Columnists

March 26, 2015

Lurking Behind the Germanwings Cockpit Door

Anytime there is an aircraft accident or incident, pilots have to sit back and piece together what the media has to offer regarding the facts just like everyone else. We get a piece of information here and there that makes sense, and we methodically pull it together in our minds. We close our eyes and see what could’ve happened. Sure, we speculate, but we try and do it without judgement. We picture ourselves in the pilot seat dealing with the same emergency and we can see what happened and why the error occurred. We do that so we can learn and make sure it never happens again. Pilots compartmentalize past accidents into knowledge.

When we hear that it was a pilot who purposely drove the aircraft into the ground, our anger runs deeper than the rest. It’s an anger that is driven by the ultimate professionalism of piloting. It’s a betrayal of a profession that is more than just a job, it’s an immersion lifestyle so profound it changes you from a person to a pilot. There are countless people who would make excellent pilots, but life’s barriers stop many from reaching a pilot seat. It’s enormously expensive, takes years to get the ratings and hours needed, and you have to have a Bachelor’s Degree. Beyond that, you need the self-discipline to dedicate every aspect of your life to this profession. For someone to use this coveted pilot position to hurt people makes every pilot tremble with anger.

Suicide is taking your own life. Driving an aircraft, filled with friends and family, into the ground on purpose is beyond evil. Pilots spend their lives trusting the person sitting next to them and the passengers, in return, have to trust the pilots. Once a pilot makes it to a commercial airline in the United States, they’ve had to prove themselves for years with countless tests, check rides and written exams. To be a pilot, you have to really want to be a pilot. There have been other pilot suicides. Egypt Air Flight 990 may be the most infamous, but with the recent Germanwings crash, there is a new factor to the equation which, for a pilot in the U.S., is hard to swallow.

If the reports are true, the first officer who did this horrific act, only had 630 hours of flight time. In the U.S., we’d consider this just getting started in aviation. That this first officer was at the controls of an A320 is bizarre. Of course there are thousands of excellent pilots with only 630 hours, but no matter how good they are, they haven’t proven themselves in all the flight conditions yet. Most U.S. pilots have to work their way up to the airliners and it takes many years and thousands of hours. But, the most important aspect of this low time pilot is that other crew members haven’t had the opportunity to see what psychological symptoms might’ve indicated a potential problem. While many people who commit suicide never give an indication that it was even a thought, spending time in a close quarters crew environment often gives signs, but with only 630 hours, there wasn’t time to find out. Despite the frustration for up and coming pilot, the minimum of 1500 hours for the right seat of an airliner in the U.S. has more benefits than drawbacks.

So, what happens when a pilot has to leave the cockpit during flight? In the United States, pilots must be in their seats for the takeoff and landing phases of flight. Pilots spend 99.9% of their time in their seats, but physiological reasons (okay, we have to use the bathroom) makes us get out the cockpit door. When one pilot has to leave their seat, the other pilot dons their oxygen mask and takes over flight and communication duties. A flight attendant is also allowed to sit in the empty seat. Of course, they don’t fly or touch anything, but it’s another set of eyes and ears and they’re also there in case the flying pilot has an issue like a medical emergency. The Germanwings pilot definitely had an “issue” and if only there had been a flight attendant inside to open the door, we might not be reading about it.

There has to be security for the cockpit. 9/11 proved that. So the industry overshot the correction and now made it possible to keep a captain locked out temporarily. One feasible solution is to make sure another crewmember remains inside the cockpit. I don’t think the flight attendants would mind coming up to the cockpit since they do it anyways, and it’s already company policy at many airlines. Pilots get tired of talking to each other after hours of boring holes in the sky anyways. They would love it if the flight attendants came up and stayed a few minutes. Sure, this first officer might have just decided to try and harm the flight attendant to accomplish his goal, but most of the flight attendants I know would have kicked the first officer’s behind. At the very least, it would have bought the captain a few more minutes to get inside the cockpit.

Pilots around the world are shaking their head in sorrow. There will be erroneous assumptions and misinformed speculation, it’s all part of understanding what happened. Just know that pilots transform themselves into pilots through years of dedication, focus and passion for aviation. The first officer who did this was not a “pilot”.

