France plane crash; should pilots undergo psychological testing?

German Police have seized items from the home of Andreas Lubitz, the pilot at the controls of a passenger plane that crashed into the French Alps with 150 people on board.

French authorities say he deliberately crashed the plane, and we're learning the pilot did some of his training here in the valley.

Investigators are now trying to determine what would motivate Lubitz to lock his co-pilot out of the cockpit, and then put the plane into an eight-minute descent right into the mountains.

Obviously the pilot's psychological state is something investigators are looking into. There are some reports he had suffered from depression, was that the reason for the crash? Did airline officials miss any signs? And will we ever really know what happened?

It's a highly specialized form of psychology that is needed. A Professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott says that airlines may do some personality testing at the time of hire, but there is no requirement for an annual psychological evaluation.

Flags at the airline training center in Goodyear are at half-staff. 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who is accused of intentionally crashing a Germanwings aircraft carrying 149 other people, trained at the center for 4 1/2 months in 2008.

Managers at the Goodyear facility are not speaking about Lubitz or his time in Arizona. A German newspaper is reporting that at one point in his career, he took a three-month break from the flight training because of depression.

The CEO of Lufthansa, who owns Germanwings, said Lubitz was accepted into Lufthansa and "100% set to fly without restrictions."

"When we chose our candidates we do not look for technical skills, but in particular we look for psychologically healthy coworkers," said Carsten Spohr.

Dr. Erin Bowen, the Chair of the Behavioral and Safety Sciences Department at Embry-Riddle University in Prescott said there is no requirement for psychological testing for pilots.

"I think the discussions about mandating regular psychological evaluations for pilots is unnecessary, and it is a gut reaction... psychological assessments have a tremendous number of limitations, and they are not a perfect diagnostic tool," said Dr. Erin Bowen.

Dr. Bowen suggests training the flight crews to recognize the uncommon symptoms of psychological issues.

And she says culture in the airline industry has to change to encourage pilots to take time off without penalty if they're not fit to fly.

Bowen said there's no way to know why Lubitz may have crashed the plane, but she said it shouldn't deter others from flying.

"As passengers on commercial aircraft we shouldn't let this type of incident deter us from flying, because it really is just so incredibly rare," said Bowen.

Dr. Bowen said incidents like this are so rare it is next to impossible to try to come up with a way to explain or predict when something like this might happen.

She said the next best prevention is to continue the national discussion on mental health.
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