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Pilot Association Raises Concerns About Germanwings Investigation


We turn now to Jim Phillips. He's the director for international affairs of the German Pilots Association. He joins us from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport ahead of a flight. Welcome to the program.

JIM PHILLIPS: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

CORNISH: Your organization has raised questions about people being too quick to draw conclusions about this case. Give us your objections to what's going on with this investigation.

PHILLIPS: First of all, the cockpit voice recorder data was leaked. This is very unusual. The way it's being handled, it could appear that they may be looking for somebody to be at fault instead of looking for all of the answers. One of the major key issues that are still missing is the flight data recorder. That should provide insight when it's found and evaluated. And so our appeal is that the investigators continue to get all the facts, and before any further statements and blame is put on anybody, we would like those investigations to be finished first.

CORNISH: Help us understand how the flight data recorder would make a difference when people seem to be speaking conclusively about the indications of deliberate action from the data we have right now.

PHILLIPS: From the data we have right now the only thing we really know is the captain left the cockpit and the first officer was breathing. We have a emergency access code that we normally put into the door to allow us to come in if the other pilot doesn't respond. This can be denied from the other pilot. And one of the questions we have that is not been talked about from the prosecutor is whether the code was entered. Was it denied? Was there no response? If there was no response the other pilot would have been able to get in. And that the flight data recorder would be able to give us this information.

CORNISH: As we heard, there are many questions about the doctor's note found in the home of Andreas Lubitz. What do you make of that revelation?

PHILLIPS: We don't know yet what the doctor's note concerned and why he went back to work early. If it was an earache or something very small, then it was justified that he went back to work early. That would be a self-evaluation. But if it was something more serious, then he should've reported it to the flight surgeon and sat down and discussed it with the flight surgeon.

CORNISH: Help us understand the process when it comes to health screening for pilots in Germany. What's involved and is mental health apart of that process?

PHILLIPS: In the beginning, for the licensing, there are questions that are asked by the flight surgeon. The major psychological evaluation occurs when you begin with a company. Generally, though, that opinion is, will you fit into the company? Are you a team player? Other than that, at the yearly medical examination we do have questions that are asked. One of the major ones is what doctor have we seen since the last medical, what medication we're taking. If we're taking vitamins or aspirin, it's OK. But anything after that, we have to report it.

CORNISH: In the U.S., at least two crew members are required to be present in the cockpit at all times. Can you talk about your position on that, the German Pilots Association, if that's something that you'd like to see introduced more broadly?

PHILLIPS: It is being introduced. I believe it is now in all of the German airlines. And we understand that the four-eye concept is a step in the right direction, at least initially. I'm not sure how practical it would be to always have a cabin crew member in the cockpit every time that one of the pilot goes out. But it is a initial step that we aren't against. We just hope that it doesn't stop there and that we continue searching for better solutions.

CORNISH: Have you heard from any pilots in your association who may have known Andreas Lubitz? And if so, what have they told you?

PHILLIPS: The station where Andreas was based at was Dusseldorf. It's a very small base for Germanwings. And all of the people there knew him. He showed no signs of mental health problems or anything else. He was quiet. He wasn't - how should I say? - a loud person. But he always gave a very competent impression. Pilots normally love to fly. We - it's a job we love. And that something like this could happen is a great shock to everybody.

CORNISH: Jim Phillips, he's director of international affairs for the German Pilots Association. Thank you for speaking with us.

PHILLIPS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me as well. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.