Erika Armstrong has been in aviation for 25-years. From the front desk of an FBO to the captain’s seat of an airliner, she’s experienced everything aviation has to offer. If you have comments or questions, she can be reached at [email protected]



About the Author

Erika Armstrong





 
 

 

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  • mohamed aly

    Hi, firstly I would to say we doesn’t sure yet from WHAT’S happening at this flight
    but I am not agree with you erika
    -1- you know as captain that the cockpit door never locked at all when captain or first officer out side the cockpit it is only be latched open
    and both can open it very easy from out side .
    -2- if you want to but some one in the cockpit as stand by for captian out side and emergency medical for the other it is oky But you have to do some thinks first never but hem/her at the captain chair to make it easy access in the emergency situations that we are took about it case if he can’t do that with rapid decomposition as example it will be accident too
    the company do this must ask some questions
    which one can fly with cockpit that have same ground requirement and information about the
    flight and the aircraft status
    the flight attandant only trained over evacuation for the passenger only the item that they get from the cockpit the captian medical to can get him out side the cockpit
    from my point of view both flight engine or Flight dispatcher only have this the cockpit qualifications just after the captain nether flight attenend and also trained to use evacuation item in side of the cockpit
    any way it is only company policy like what you say
    I hope for all people was on this aircraft to have better live in the next side

    • Andreas Medlhammer

      I am wondering why everyone always only refers to Egypt Air 990 but not to the much more recent LAM Mozambique Airlines 470 case?!

  • A320 pilot 24yrs

    Erika, pilots don’t piece it together, investigators do. Until they are finished maybe you should do the rest of the profession a better service by not speculating like the mainstream media?

    And having a flight attendant in the cockpit with the sole remaining pilot is safer because pilots are less likely to be a trained killer than a new flight attendant?

    Did the Captain use the keypad?

    Was there any structural (windshield) failure, or any other reason for the descent?

    Could the copilot have been immobilised/incapacitated but still ‘breathing normally’?

    Please tell me so. I can jump on the bandwagon with confidence.

    • Guest

      If I thought this first officer had a medical issue, or if there were any other plausible causes, I would defend him with all my might. Do I believe that a healthy 28-year old pilot became capacitated…okay, what if? That would mean, during his incapacitation, he reached over and set the autopilot to 100 feet below ground level, and manually locked out the cockpit door key code (yes, the captain has typed in the code). He also didn’t have trouble breathing as he’s heard breathing all the way down. Even a massive heart attack or stroke would cause a person to have uneven breathing and make a noise or two. Structural failure (especially a windshield) would have been obvious on the CVR and the captain, pounding on the door until the end, probably wouldn’t be able to stand up and knock if a rapid decompression occurred or if a flight control failed. Flight attendants in the cockpit is still a great question, but it’s a plausible solution to one issue (and FAA rule), a potential issue with another (sure, they could cause harm too).

      This action (or maybe inaction if you prefer) of the copilot crumbles the trust that the passengers, our paycheck, rely on. The article is defending the pilot profession. If there was another external cause, then the copilot did nothing about it…If it is determined he didn’t do anything wrong, then I will eat crow and humble pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    • Erika

      If I thought this first officer had a medical issue, or
      if there were any other plausible causes, I would defend him with all my might. Do I believe that a healthy 28-year old pilot became incapacitated…okay, what if? That would mean, during his incapacitation, he reached over and set the autopilot to 100 feet below ground level, and manually locked out the cockpit door key code (yes, the captain has typed in the code). He also didn’t have trouble breathing as he’s heard breathing all the way down. Even a massive
      heart attack or stroke would cause a person to have uneven breathing and make a noise or two. Structural failure (especially a windshield) would have been obvious on the CVR and the captain, pounding on the door until the end, probably wouldn’t be able to stand up and knock if a rapid decompression occurred or if a flight control failed. Flight attendants in the cockpit is still a great question, but it’s a plausible solution to one issue (and FAA rule), a potential issue with another (sure, they could cause harm too).

      This action (or maybe inaction if you prefer) of the copilot crumbles the trust that the passengers, our paycheck, rely on. The article is defending the pilot profession. If there was another external cause, then the copilot did nothing about it…If it is determined he didn’t do anything wrong, then I will eat crow and humble pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner..

      • J G

        Erica,

        What if the extra pair of eyes in the cockpit is Suicidal? Ask the pilots of FedEx when their jump seater attacked them with the hammer and axe. There is no correct way of fixing this problem, most foreign major airlines have psychometric test but that is also not full proof.

