Just two days afte the crash of a Germanwings Airbus in the French Alps, the French prosecutor and media would have us believe the case is closed. But pilots associations around the world, including IATA, are up in arms, arguing that the investigation has yet to begin.
The first big question is what happened to the flight recorder. Pilots claim that finding the flight data is essential for determining the cause of the crash. But prosecutors claim that the memory chip was dislodged from the black box and cannot be found.
The missing memory card raises other new questions. A black box is designed to withstand impacts of 3,400 times the force of gravity, pressure from pins weighing 500 pounds or 227 kilos penetrating it, 5000 pounds per square inch of crush force, temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour and submersion in a salt water tank for 30 days.
It is not clear how a black box could be retrieved, yet the memory chip inside it could be found to be dislodged or missing.
French prosecutors have marginalised the importance of the flight recorder by shifting the focus of their investigation from possible technical or mechanical factors to conentrate exclusively on the psychology of Andreas Lubitz, the 28-year-old German co-pilot.
Prosecutors have argued that the voice recorder provides evidence that Andrea Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit and crashed the plane in a suicidal act.
But pilots like Peter Haisenko argue that the sounds allegedly on the voice recorder are not enough to provide a definitive explanation.
It is not even clear whether the captain or the co pilot left the cockpit. The sounds allegedly on the voice recorder do not permit this conclusion to be drawn. It is also very uunsual for the captain to leave a cockpit during such a short shuttle flight and so early on in the journey.
There are other questions that need to be addressed, such as
– why did the co pilot choose to glide to destruction instead of crashing the machine more quickly?
– why didn t he say something, some famous last words, if he was driven by a suicidal wish?
- did he really need to fear losing his license if he did not pass a medical test or might he have simply considered taking time out and getting treatment to regain fitness? He had only recently renewed his glider plane license.
- how could he just continue to breath regularly and normally in such a dramatic, high stress situation? Was it because he was unconscious? If so, why did the autopilot working on a fly by wire system not maintain altitude?
- why can the passengers allegedly only be heard just before the crash when the plane descended at a rate of 1 km per minute and at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees, throwing passengers forward?
- why was the internal phone was not used to contact the pilot in the cockpit? The sound of the phone should be audible on the voice recorder, yet there has been no mention of it by French prosecutors.
- how come the passengers and crew didn t register the alleged battle of the captain to get into the cockpit, who was allegedly used an axe? Why didn t they join him?
In addition, there is no proof for the French prosecutors statement that the descent was caused by the co pilot pressing the “appropriate button” to reduce altitude, notes Gerhard Wisnewski.
Claims are based on the voice recorder, but only the flight recorder would show which buttons were pressed, and that is mssing.
Wisnewski also notes that the co pilot did not say a word according to the official version, meaning there is is no proof of his intention to crash the plane. The co pilot allegedly can be heard breathing at a normal and regular rate throughout the glide to destruction. But normal and regular breathing does not itself prove that the co pilot was conscious, argues Wisnewski. On the contrary, it indicates instead that he was more likely unconscious. Only an unconscious person would continue to breathe in a normal and regular way when the plane they are in is hurtling into a mountainside. By contrast, a conscious person would be more likely to utter some cry or, at least, start to breathe rapidly. Physiological reflexes to dangerous situations are beyond conscious control. Adrenaline rushes to the head. Blood starts pumping faster. Breathing speeds up.
The speed with which the prosecutor has shut the case has also raised questions.
Alles Schall und Rauch blog notes that the results were presented within two days in this case but in the case of the crash of the MH17 in the Ukraine, an analysis of the black box is still not available eight months after the crash.
Markus Wahl from the pilot s association, Cockpit, has cast doubt on the claim that the cockpit door couldn t be opened by the pilot. He said the door can be opened with a code.
Alles Schall und Rauch blog also argues access to the cockpit could have been obtained through an emergency entrance or escape panel in the lower part of the door.
Furthermore, there is access in many planes to the avionics bay, where electronics and computer system are, through panels in the floor of the cabin.
Alles Schall und Rauch notes that pilots and co pilots are especially well trained.
The selection process as well as continuous career monitoring, including annual health checks, are designed to identify people who might cause a plane crash through negligence or intention or lose their head in a crisis.
Moreoever, according to the US aviation authority, the FAA, not a single pilot of a passenger plane has committed suicide in the past 20 years.
People close to the co pilot say that they cannot believe he intentionally crashed the plane.
Suicide bombers or terrorists usually have a political or religious motive. Most people commit suicide on their own.
Gerhard Wisnewski points out that the Germanwings plane went “dead” as soon as it entered French airspace.
On entering French airspace, communications were lost, the Airbus started to descend rapidly and steer straight ahead into the mountains as if it was unresponsive.
Three French Mirage fighter jets were sent up. It is not clear if they were an emergency escort or if they were used for electronic warfare against the jet.
The Germanwings plane had a detailed inspection just prior to the fatal flight where it’s air-worthiness was confirmed, and when ” bot ” equipment could have been installed to cause the crash.
However, it cannot be ruled out that there was a technical or mechanical failure.
Until the flight recorder is recovered and the facts known, the French prosecutor is just speculating. And pilots are right to complain that the French prosecutor is trying to shut the case before any real investigation has taken place.
IATA is right to call for a civil probe into the crash. The lives of airline crews and passengers are too important to forego an opportunity to discover the causes of a terrible crash, which killed 150 people, including many school children.
The French prosecutor Brice Robin has lost all credibility by trying to shut the case in two days with so many questions still open. He has also shown complete disrespect for the victims and their families. He should be removed from the case and even investigated to determine whether he is incompetent or compromised.