SA faces aviation time bomb - expert

2015-03-29 08:59


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Johannesburg - South Africa faces an “aviation time bomb” according to an expert, who says without proper psychological evaluation for pilots a disaster similar to the Germanwings “suicide crash” could not be far off.

According to the Sunday Times commercial pilots in SA are not required to undergo  psychological evaluation as part of their annual physical check-ups.

Thabani Nkwanyana, a medical examiner at South African Airways, told the newspaper that SA faces an aviation time bomb with the lack of proper psychological assessment and regulations for aircrew.

He said pilots who are currently grounded face the two common problems, neurological problems and psychological problems. They face a lot of depression and social ills.

Nkwanyana said because of a flawed system and that pilots fear losing their jobs because of mental problems, they do not disclose their issues.

Bottom line is: No, there aren’t sufficient systems in place to monitor the possibility of this type of accident happening, he told the Sunday Times.

Following the crash of a Germanwings plane reports have emerged that the co-pilot had deliberately crashed the aircraft, killing 150 people.

According to a German daily the he had told his girlfriend he was planning a spectacular gesture so "everyone will know my name".

The Bild newspaper published an interview with a woman who said she had had a relationship in 2014 with Andreas Lubitz, the man French prosecutors believe locked himself alone in the cockpit of the Germanwings Airbus on Tuesday and steered it into the French Alps, killing all on board.

"When I heard about the crash, I remembered a sentence... he said: 'One day I'll do something that will change the system, and then everyone will know my name and remember it'," said the woman, a flight attendant the paper gave the pseudonym of Maria W.

"I didn't know what he meant by that at the time, but now it's obvious," she said. "He did it because he realised that, due to his health problems, his big dream of working at Lufthansa, of a having job as a pilot, and as a pilot on long-distance flights, was nearly impossible."

"He never talked much about his illness, only that he was in psychiatric treatment," she told the paper, adding they finally broke up because she was afraid of him.

"He would suddenly freak out in conversations and yell at me," she recalled. "At night he would wake up screaming 'we are crashing' because he had nightmares. He could be good at hiding what was really going on inside him."

The woman also told Bild: "We always talked a lot about work and then he became a different person. He became upset about the conditions we worked under: too little money, fear of losing the contract, too much pressure."

A Lufthansa spokesperson declined to comment. The company and its low-cost subsidiary Germanwings took out full-page advertisements in major German and French newspapers on Saturday, expressing "deepest mourning".

Lufthansa and Germanwings offered condolences to the friends and families of the passengers and crew and thanked the thousands of people in France, Spain and Germany it said had helped since the crash.

German officials said there would be a ceremony on 17 April in Cologne Cathedral attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior officials from other countries including France and Spain.

Read more on:    germanwings  |  saa  |  johannesburg  |  germanwings crash  |  air crashes

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