problems because the process is supported equally by both company and association. It's more than just a safety-valve, it is a fully-functioning, bi-partisan process with the involvement of trained, long-term, dedicated personnel from both sides who also fly for the airline. They have access to specialists where indicated. The Program works, not because it prevents such problems but because it recognizes them as legitimate and deals with them on a peer-to-peer basis. P2P is not a one-solution, brittle process but a long-standing, resilient process.

The present calls for cockpit videos, more training, better screening etc., are all instrumental solutions which handle and categorize symptoms, not cause. If video is to be one result of this tragic event, such information deserves legal protection so that it is employed for flight safety purposes only.

Certainly those left behind after such an unspeakable event deserve answers but such cannot be rushed, notwithstanding the media's inappropriate crush on all associated with this terrible tragedy; - there is no software that one can plug the question in, from which the answer to our pain will come including the pain of keeping patience which cannot be avoided, however necessary.

Such events make visible and take to the edges our assumptions of what it is to be civilized and rational. We can't let that take the industry off proven responses.

An approach like P2P acknowledges these human frailties at face value, without judgement. P2P programs are designed to provide an open door to those who may be suffering from human factors that prevent them flying well and safely.

But such programs are expensive and because of the confidential nature of the work, are not auditable and are not part of "the Annual Report". So it is difficult to implement and then justify to those accustomed to the Quarterly Report process of justifying how to divide up limited resources. I think this is an area that must change, along with possible implementation of Human Reliability Programs as some have already suggested, and the immediate processes such as two-in-the-cockpit. It is a traditional, multi-layered approach.

Like flight safety work itself, "success" does not have a metric, because one cannot measure, that-which-did-not-happen, (and therefore program justification is different than traditional business-cases), and probabilities don't work when the notions of "how much, how many" drive priorities. You will never find anyone involved talking about the activities and processes of the Program because it is such a Program’s independence from the command-and-control process and its confidentiality that keeps it both alive and successful.

Limitations or lack of such process may be at work here, but we don't yet know what programs if any, Lufthansa / Germanwings has implemented.

We are all subject to the same human problems and respond differently, but not many organizations find ways of dealing with such matters in a formal way because “mental health is not viewed as a corporate responsibility". However, for good reasons, some airlines voluntarily do this and it works well.

In decades past, pilots "grew", or apprenticed into the industry through various jobs held and came to know aviation through experiences, many of which informed us that we are always seconds away from the unexpected - sometimes the best teacher is adrenaline. That kind of grounding that builds an airman cannot be conveyed in school, or in a few hundred hours in the simulator. Some of our colleagues are flying with pilots who have 300hrs TT. MCPL and cadet training provides the instrumental knowledge of "how-to", and one can sit in the seat and operate the airplane, but a sense of a professional ethic and the expectation of same is not engendered when one is just hired to do a 'job'. We have to do better than this.

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Disclaimer, I am in a mood for a soap box. Probably not my best post to follow.

Here's why.

DH today, in uniform, seated next to a rather medicated business fellow armed with a newspaper and a snoot full of ideas about pilots. The fellow held up his paper in front of my face, "What do you think of this - they say he did it on purpose - Eh? what do you think?"

I think all I could manage amid the rising streak of red up the back of my neck was to comment that speculation, no matter how well printed, remains that. It's been a difficult week, let's let the process run a bit.

"But still, ya gotta admit, pretty messed up, eh?"

"It's a tragedy, that is certain. For any other final conclusions, we'll just have to wait. Where are you travelling from?...." and I thank the Gods of alcohol-induced ADD that he went for it.

Of course, this got me thinking about what we consider "messed up" to mean. Is a broken leg "messed up"? Maybe alcohol rehab? Depression? Yes, there is certainly a ranking of ailments, some more worthy than others. Break your leg exercising ghastly judgement mountain biking with men half your age - well that's worthy. Deep depression after the loss of a job, marriage, or relative? Hmmm.

About a million years ago, I remember being struck with a paragraph in "The Right Stuff". Pilots didn't actually mind dying in an airplane as much as they feared being remembered as having f____ up in the process.

Over the years I have often thought of just how true that sentiment is. We re-enforce this notion, heck, we veritably beat it into newcomers. No matter what, suck it up, carry on. Don't screw it up Useful approach, for the most part.

But...

There was a line we crossed some time back. I didn't notice when, maybe someone more astute can say, when aviation bought into this arrogant notion that pilots could carry off a safe operation irrespective of their personal circumstances. Funny stories about rowdy layovers aside, we arrived at a point where personal life events didn't seem relevant any more, not to company schedules, sick leave policies, or open discussions of personal fitness.

For many pilots, and I have worked with a few, (Don has mentioned pilot assistance), the idea of putting up one's hand to tap out in the face of overwhelming life circumstances has been programmed completely off the table. I have personally witnessed an individual cite several recent deaths in the family and a child in hospital, tell me they haven't slept in days and just got off the phone with their spouse weeping on the other end, but then tell me they're fine. Let's go. (No, we did not operate that flight.)

