Calls for new rules backed by air crash families

Paul Bramley. Foreign and Commonwealth Office/PA Wire
Paul Bramley. Foreign and Commonwealth Office/PA Wire
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Lawyers for the families of British victims killed in the Germanwings air crash have welcomed calls for new rules on reporting pilot mental health issues.

Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in the French Alps on March 24 last year, killing 150 people including Paul Bramley, 28, from Hull and Britons Martyn Matthews, 50, from Wolverhampton, and Julian Pracz-Bandres, seven months, from Manchester.

French investigators have urged new world rules requiring medical professionals to warn authorities when a pilot’s mental health could threaten public safety. An earlier report found evidence suggesting co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had previously been treated for depression, deliberately downed the plane after locking the pilot out of the cockpit.

The air accident bureau BEA has now published its final report on the crash, looking at issues including cockpit safety, psychological testing of pilots and how mental health issues are handled.

Lawyers for the families said it was concerning issues experienced by Lubitz, who had seen 41 doctors in recent years and been referred to a psychiatric clinic a fortnight before the crash, had not been communicated from doctors to the airline or authorities.

Jim Morris, specialist aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell which represents British and Spanish families, said: “We need clear and consistent guidelines in Europe and internationally on where the threat to public safety outweighs medical confidentiality for pilots - so the BEA safety recommendations are welcomed.”

Mr Bramley was studying hospitality and hotel management in Lucerne and was about to start an internship.

Traces of anti-depressants and sleeping medication were found in Lubitz’s system. The BEA said because Lubitz had not informed anyone about the doctors’ warnings, “no action could have been taken by the authorities or his employer to prevent him from flying”.

The situation here in the UK is different, said British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) general secretary Jim McAuslan, who said there is not the same level of medical confidentiality as there is elsewhere.

Arnaud Desjardin, who led the BEA investigation, said at a press briefing in Le Bourget yesterday, experts found the co-pilot’s symptoms at that time “could be compatible with a psychotic episode”, but this information had not been communicated. He said guidelines are needed on the balance between patient privacy and a possible threat to public safety.

Mr McAuslan said: “This is, I think, more of a German recommendation than a UK recommendation.”