Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had traces of the anti-depressive medications citalopram and mirtazapine in his system, as well as the sleep medication zopiclone, according to a French air accident report that was released today, 13 March. He had also been referred to a psychiatric clinic by a doctor two weeks before he crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.
French air accident investigators say pilot screening processes failed to identify the risks presented by Lubitz's health. Arnaud Desjardin, the leader of the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA) investigation, told reporters that medical experts found Lubitz's symptoms at that time "could be compatible with a psychotic episode". Lubitz had been previously treated for depression.
The BEA's report about the March 2015 plane crash states that Lubitz consulted multiple doctors in the weeks leading to the crash, but none of them informed authorities about their concerns about his mental health. And as Lubitz did not inform Germanwings about his doctors' warnings the BEA said "no action could have been taken by the authorities or his employer to prevent him from flying".
At a news conference in Le Bourget, Desjardin blamed Germany's strict privacy laws, for causing the doctors to fear they would lose their jobs if they reported Lubitz to authorities.
"That's why I think clearer rules are needed to preserve public security," Desjardin said.
Psychological testing no help
The BEA report also recommends measures to remove pilot's fears they will be dismissed for suffering 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".
However, BEA investigators say airplane cockpit rules should not be changed, even though a suicidal Lubitz locked his pilot out of the control room before taking the plane into its deadly descent into the French Alps.
The agency said that it was still 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 11 September 2001 in the US
Desjardin said "a lockage system cannot be created to prevent threats coming from outside and inside the cockpit".
But many airlines and regulators have already issued changes since the Germanwings crash, and now require at least two people to remain in plane's cockpits at all times to prevent similar crashes.
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 which is seeking to determine criminal responsibility for the crash.