It’s such a heartbreaking story and it leaves me with many questions. The announcement that officials believe the co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane is sobering and opens up more questions.
I don’t profess to be an expert on anything below. I’m posing these questions and week start looking for answers. But, in certain ways, this has cast a deeper pit in my stomach than the MH 370 disappearance.
Here are my questions and rambling thoughts. I hope you’ll join the discussion of you have your own questions or thoughts. All I ask is that you keep your comments constructive.
1. Why did a member of the flight crew leave the cockpit? It was initially reported as the co-pilot and now seems to be reported as the captain who left the cockpit.
2. Is it safe for airlines to allow only one person in the cockpit? At first blush, it appears the airline has the authority in Europe to decide whether two members of the flight crew need to be in the cockpit at all times. It’s standard operating procedure in the US to always have two people in the cockpit (not immediately clear to me if it’s an FAA regulation).
3. Are cockpit doors designed incorrectly? Cockpit doors were redesigned after 9/11 to prevent unauthorized access. They were reinforced to keep someone from breaking it down. There are specific reports that the security features Airbus offers on their doors is the ability for the occupant of the cockpit to override the keypad for a few minutes, potentially to allow a pilot time to land the plane or otherwise figure out how to deal with an unauthorized person trying to access the cockpit. It seems these precautions may have contributed to the co-pilot being able to deliberately crash the plane without intervention.
4. Should pilots be subject to mental health evaluations? Should they be allowed to carry guns on board? These are questions that have come up in the past without a consensus.
5. What else could have been done to prevent this type of tragedy?
I recall when Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went missing and there was an outcry for change that would allow for constant tracking of planes. There was strong, sensible push-back against radical change. Ultimately, there was no short-term knee-jerk reaction.
Flight 9525 should spur a discussion. But, it should be evolution, not revolution. I’m sure someone contemplated a situation like 9525 when decisions were made to collectively reinforce the doors and increase access control. It seems the fear of an attack similar to 9/11 outweighed the fear of a rogue pilot.
But, pilots are human. Things like this can happen. More benign things can happen as well, such as a single occupant losing consciousness in the cockpit and the door jamming (both of these have happened independently of each other).
This incident is a chilling one for me. Every airline crash is, but this one has left me with more questions than answers.
What are your questions?