        Let’s see what new policies different States come out with.

    • nerdyredneck

      “And having a flight attendant in the cockpit with the sole remaining pilot is safer because pilots are less likely to be a trained killer than a new flight attendant?”
      In my opinion the only good point you made. That is a silly rule made to cover up the silly rule of having the door there in the first place

      • Kim Nelson

        Silly rule of having a locked, armored door? Glad you’re not in a position to make decisions…

        • nerdyredneck

          Ah and the same to you. Since the armored door has now officially killed far more people than it has saved I will stand behind my statements. Then again I pretty good with math and basic logic which you already demonstrated in other thread are not your strong suits.

          • Mike Pontious

            Ok…no name-calling or sarcasm allowed here. I AM NOT A PILOT! But, I’m not sure why you would be opposed to a secured cockpit door! You stated, “the armored door has now officially killed far more people than it has saved.” Based on what information? I’m not certain how anyone could defend that statement. How would you even quantify that? I’m fairly well-read…and, I’ve never heard any relevant complaints or objections to a secured door on a commercial airliner. I have several friends and family members who fly professionally. And, they would tell you that (with few exceptions, if any) a secured cockpit door is not only smart but essential…especially in the aftermath of 9/11. You stated, “9/11 ONLY worked because for 30 years the government said to OBEY hijackers and everything will be ok.” I’m pretty sure we all know that 9/11 didn’t happen ONLY for that reason. There were multiple dynamics in play that enabled 9/11 to occur…not least of which were unsecured cockpit doors! You also stated, “The DOD is utterly unnecessary and demonstrably stupid. This was a bad idea forced on us by government bureaucrats against the advice of every professional at the time.” I’m pretty certain most people (and pilots) will disagree with you on that point. Your assertion is analogous to NOT wearing a helmet when driving a motorcycle. It makes no sense not wearing a helmet…but, that is an individual decision affecting only the driver. He only has his OWN safety to consider. When you’re the pilot of an aircraft with passengers, there’s more to ponder. You seem to be passionate about government regulations and bureaucratic involvement in this matter. I don’t like the Government and bureaucrats invading my life either. But…what else would you have them do? They HAVE to act! They are charged with doing that! Any inaction on their part would have been scrutinized for an eternity! The fact is that we have to minimize the risks as much as possible…even if that causes an inconvenience for some and challenges people’s sensibilities and political feelings. I’m pretty sure that I speak for many, when I assert the benefits of secured cockpit doors, as well as, armed/deputized flight crews. Potentials for lack of security happens all of the time. We can’t possibly predict every outcome and guarantee 100% fail-safe for all. As we live and breathe…sick-minded, terroristic acts have (and will) continue to find their way to take the lives of innocents. Those are the certainties now and for the future. That’s the way of terrorism! It’s just a matter of working on those chinks in our armour. Let’s not waste time demonizing cockpit security doors. Let’s find other solutions that are more meaningful and progressive.

          • nerdyredneck

            You stated, “the armored door has now officially killed far more people than it has saved.” Based on what information?”

            LOL- Seriously? After reading this article that you are commenting on you are SERIOUSLY asking that question?

  • Guest

    Suicide? Not once is (very well written, a good read, thank you) the word murder mentioned…which I find very strange. Taking your own life but those of 159 at the same time is murder. Perhaps a discussion for another time.

  • sancho Pancho

    European airliners have a far safety record than US. Getting someone on the right seat of a jet with proper training is much more efficient in long term.not to mention that the FAA CPL license is a 29 week training (at least that was the period in 1997) compared to the EASA CPL that takes over 15 months . Also a university degree is not always the green light for being a good pilot. Quite the opposite i would say. The training of a pilot is completely different than a university degree.its not very easy to adjust to the new situation.and as i captain i rather fly with a 23-24 rookie in a jet than a 30-32 rookie who has to think many other things besides the flight. Rgds

    • pilotjess

      The Europeans take a different approach to licensing that the US. The FAA commercial course is predicated on the idea that the person already has a private (and typically instrument) license. The course that Lufthansa sends students to the US for is considered ‘ab initio’ or taking someone from 0 time to their commercial license hence the difference in training time.

