Apr 1st, 2015

Pilot Responsibility

Posted in Aviation News

The world’s attention has been focused on Germanwings Flight 9525 this past week. The Airbus A320 crashed into the French Alps on March 24, 2015. As is often the case, one of the first questions was, “Why did the airplane crash…mechanical problems, bad weather, pilot error?”

It seems that in this case, it was none of these common causes. Rather, it seems that it was the mental state of the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. I will not focus on Mr. Lubitz, as one of his motives for his actions seems to have been fame.

I remember as a young aviator being taught the concept of “pilot responsibility”. A pilot has a responsibility to his or her crew to conduct the aircraft in such a manner as to safely and efficiently reach the destination. If carrying passengers, this responsibility multiples many time over, with each passenger’s life being precious. I once had a friend comment that he did not mind the fact that airline pilots are well paid, “they have a lot of lives in their hands” Russ commented (Russ, by the way, was not a pilot himself).

Even when flying solo the pilot has an obligation to the aircraft owners and to those on the ground (who can be harmed or killed by an aircraft crash) to safely conduct flight maneuvers. Responsibility as defined by Merrian-Webster is “a duty or task that you are required or expected to do” or “something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.” Deciding to become a pilot brings with it, by default, a willingness to accept “pilot responsibility”. A responsibility, which, unfortunately, Mr. Lubitz did not keep at the loss of 150 lives.


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