Germanwings Pilot May Have Sought Treatment for Eye Problem

Andreas Lubitz, suspected of deliberately crashing Germanwings flight 4U9525, reportedly had sought treatment for vision problems that may have jeopardized his piloting career.

Reuters

Speculation continues over the actions of Andreas Lubitz, who was flying Germanwings flight 4U9525 with 149 people on board last Tuesday when, prosecutors believe, he locked the pilot out of the cockpit before deliberately crashing the Airbus A320 plane.

AP

German newspaper Bild und Zeitung quoted two officials with knowledge of the investigation as saying Lubitz had sought treatment for vision problems that may have jeopardized his ability to continue working as a pilot.

AP

The latest revelation added a new element to the emerging portrait of the 27-year-old German, who the authorities say was also being treated for psychological issues and had hidden aspects of his medical condition from his employer.

Europe’s aviation agency announced over the weekend that all airlines under its jurisdiction must now have two crew members in the cockpit at all times. The move follows last week’s tragedy in the French Alps, where copilot Andreas Lubitz is suspected of deliberately slamming his passenger plane into the mountainside.

The European Aviation Safety Agency announced it has now changed its in-flight procedures. Arkia Airlines also announced it would be applying the same rule for all its flights.It is not clear how severe his vision problems were or how they might have been related to his psychological condition. One person with knowledge of the investigation said the authorities had not ruled out the possibility that the problem could have been psychosomatic.

Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, faces huge compensation payments to the families of the 149 victims of the crash (144 passengers and five crew members). A spokeswoman for the airline confirmed that it would compensate the family of each victim with 50,000 euros ($54,000). However, according to European law, the ceiling for compensation for an air disaster, if negligence is not involved, stands at 171,000 euros.

In a related development, Germanwings removed its ads from 82 stations in the London Underground with the slogan “Get ready to be surprised.”

Concealed illness

The possibility that Lubitz suffered from a psychological disorder is being taken seriously as one of several leads, a French prosecutor working with German investigators in Dusseldorf told AFP yesterday.

“We possess a certain number of elements that allow us to advance this lead, which is a very serious lead, but not the only one,” Jean-Pierre Michael told the news agency.

Germany’s federal aviation authority said yesterday it had given Lubitz’s file to prosecutors, but declined to say whether it contained a so-called SIC entry, which indicates an ongoing medical condition that requires regular checkups.

A SIC designation can be added to files for a variety of conditions and does not specify whether these are of a physical or a psychological nature.

Prosecutors claimed that Lubitz hid an illness from his employer after finding multiple items in his home, including a torn-up doctor’s note that would have given him time off on the day of the flight.

A hospital in Dusseldorf confirmed Friday that Lubitz had been treated there, beginning last month, but said reports that he had been treated for depression were false.

Also yesterday, it emerged that Lubitz was familiar with the area in the Alps where the plane went down.

A gliding club member told French broadcaster iTele that the German pilot was a member of the flying club in his hometown of Montabaur and regularly came to Sisteron – some 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the crash site in France – with his parents as an adolescent, to practice gliding.

Francis Kefer said the family regularly vacationed in the area between 1996 and 2003, adding another perplexing dimension to a case that German and French investigators are racing to unravel.

Investigators at the crash site continued recovering remains yesterday across steep mountainous terrain at an altitude of 2,000 meters. So far, they have collected between 400 and 600 pieces of human remains and sent them for analysis.

Patrick Touron, who is leading the recovery effort, said that information about victim identification would not be made public until the effort was complete. Touron’s unit is also searching for a second black box that could shed more details on the flight’s final moments, after its casing was found empty earlier in the week.

German officials said there would be a public memorial ceremony on April 17 in Cologne with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck in attendance. There were a reported 75 German citizens aboard the flight.