      One other difference that I found in my 10 years actively teaching others to fly is that these ab initio folks are being trained from day 1 to manage their future airliner. Yes, manage….not ‘fly’. Even more so for the Asians… They are great at leaning ‘profiles’ to manage, but when you throw them a curve ball, something out of the ordinary, they do very poorly.

  • Yann Galtski

    This bozo with his training wheel pilot’s license was not even qualified to rent a Baron and fly it alone. People have to die before cynical cost-cutting measures like ab-initio and restricted ratings are exposed. I hope GermanWings loses it’s ass, and serves as a warning to the rest of the bottom-feeders. For the past 20 years, experienced pilots have been leaving the profession, as pilot-mills churn out McPilots who are willing to work for $20K/a year, with $200K tuitions to repay.

  • Sam Jones

    It saddens me that this turned into a look at the u.s and why can’t everyone follow suit. One of the reasons I love aviation is it makes the world a smaller place. Yes it was tragic that a mental illness went unnoticed, but I doubt one million flight hours would have caught it everytime. It could have been a very sane person that had their world turned upside down by a cheating or lying spouse. Maybe their child passed on from cancer, no parent should out live their kid. The examples could go on, but blindly saying more required hours solves the problem is extreme tunnel vision at its worse. Why cost prohibitive, a 15 minute conversation with a mental health specialist before starting a shift would be more apt to uncover unstable thoughts. Making it mandatory for crew to carry a key for the deck when the need to step out arises would stop the captain from getting locked out. Or dust off the “flight engineer” title and have low time pilots earn time toward minimums while always having 2 people in the cockpit. It is a horrendous he will never have to answer for the loss of so many lives, but to use it as a forum to push one train of thought is questionable. But i thank you for sharing your opinion. I hope you enjoyed mine as well.

    • nerdyredneck

      I agree that more hours would not prevent *this kind* of accident. I will say though that I am stunned that a 600 hour pilot was #2 in such heavy equipment. STUNNED!

  • Yann Galtski

    I have no doubt that this guy’s mental instability would have shown up, had he served in the crew environment for any length of time. Unfortunately in it’s race to the bottom, GermanWings put a brand-new untested pilot in control of 150 lives, to devastating effect.

    Asiana 777 crew can’t hand-fly a visual approach without crashing? Air France 447 lost because of a malfunctioning airspeed indicator? In the U.S., we have a training and vetting crucible called the Regional Airlines. This is where McPilots either learn to sink or swim. Incompetence is rampant, and it shows in the safety record. By the time you build enough hours to get hired by the majors, most bad pilots have been weeded out or killed. Overseas, pilots skip this step, and go directly from primary training to the Airbus.

    The arrogance of the training industry and the Airlines is thus: we are so good, we can teach any idiot to fly. This philosophy misses the mark. Command requires confidence. Authentic confidence only comes from actual (not sim) experience. The Major Airline industry is focused on automation and procedures specifically intended to remove pilots from the equation to the greatest extent possible. Unfortunately, this minimizes whatever experience may be gained by time in the air. This is how you get a senior captain who is terrified to hand-fly his aircraft, and is less competent than he was when he was fresh out of school, flying 152s.

    Watching U.S. vs Asian jumbos landing at PANC in gusty winds is pretty enlightening. And listening to them on the radio, many are obviously terrified and confused. Kudos to approach and tower for the patience and compassion.

    These last few mega-disasters are the beginning of a much larger trend that will take generations to correct.

    • J G

      Really Yann so the pilots in the US do not make mistakes? Let’s talk about FedEx in Narita or UPS in Birmingham, multiple runway incursion by SouthWest, AA going off the runway! These are a few accidents by major airlines don’t get me started on regionals.
      If someone is mentally sick they are mentally sick there are signs but only professionals can analyze that. We pilots are not trained psychiatrist and people who depressed learn to hide it very well.
      This accident has nothing to do with low time pilot, just his state of mind.

      • pilotjess

        I would add that there is such a stigma associated with mental illness that even if the person is cognizant of it, in early stages where counseling would help, they will not seek that help for fear of their livelihood.

  • Andy Hoang Nguyen

    Two person in the cockpit at all time is not going to help if the pilot’s intention is to crash the plane. As soon as one pilot unbuckles his seat-belts, the other pilot gets the control and he can pretty much do what ever he wants like invert, pull the nose up to stall the plane or just push the control to a negative G descent. At that time, the unbuckled pilot is either unconscious or already dead.

