Is Excessive Coverage of the Germanwings Crash Distorting Reality?

March 31, 2015 2:14 pm Last Updated: April 1, 2015 2:03 pm

One question that’s being echoed across the media landscape is: Could the Germanwings disaster have been prevented?

Endless network coverage—mainly about the pilot and the last moments on board the plane—is skewing the public’s perception on airplane safety and makes it seem like the monitoring of pilots and flight crew is too lax, one pilot argues, adding there’s probably not much we could have done.

“As this tsunami of public alarm rises, the demand for instant solutions and immediate resolution overcomes common sense—and even reality,” writes longtime airline pilot Chris Manno for Mashable on Tuesday. “At any given moment, a thousand flights are in the air, manned by a thousand crews, who do their jobs faithfully and professionally as they always have.”

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Before the crash, the number of planes in the air is the same that it ever was. Furthermore, air travel is as safe as it has ever been—despite last year’s dramatic, high-profile incidents involving Malaysia Airlines. According to the Aviation Safety Network, 2014 was the safest year for air travel.

It comes down to this, he writes on his JetHead website, “Trust in your flight crew. There’s no simple solution to the rare and tragic occurrence that just transpired over the French Alps.”

“But there is real danger in half-baked solutions that just add more layers of vulnerability to what is already 11 million to 1 odds in an airline passenger’s favor,” Manno writes. “Reality seems to matter little,” Manno adds, noting there’s been a series of bad ideas proposed in the wake of the Germanwings plane crash.

“The spectrum of bad ideas runs from remote control to cockpit access override,” he says, adding that “I as a 30-year airline pilot will not set foot in a cockpit that can be commandeered by remote control, consider the added layer of vulnerability.”

“Here’s the real problem: there are no quick solutions,” Manno argues. “Yet that’s what the public ‘demands’–for now, but only for now. The fact is, in Texas alone there have been 257 traffic deaths so far this year, yet no one’s calling for a 20 mile an hour speed limit or any other radical but certain solution.” 

The co-pilot of the Germanwings plane, Andreas Lubitz, is suspected of locking himself in the cockpit before slamming the aircraft into a mountain ravine, killing 150 people on board. Due to how the incident played out, there have been suggestions that European airlines should a have a minimum of two people in the cockpit at all times—a safety measure used by the U.S.

Last week, the European Aviation Safety Agency, a body operated by the European Union, recommended airlines should “re-assess the safety and security risks associated with a flight crew leaving the cockpit due to operational or physiological needs” and have two crew in the cockpit.

Manno didn’t touch on the new recommendations, but he says that in time, effective and practical solutions will be found. 

This might not be good enough, notes Brian Claypool, a criminal defense attorney who began his legal career as a lawyer for Airbus.

“Right now, there is no incentive for airlines to regularly monitor pilot/crew mental health because if they don’t, they can say we didn’t know if something happens,” he told Epoch Times via email.

“We need new guidelines for the hiring and retention of flight crews given the culture of violence and worldwide threat of terrorism. Airlines should perform rigorous pre-hire background checks, regular mental health screening and even canvassing of social media.”