EU Previously Criticized German Airline Regulation

Long before Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed the plane, European Union (EU) officials expressed concerns about Germany’s aviation regulation. According to a report released by the EU on Saturday, a commissioner told Berlin back in November “to remedy the long-standing problems,” which included lax oversight and a lack of staff. These shortcomings allegedly could have contributed to the oversight of Lubitz’s medical history by undermining medical checks on carriers and crew.

Lubitz, who killed 149 people and himself when he allegedly intentionally crashed Germanwings Flight 4U 9525, had a history of depression flagged in his medical file. Bloomberg reports that the 27-year-old was being treated for a psychosomatic condition by neurologists and psychiatrists, and claims that he had taken a break from his pilot training years ago due to severe depression. However, until investigations of Lubitz began after the crash, much of this information was largely unknown.

Now, a past report from a routine check by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency voicing concern over the potential of this exact oversight has surfaced. The Wall Street Journal reports that, back in 2011, the commission had temporarily placed Germany on the equivalent of an “airline blacklist” for not complying with some oversight requirements. The report given to the German federal aviation office — the Luftfahrt Bundesamt, or LBA — cited “an insufficient numbers [sic] of qualified personnel” that could affect the LBA's ability to “ensure continuing oversight.” More than 10 of the listed citations related to medical issues, including the access that the LBA provided to medical records and its oversight of medical centers and examiners, according to additional reports.

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However, while these citations might sound worthy of an eyebrow raise in light of the recent crash, The Wall Street Journal reports that these sorts of citations are actually not that unusual. When Germany was critiqued for not complying with oversight requirements, both Italy and Greece, as well as some other countries, also came under fire. The EU Commission spokesman said:

All EU member states have findings and this is a normal and regular occurrence. It is part of a continuous system of oversight: findings are followed by corrective action, similar to an audit process.

Moreover, it remains unclear whether these oversights by the German aviation regulators were actually factors in the Germanwings incident. While the LBA has declined to comment on its past citations, The Wall Street Journal reports that it did, in fact, respond to the commission’s findings and said it would review staffing levels and resources. Germany was removed from the “airlines blacklist” in late 2011.

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