  • Reef

    BS… so far, Silk Air, Egypt Air, and MH370 are all unconfirmed pilot suicides. While we wait for the GW investigation to conclude, the only confirmed pilot suicide in recent times is the LAM Embraer 190. None of these pilots were 600 hour newbies….

  • tmacguffin

    I’m pointing at YOU. My ex (a Flight Attendant) has a new BF who is a Pilot with a major Airline. His ego. His lack of proportionality and shear intense focus on his own self-actualization – I believe – is an archetype of a profession. One I have social familiarity with through a dozen I’ve met. You are not in the real world where people have empathy. Look around at what you know of your peers. I see something different and YES I generalize. I don’t think you can state that these acts are separate from an industry that beats the humanity out of its Labor force and results in a silo-like focus on self.

  • AirSalas

    I think Erika makes some good points. Yes, we are all speculating. So what? Obviously some European airlines have “speculated” enough on their own to institute policies which require at least 2 people in the cockpit at all times. Will this prevent all future murder/suicides? Who knows? But we as pilots deal constantly with variables and probabilities. It can be argued that it is less probable this would happen had a flight attendant been there to open the door for the captain. Could the co-pilot have performed some arobatic maneuver to throw off the flight attendant and crash the plane anyway? Perhaps. But then why didn’t he just do it as soon as they took off? I can tell you it would have been much easier to crash the plane right on takeoff than wait for the possibility of being left alone in the cockpit. I think he was waiting for a window of “opportunity” which may not have arrived had someone else just been standing there. Present.
    All that said, I do agree with some that if he had spent some time grinding it out in the regionals, he would have reached his psychological rock bottom much sooner! Anyone who has spent any time being a junior pilot getting paid peanuts to fight weather, shoddy maintenance, and tight schedules can attest to that crucible.
    This is not a US-is-better-than-everyone-else situation. Lufthansa pilots are highly capable and well trained. It is about how people are tested in order to deserve to have 150 people’s lives in their hands. In Europe, they believe difficult academic testing and filtering is the way. In the US we prefer real world experience. That doesn’t make US pilots better, I believe it just makes them better vetted.

  • Female Airbus Pilot

    Well said, Erika. Most people have no idea what it takes to not only make it in this career but to also operate on a daily basis and even (hopefully) excel.

  • dank440

    Excellent, perfect! and touche’!

  • Frank Okolo

    This is mass murder once
    again, from an unexpected source. Doctors have done it; nurses have done it,
    and now, pilots. While we seek solutions, let’s have a thought also for the
    victims. Is there an airline captain alive, (myself included) who, having stepped
    out the cockpit post 9/11 to use the head and now wants back in, not felt some
    moments of sheer panic if the co-pilot delays in unlocking the flight deck
    door? I know I have, especially on the long overnight flights. Perhaps the PF
    inside was busy with the radios giving a position report, or momentarily fallen
    asleep–they could have sleep apnea like the rest of us. Even if you key
    in the emergency code on the key pad, which opens the door after a 30-second
    delay, the Deny Entry feature inside could override it if enabled and held.
    This accident is sad for our community, and even sadder for the victims’
    families. Our community should, along with Lufthansa, reach out to them as well.

  • Daniela Riccardi

    …this may be true, but suicide can be unpredictable regardless of the hours under a pilot’s belt and observations – triggers of suicide can happen the moment before a veteran pilot sits in his seat. If a person’s (or colleague’s) observation of questionable behavior was always scrutinized, I believe it would become mayhem for all pilots and the airline industry.

  • Roy G. Biv

    Good article. I think it’s kind of crazy that media outlets keep saying that it’s not a terrorist act. I understand that they are finding no links to bigger terrorist organizations, but how is murdering 149 people NOT an act of terrorism? In my opinion, this first captain was a terrorist with no known ties to other organizations – a lone gunman, if you will, but still 100% a terrorist.

    • nerdyredneck

      Terrorist means you are trying to achieve a political goal through terror. What was this guys goal? After 9/11 Osama wanted all US troops off of Arab soil or he would do it again. See the difference?

  • Joel Benjamin

    A very well written article and very thought provoking comments following. This “pilot” has single-handedly opened up a can of worms that may never be able to be closed.

    Once again, many lives have been sacrificed in the name of “making sure that this never happens again.

