germanwingsBY BIKRAM VOHRA

The suicidal pilot who flew the A320 from Germanwings into the Alps taking 150 people with him makes for a bizarre page in aviation history. When the news broke I had written that aircraft of this generation do not simply fall out of the sky at cruising altitude. The words I used were: there had to be an intrusion. That the intrusion would be the co-pilot himself did not occur to me or to anyone else.

Why did he do it? No one can say for sure unless all the information collected from family, friends, neighbours, fellow pilots added to his medical records and his history is co-related and sufficient cause found. It could be anything from being bypassed for captaincy to bi-polar disorder, a broken heart to depression, a condition that exists in great measure and is still outside the purview of proper diagnosis. A person can have PTSD and not know it.

In fact at some of the seminars I have attended on aviation subject which has been my subject for thirty years we have discussed divorce, family problems, financial situations, extra-marital affairs, death and even pets disappearing as reason enough not to take a flight. Yet, pilots are human and they do cut corners where you and I would just call office and take a day or so off. What if your pet dog died that day? Are you in full state to take a flight with other souls onboard.

We do not know this pilot’s mental condition. But even as the interviews and interrogations begin it cannot be ruled out that he was under duress and following orders. Yes, it is a cliché and very cinematic but you do not know what you will do to save those you love if they are in danger. I am not saying that this is what occurred, all I am saying is it has to be checked out. Till then you cannot rule out the element of terrorism, even if it was third hand.

The other aspect is the pilot’s medical conditions. With such tough medical clearances and check ups pilots live in deadly fear of being grounded. And many of them are into self-medication. They know when to swallow beta blockers to drop blood pressure, they know a lot more than that. It is not that they are careless, but they live on the razor’s edge of stress and are miles away from that romantic four striper in the books and movies. Most of them are short on sleep and use medicaments that could cause adverse reactions.

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