Don, you have often spoken of the normalisation of deviance. It is my belief that, as a community, aviation crews have been living this drift for decades. Our schedules (and schedulers) demand it and our pride makes us try to deliver.

This young man's full story may ultimately never be told. But as wrenching as his last moments were, he was one of us. I think we owe it to ourselves, our families, our passengers, and perhaps even in a way to him, to drop the veil of secrecy and stigma (to quote above) that surrounds mental, cognitive or emotional fitness.

We simply must come to a place where an individual who wonders if they are fit no longer has to find out onboard an aircraft. If we fail or shy away, then I agree with the poster who noted that this problem may prove unsolvable.

There, off my soapbox, with thoughts for each of the members of our aviation family. We have work to do, and I hope we can do it.

Vs.

Vsplat, although I agree with the main thrust of your post, my experience with Air Canada flight ops over the years, during times of family issues or other stressors has been quite the opposite of what you're describing, not only for ourselves, but for other pilots, examples of which are too numerous to mention.

I would think that the industry has come a long way in this respect, from the time when taking time to deal with emotional issues was considered "lack of moral fiber".

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While probably not a popular position to take I will voice my opinion concerning the whole issue.

All the psychologists and all the psychoanalysing in the world will not stop some other individual from committing another/different horrific act by someone who seemingly appeared to be 'normal'.

This act hit home, more closely than many others that we have read about, because we are members of the aviation community and we can more easily put ourselves in the "onboard" situation throughout the entire event.

There is no easy solution with respect to identifying or assisting individuals that have a mental problem and even though there are excellent programs available there will always be those that feel they can handle their "problem" themselves and will NOT seek professional advice. You can bet that, until this event fades into the background, pilots will be looking at each other should a questionable comment be made by either driver, and there will be a small/tiny degree of paranoia evident by all pilots until, as stated before, the event fades.

That pilots will feel this way for a while is probably a normal reaction, and I am sure we all know that the human mind is something no one completely understands.

Forgetting about door mods...for now............ I ask this question...........

Is there an answer with respect to finding out who is capable and who is not capable of being an airline pilot ?? I would ask that you consider line # 2 of this post.

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Kip, in the sense that there are no absolutes in life, you are right.

That said, I hope you will agree that, where we see a chance to reduce a risk, we should do all that we can.

The simple fact is that some pilots, for whatever reason, face only bad choices when they have an issue. Go to work and convince themselves that they can just push through it, or raise a flag and put the rest of their career at risk. For someone already dealing with high stress or emotional illness, that is simply not a fair equation to have to solve.

It is just my opinion, but it seems to me that airline economics all seem to depend on the 'just push through it' approach. Extend duty time beyond CARS? Do it today, write it up tomorrow. Short crews? Work harder this month, waive days off or vacation, catch up on lost rest or time with loved ones later. (with 'later' TBD - sorry, we are still short crews).

Don's comment that there are upstream issues is spot on. Until our crewing plans change the expectation of 'ready aye ready' to something more realistic, we are going to have individuals that try to carry whatever load is given them and try to explain away the widening cracks in their personal foundation.

And yes, there will be a cost. It is my view that there already has been.

Vs

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cp fa, I won't get into discussions of specific company policies or programs here, many reasons why.

I will say that Air Canada does have some great support systems, however individuals have to both be aware of what is truly available, and have the self-possession to admit the time has come to access same. The alternative is that a colleague observes something of concern and initiates the process.

Perhaps we can agree that insight can be affected by circumstance, so an individual may not self-report early enough. As many have agreed, external observation of an individual in crisis is simply not effective. Sadly, I know of numerous cases where an individual took their own life within hours of being with friends who reported their behaviour as normal. Those who remain carry the unfair burden of wondering what they missed and the answer is, too often, nothing. There were no outward signs to see.

So yes, in some ways there has been progress. In others, such as basic crewing and dealing with initial symptoms, I see ways we could improve.

But, that's all just my opinion.

Vs

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Agree with your second line...absolutely..no question.

The problem is that everyone has 'problems' and the methodology to ascertain who those people are, those that can't handle the 'load', hasn't been developed that will, with a high degree of certainly, deny those that are so affected the right to pilot an aircraft.

As far as crew planning etc., there is little any pilot can do IF the schedulers are following the rules and the pilots have agreed, through their Union to follow those rules. The moment any planner/scheduler bends or breaks the rules, the game for that crew should be over.

As far as "personal overload" goes pilots have to police themselves and as you stated therein lies the problem...and the cold hard fact its that there will always be those that will deny that they need a break...how do you fix that?/ Yes, we have programmes but we also have AA and we all know individuals who should have attended years earlier than the day they started and we also know people who can hide their problem for decades.