    • nerdyredneck

      Oh but the FAA is so much different than it ever has been before. The old FAA which was once run by people who understand aviation (versus young political science majors) would have know to never put those door in there in the first place. The vast majority of pilots always thought it was a bad idea. They SAID this would happen.

  • Roman

    The article is well written in theory but lacking in knowledge of the European aviation industry.
    Unlike
    the US, the major European arlines do not hire pilots off the street.
    Here in Europe, young women and men apply at the airline of their choice
    and have to pass an extremely demanding company entry test BEFORE they
    have taken their first flight lesson. This test which in the case of
    Lufthansa German Airlines can take up to 4 days consists of written,
    aural and assesment center parts. Knowledge in math, physics and
    chemistry as well as multitasking, stress and team abilities are tested.
    Only an applicant that passed each single test will be considered for
    the airline`s own flight academy.

    The students are then trained
    by the airline`s own light academy to the airlines standards and
    requirements which are (in the case of the major companies) higher than
    what is required by the licensing authorities. Training from day one for
    example includes crew coordination and extensive system knowledge.
    Cadets of each course are kept in a group for two years and during this
    time the airline has a chance to learn more about the personality of
    each student.

    So you must understand that unlike the North
    American airlines, companies in Europe invest considerably more in their
    pilots. An airline pilot here is not just anyone who had the dedication
    and financial means to pay himself through training in a (in some cases
    unkown) flight school. A European pilot is someone carefully selected,
    then trained, supervised and constantly retested and therefore very well
    known to the airline before he even prepares to fly his first revenue
    flight.

    One more thing I would like to point out is the 2 person
    rule in the cockpit. American airlines require two people to be in the
    cockpit at all times. The reason for this is not so much a safety
    concern. During the toilet brake of a pilot the flight attendant`s
    presence in the cockpit is necessary simply because most American
    airlines did not invest in a video surveilance system. This system
    allows the remaining pilot to properly authorise an entrance if cockpit
    access is requested. European airlines on the other hand all have a
    surveilance system and do not require a flight attendant at the
    peephole. In contrary, flight attendants visits to the cockpit are
    generally kept to a minimum so as to keep the cockpit door shut as long
    as possible during flight.

    And if in the future we do make this 2
    person idea a ruling in Europe we must need to ask ourselves what the
    advantage will be. Do I not trust any of my fellow pilots, or is there a
    chance of me inviting a psychologically instable person into the cockpit during my absence?

    • nerdyredneck

      I respect all that you have written here. Still in my opinion 630 hours is far to low to have 156 PAX counting on YOU.

      • Kim Nelson

        Agreed. A 630 hour pilot should not be anywhere near the controls of a passenger jet.

  • nerdyredneck

    Read the first paragraph of the article again… Professional pilots were opposed to the DOOR OF DOOM in the first place. This very scenario was one of the many reasons pilots were opposed to it. The FAA mandated it anyway.

    “There has to be security for the cockpit. 9/11 proved that.”

    TWEET! Bullshit flag thrown, 15 yard penalty loss of down. 9/11 ONLY worked because for 30 years the government said to OBEY hijackers and everything will be ok. 9/11 showed us all how untrue that is. Every single time someone has tried to do anything even close to the cockpit door since then they get dog piled and buried beneath a wave as humans.

    They doors are UTTERLY unnecessary and demonstrably stupid. Stop defending them. This is bad idea forced on us by government bureaucrats against the advice of every professional has come to its predicted fruition.
    And PLEASE; you already said this guy was evil. He killed a plane full of people. Are you SERIOUSLY proposing that the 95 pound FA been in the cockpit she would not have been the first to die.

    Please hit the A/P disconnect there and hand fly your brain a little please?

    • Kim Nelson

      I know dozens of airline pilots. I have NEVER, even once, heard somebody say that the armored cockpit door was a bad idea. In fact, just the opposite. You have no idea what you are talking about. None. Zero. Nada.

