An Australian man whose wife and son were among the 150 passengers and crew killed when a suicidal pilot crashed a Germanwings airplane into the French Alps a year ago is suing Lufthansa’s U.S.-based flight school alleging it knew the pilot was mentally ill but failed to stop him from becoming a licensed pilot.
David Friday told Australia’s Fairfax Media that Germanwings’ parent company Lufthansa knew about but negligently hid pilot Andreas Lubitz’s history of serious mental illness and thus failed to stop him from becoming a licensed pilot of passenger jets.
As a result, 150 people, including Mr. Friday’s wife Carol, 68, and son Grieg, 29, tragically paid the price for Lufthansa’s negligence, the plaintiff claims.
Mr. Friday is suing Lufthansa’s Airline Training Centre Arizona (ATCA) in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Lufthansa operates flight schools for its pilots in Phoenix, Ariz., and in Bremen, Germany. Mr. Friday’s U.S. lawyer is also preparing a lawsuit against Lufthansa in Germany.
According to Mr. Friday’s complaint, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules require that flight schools cease training students “suffering from psychological abnormality.”
When training at Lufthansa’s Bremen, Germany, location, Mr. Lubitz took a 10-month leave of absence to receive help for his mental illness. During that time, Mr. Lubitz suffered from a bout of severe depression, resulting in him being prescribed anti-depressants and signing no-suicide pacts with psychiatrists.
Despite these problems, Lufthansa cleared Mr. Lubitz to resume his training. He passed written exams in Germany in October 2010 and proceeded to the next level of training. His application, however, was initially rejected by the FAA, but ultimately he was allowed to resume his training at ATCA in Arizona, where one unnamed official declared him “unflyable.”
The FAA’s initial rejection of his application to train and the flight school deeming him “unflyable” should have provided ample warning to Lufthansa. Instead, Mr. Friday’s lawyer alleges, “They have denied knowing of any evidence of him suffering from a mental disorder.”
The suit also points out close communications and management crossovers between Lufthansa’s pilot schools, raising further questions about its failure to keep Mr. Lubitz out of the cockpit.
Mr. Lubitz was co-piloting Germanwings flight 9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf on March 14, 2015, when he suffered a psychotic breakdown and locked the pilot out of the cockpit, successfully resisting the crew’s efforts to break the cockpit door open. He then took the airplane into a controlled descent over the French Alps until the plane crashed into the side of a mountain.
“They were loved and appreciated by so many people. If their loss had been due to some genuine accident it may have been easier to bear,” Mr. Friday, speaking of his wife and son, told Fairfax Media.
“We feel legal action against the flight school, who were aware of the pilot’s mental problems, will ensure that they never again allow a pilot with known dangerous mental problems to be licensed to pilot a passenger plane.”
Sources: Fairfax Media / The Age