There is no quick fix and with the decrease in actual flying time required to be employed by airline companies, we are going to find some of the young "green' pilots who have just started and are burdened with new families, high mortgages, and have relatively quasi comfort in the 'big machine' because of their lack of operational experience .........well for some their stress levels will be approaching breaking points. That is not to say that the "old guys" can't have problems as well but based on flight experience and time, perhaps some can handle their problems better than someone who has just jumped into the game.

We can all remember when an airline would not even consider you if you did not have a valid ATR and 3000 hours in the log book. Yes, the very low hour newbies can understand the technology, are good with a joystick but IMO they are so early in the game that they just have not built a catalogue of experience, have not lived the occasional bout of unexpected flight operations pressure and when you take those facts and couple them with their possible 'off duty' problems.....things can happen.

Again, personally, I do not believe in the "Cadet" program and would rather see airlines go back to selecting individuals with more flight hours and experience....and here I know I am pi$$ing into the wind because to do so there would have to be a radical change in airline culture...starting at the top.

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As many as 25% of airline pilots on med leave are off work for psychological or emotional reasons (stress/depression/anxiety). These pilots have appropriately removed themselves from flight duty. The vast majority are the result of circumstance not individual chemistry. The good news is that circumstantial emotional disability is typically temporary and non-recurring. It is critical that such individuals not be stigmatized and must feel comfortable acknowledging their condition and seeking professional diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes the cure is just time, as is often the case where the triggering event was bereavement. It is also critical that there be employer support and financial support via appropriate disability benefits.

On a separate note - severe depression can result in an individual considering harming themself. However, it is only repressed anger that would cause an individual to consider harming others. These are very different circumstances and I am not sure that they can manifest themselves concurrently.

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FD Door keypad suggestion:

2 custom programmable codes known only to the individual pilots, and one company "default" code as now, known to all crew.

For example, during preflights, both pilots program their own discreet code (like a hotel safe) that cannot be "denied" by the switch in the FD . This is better than boimetrics as a code must be "willingly" divulged to a bad guy. An unconscious (or worse) finger can be used by anyone...

This is in addition to the "default" airline code that is known to all crew (fas etc), however this one can be denied (i.e. it gets into the wrong hands, etc.) This allows FAs access to FD in event of dual incapacitation (i.e. decompression and both pilots pass out, FA on O2 can enter and revive (hopefully!) the pilots.

This allows both pilots unrestricted, undeniable access to the FD.

Ah, but what of the mechanical deadbolt required for MEL purposes (I've had to use it, it's annoying). Well, how about two seperate electronic systems, a normal and an alternate (run from different buses, one off the Hot Batt Bus perhaps), and do away with the mechanical bolt altogether. Two latches in the door, one for each, with the "active system" actually locking the door, and the inactive unlocked. Both programmed during preflights. Adds about 45 seconds to each pilot's preflight.

This dual, "custom code" system allows MEL relief while maintaining access for both pilots at all times. Most of this is software, with a bit of hardware. The idea is rough, but maybe workable?

Thoughts?

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An FA on the flight deck is not for the purpose of monitoring the actions of the remaining pilot. Perhaps that is about to change (not an appropriate role for an FA). In Europe, there is a requirement for a video surveillance system that provides views of the area on the outside of the flight deck door and that system is designed to be used from a seated position on the fligh deck.

From another forum and accurately sums up the original "two person" rule purpose -

"The two-crew rule was mainly in place in the US to facilitate flight deck crew identification upon return to the cockpit after a break. For aircraft without video surveillance at the door, there was a need for somebody to confirm the person at the door was alone and authorized. You don't want the only guy left at the controls to have to get up out of his seat to accomplish this. The US does have differing O2 rules when above FL250 compared to the EU and other parts of the world, and this procedure of using the cabin crew was in line with that regulation."

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From another forum and accurately sums up the original "two person" rule purpose -

"The two-crew rule was mainly in place in the US to facilitate flight deck crew identification upon return to the cockpit after a break. For aircraft without video surveillance at the door, there was a need for somebody to confirm the person at the door was alone and authorized. You don't want the only guy left at the controls to have to get up out of his seat to accomplish this. The US does have differing O2 rules when above FL250 compared to the EU and other parts of the world, and this procedure of using the cabin crew was in line with that regulation."

Canada has also had a "two-person" policy (note it is not a rule in the U.S. either) since approximately 2002 for some aircraft, although for a slightly different purpose. See the sections related to "Guidance on Developing Procedures" and "MEL Provisions in the following AC:

Advisory Circular 0215 - Flight Deck Door Regulations

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This event seems likely to accelerate the development of ground control technology whereby a pilot in a SOC might take control of the aircraft in an emergency. The technology is the easy part. You could pretty well do it now, with the cooperation of the aircraft maker. However, the protocols for such an intervention will takes years to develop. I give it 7-10 years before the first implementation occurs.

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The corporate pursuit of profit broke up the system long ago and the zits are now beginning to pop up. IMHO, with one exception, bandages won't fix a thing; the ideas intended to improve safety that are emerging from all corners will only create equally new opportunities for bad guys to kill airplanes.

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