      • nerdyredneck

        Logical fallacy #1 – You have never heard anyone say something (out of dozens(!) of speakers no less) so no one says it.
        Logical fallacy #2 Since you, in a fit of deeply analytical thought, have proclaimed no one ever said it, I know nothing absolutely nothing about it.
        I hope you are not a pilot. Since according to your logic, if the weather is VMC here (and dozens of people say so!) it must be VMC everywhere and the forecaster that says it’s not VMC somewhere knows nothing about weather at all.
        Thank you for your insight. Deep stuff!
        Conversely I wont assume that just because the people I know still talk about it quite regularly for many reasons I wont assume every pilot everywhere does. Perhaps the procedures of the airline I am familiar with are more difficult than other airlines to comply with so perhaps it is more hated here than elsewhere?
        With that said, 12 years after the rules were enacted I am not shocked that it is not a topic of regular discussion in some places anymore. I assure you though at the time rule was under consideration the pilots forums were quite alive with the discussion of what an asinine idea it was. During the same time frame the pilot’s forums were also very full off discussion about deputizing and arming flight crew. Unlike the generally accepted agreement on the stupidity of the DOD (Doors of Doom) opinion was for more divided on that issue. I rarely see discussion of that more either.
        I assure though, on both topics, just because you did not hear it does not mean it was not discussed at length.

        • us pilot

          I am an international Captain at a major us airline. I’ve been flying professionally for over 37 years, have 30,000 plus hours of flying time, and have almost seen it all. Besides my flying skills, and the wonderful crews I fly with, the door is the safest thing on the jet. This conversation is not about the door, however. It is about the training and qualifications of the pilots. Flying time equals experience equals safety. I would argue with euro pilot that just because it’s difficult to gain experience in Europe that it isn’t necessary.

          • nerdyredneck

            “the door is the safest thing on the jet.”

            Really Cap? I think maybe with all that experience you might want to rephrase that? Maybe in your opinion it does add to safety or something along those lines? Because really “the door is the safest thing on the jet.” is not something I would expect any real professional to say. To disagree with my opinion on the DOD if fine and I would be glad to have that debate with you (again) but to say “safest” strains credibility. Perhaps you misspoke?

          • Heather

            It IS much more expensive in Europe. I know that for a fact. That does not mean it shouldn’t happen. Again, FAA regulations are a gold standard. I’m glad the cockpit rule is changing to the FAA standard. Better more cautious than less.

  • euro pilot

    I must say I believe it’s unfair to say this 600-hour pilot shouldn’t be at the controls without noting that outside of North America there is simply no general aviation anymore allowing pilots to gain more flight hours before going to the airlines. And while many of us in Europe would like to see a 1500-hour rule, it would be impossible to find qualified pilots if that kind of regulation was in effect. The majority of pilots starting their careers in the airlines have 200-300 hours. Only a few might have 500-1000 hours just because the airlines were not hiring for a few years and they were lucky to do some instructing or glider towing, often unpaid. When I joined an airline last year I had 1000 hours (which I managed to get while working as a CFI in the US) and there was only one guy in the group who had more hours (1300). Most of my other colleagues had 200-500. And guess what, we all passed the Type Rating training, we all passed the company checks and we are all equally qualified to fly a 737. And as much as I want to think I was somehow better then them because of my level of experience, that feeling went away the first time I pushed the throttles as an airline pilot.

    • nerdyredneck

      Don’t feel too bad. Thanks to the FAA GA is dyeing here as well. 🙁

    • Heather

      FAA standards should be adopted elsewhere, they are the most stringent. I agree with the OP/author. Perfectly fair. My dad is military and he scoffed at this pilot/burger flipper’s qualifications.

  • Peter Samson

    Who has hear of a bad flu or bad back crashing a plane..?? Doctors write sick note for these types of Illnesses, If your suffering from mental illness, then doctors don’t write sick notes. Obviously the “copilot” was mentally unstable or if not more. I’m unsure of what medical and psychological testing pilot need to go through. But what i do know, is in the Off-Shore industry it is mandatory to pass a physical evaluation every 2 year to be suitable for off-shore work. Failure to pass this test, revokes your privilege to work Off-Shore (Simple). The findings of the test’s are issued to a central authority, that reports on your health and physical ability.

    And, let’s stop blaming the DOOR (DOD)

    • nerdyredneck

      Hey Peter, I am not sure what your knowledge of aviation is so please excuse me if I seem to be stating the obvious.
      In aviation accidents we have concepts such as “the accident chain” in which a series of events that led to an accident. Then conversely, how catching and “breaking” any link in the accident chain would prevent the accident.
      Now if you can give me a reasonable explanations as to how the DOD was not a contributing factor in the chain of events I will be glad to stop talking about it.
      I guess I have these silly and old fashioned concepts that when pros say “that’s really not a good idea” and you do it anyway and then the *exact* thing the pro’s said would happen does happen 12 years later, you really you ought to talk about it.
      I really feel old this morning watching everyone pretend there is no elephant in the room.

