Lufthansa’s Germanwings Pilot’s Severe Depression

Andreas Lubitz, the copilot of the Germanwings incident, might have crashed the plane intentionally due to troubles with depression, but the airline company actually knew of his psychiatric problem from the beginning.

Germanwings parent company Lufthansa released a statement on Tuesday explaining information it had shared with prosecutors investigating the crash — information that showed Lubitz had a history of severe depressive episodes. While training for Lufthansa in 2009, Lubitz suspended his training for a few months due to a depressive episode, afterward returning and passing all tests, along with all physical and psychiatric exams. He began working for Germanwings in 2013, and Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr noted in a statement not only that “[Lubitz] was 100 percent fit to fly without any restrictions or conditions,” but that Lufthansa focuses on psychological fitness when selecting pilots.

On Monday it was revealed by prosecutors that Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies, but the records were never given to anyone at Germanwings or Lufthansa because of doctor-patient confidentiality. The specifics of Lubitz’s depression have not been released, including just how severe it was and what sort of treatment he was given by doctors.

Investigators who searched Lubitz’s apartment found multiple sick notes from his doctor explaining that he was too sick to work certain days, including the day of the crash. One note had been torn and thrown in the trash, suggesting Lubitz wanted to continue working and not be hampered by his depression.

How bad, truly, did Lubitz have it with his depression? Officials within the investigation said that Lubitz had sought treatment for vision problems, worried that his sight would jeopardize his flying, but Lubitz had no physical problems with his eyes or any other part of his body, suggesting it was psychosomatic — that is, he was worried enough about losing the ability to fly that he might have made up the problem of his sight failing. Personal writings found at Lubitz’s apartment corroborate this, explaining his fear of losing his job due to mental or physical problems.

Though the incident has yet to be resolved Lufthansa has set aside $300 million to cover costs from the crash, an amount in addition to the $54,250 given to the families of the victims for short term expenses involving funerals and travel.