Europe’s air safety regulator said it found more than 10 incidents in recent years in which Germany appeared lax in following aviation medical requirements, prompting a European Commission investigation that is still under review.
“The exact nature remains confidential, but there were several findings, more than 10 in the last few years, in the aero-medical domain,” Dominique Fouda, a spokesman for EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, said on Sunday.
The disclosure of lapses at Germany’s air-safety enforcement body are of interest because investigators have said that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot suspected of crashing a Germanwings plane, killing all 150 people aboard, had a psychosomatic condition and previous mental illness. He was being treated by neurologists and psychiatrists and had told the flight training school run by Germanwings owner Deutsche Lufthansa AG about an episode of severe depression.
The German regulator, called Luftfahrtbundesamt, or LBA, “wasn’t informed about Lubitz’s medical background,” the agency said in an e-mailed statement today.
The news about lapses in Germany’s handling of aviation medical issues prior to the Germanwings crash was first reported by the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
The authority sought information about the co-pilot on March 27, three days after the Germanwings crash in the French Alps, from the Lufthansa Aeromedical Center in Frankfurt. Lubitz was found fit to fly by Lufthansa’s medical facility in 2009, and the regulator was informed in keeping with rules, LBA said. The medical center didn’t tell the regulator about Lubitz’s previous severe depression, it said.
Aviation medical staff have been required to inform the regulator of illnesses such as depression since April 2013, according to an article in Die Welt. Deutsche Lufthansa declined to comment on Sunday.
The European Commission, following EASA’s initial findings, presented Germany with questions. The answers, filed by the end of 2014, are being assessed, European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said by phone yesterday.
Wigand said that the issuance of findings is a “normal and regular occurrence, part of a continuous system of oversight: findings are followed by corrective action, similar to an audit process.”
EU audits found that LBA had staff shortages that could undermine its ability to run checks of carriers and crew, including medical checks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two people familiar with the issue. The authority formally told Germany last November to remedy the situation, the newspaper said.
The European Commission declined to comment on personnel shortages affecting medical checks carried out by the German regulator.
Germany’s transport ministry said yesterday that EASA had questioned whether national procedures were consistent with EU regulations. German officials have responded to the concerns, which have no connection to the Germanwings crash, the ministry said.
Audits of Germany’s regulator by the European aviation agency occur several times a year, LBA spokeswoman Cornelia Cramer said in an e-mailed statement.
This article was written by Andrea Rothman and Elisabeth Behrmann from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.