  • MetalDriver

    Pretty accurate article except for the statements of “you have to have a Bachelor’s Degree” and ” the other pilot dons their oxygen mask” (not necessarily..depending on your altitude)

    • LifeAt15mph

      If you are routinely flying for extended periods of time at altitudes that don’t require an O2 mask if the other pilot leaves the flight deck, or if you work for an airline that doesn’t require a college education, chances are that you’re still working your way up in aviation in the US, and I believe that’s what the author of this article is referring to. In other countries, you can work for their national airline and be placed behind the controls of a 777 with little to no experience. In the US, if you want to work for a major airline, you will need thousand of hours and in most cases, a college degree. I know that I would not have the major airline career that I have today if I didn’t have a college education.

      • MetalDriver

        I will qualify my statement to say that I do not have a college degree and have worked as a professional pilot for 35 years/20,000+ hrs and have frown for 2 air carriers…all in the USA. As a Captain in A320 myself, we only don the O2 mask when required.

        The author should know this given his stated qualifications.

        • LifeAt15mph

          The argument about the O2 mask being required (and at what altitude) is trivial and truly doesn’t affect the message of the author’s article. About the college education, yes, pilots can fly A320’s in the U.S. without one. But for that young pilot who has higher aspirations than a low cost airline, the road to a major airline will be nearly impossible without that college degree. They may have been able to make it years ago, but not today.

          • MetalDriver

            United Airlines does not require a college degree
            American/USAir does not require a college degree

            Those are 2 of the “non low cost airlines”

          • LifeAt15mph

            You have valid points. But the reality is that a degree is still a requirement for some major airlines, and for those that don’t require it, an applicant will need to possesses considerable more flight time or a military background in lieu of a college degree. Talk to any major airline recruiter and see what they have to say about this.

            Chances of making it to a major today are greatly diminished if not completely eliminated without higher education regardless of whether it’s a requirement or not. Unfortunately, many ill advised young pilots forego a college education which in turn stalls their advancement in the airline industry. Some will make it eventually, but they will have spent many more years getting there. Many others will not make it and will settle for something else.

            Will requirements change in the next years? Absolutely. But at this point all we can do is speculate whether we will see diminished standards in terms of education and experience to meet demand, specially after the incidents leading up to the changes in the rules.

          • MetalDriver

            You said “Will requirements change in the next years? ” They have been changed for the last 15+ years to reflect the non requirement for any degree..for the majority of non LCC airlines.

            “But the reality is that a degree is still a requirement for some major airlines” The key word is “some” and very, very few.

            Delta Airlines maintains their 4 year degree “requirement”

            I am not an advocate of not having any sort of 4 year degree, simply pointing out that it is not a requirement by most major airlines…if you have the experience that will compensate for that. Yes, the majority does not. I was one of the lucky ones and there are many more out there.

  • cowebb2327 .

    The door is not the issue nor how many hours they have. More precautions will likely come from this but,bottom line, If a member of a flight deck crew decides to take a plane down, chances are they will find a way. As horrific as this incident is, we can take some comfort in the odds of it ever happening to us or anyone we know. 100,000 + flights a day world wide without incident. Safer than walking the sidewalk on a busy street.

  • Thomas J. Ryan

    Until recently, in the USA, minorities could be hired with less flight time than this pilot had and we haven’t had this kind of tragedy. Ab-initio programs are hardly “cost cutting measures” but rather the airline paying for the training of its own pilots, something US airlines have never had to do.

    The focus should not be on the airlines for this calamity but rather the mental health industry and their incompetence. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/germanwings-plane-crash-the-facebook-images-that-hid-thesecrets-of-andreas-lubitz-10140230.html

  • cecilio

    I still trust the pilots. An airplane without them is no more than an empty metal tube with wings attached. The pilots, stewards, mechanics, baggage handlers, ticket agents demonstrate to me their dedication by the way the way they do their jobs. Yes, there have been screw ups. Yes, evil happens. I’ll still fly. I trust these guys.