Germanwings crash raises questions about pilots reporting illnesses

In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo an Airbus 320 of Germanwings is parked at the airport as their pilots went on strike in Duesseldorf, Germany. A Germanwings Airbus plane with at least 142 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants on board has crashed in the Alps region Tuesday, March 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – Each day investigators learn more about the co-pilot who officials believe deliberately crashed an airliner into the French Alps last Tuesday killing all 150 people on board.

German prosecutors said there’s evidence Andreas Lubitz hid a medical condition and treatment.

Local aviation expert, Bob Miller said pilots are often afraid to report a physical or mental illness.

“It is a very difficult problem,” Miller said.

Pilots are required to take medical evaluations and voluntarily fill out a medical certification form.

“If the pilot fills this form out and reports a problem with stress, anxiety, depression or any other form of mental illness that immediately pulls that pilot out of the system, on the ground for a minimum of six months,” Miller said.

He said the FAA will then review each individual case to see how pilots progress.

If a pilot is treated for an illness, but doesn’t report it, they could be fined up to $250,000 and face up to 5 years behind bars.

“Chances are, and I’m afraid this is the case in many instances. He or she is in need of help, but doesn’t take it. They don’t get help for fear of what it might do to his or her occupation.”

Miller suggests that if pilots weren’t grounded for six months, they may be more receptive to reporting certain physical or mental illnesses. He added that perhaps being closely monitored for a long period of time could be an alternative.

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