Navigation Article News & Events
Diane & Peter


The Last Flight
April 3rd, Kansas City: Some thoughts about the Germanwings crash
A plane went down, and because usually a lot of people are in a plane, the number of victims is shocking, even in our world hardboiled as it is from daily catastrophic news on TV. And thus, the attention is higher than usual.

Germanwings crash site

Or maybe it has to do with the fact, a lot of us fly occasionally in planes and thus, this incident touches directly on the fears of everyone.
Now we know, or at least can strongly guess, the copilot ran the Airbus into the mountains intentionally to commit suicide. Which is another factor heating up the attention. And with all of this of course, the media blame game starts to get really really wild. Why wasn't this pilot evaluated, the rules in our country (and this is independent from the country those commenters are in) are soooo much better ... lets be honest here, this is bullshit!
Suicides happen and sometimes also pilots commit suicide. Most of them at home and alone. Suicide has become a quite frequent incident over the whole population. However, suicidal pilots very rarely crash planes with hundreds of passengers in order not to die alone. Aside of Lubitz, I know only of one other case, in which pilot-masshomicide.-suicide was actually proven. All other cases were more like "we can't find another reason for the crash, so we assume, pilot suicide". Which in a way gives all those cases of "pilot suicides" a little bit of a suspicious touch. USA Today reported only a few days ago, at least 44 amateur pilots used planes in suicides. Of course, a closer look reveals in at least three of those cases the reason was not suicide but heart attacks or strokes, means medical conditions disabling the pilots suddenly. One turned out to be a technical failure and the rest ... well, there was no reason found, so it had to be suicide, right?
Interestingly, just four years ago, the FAA changed some rules. Pilots who come forward with having depressions or other mental health problems, will be evaluated and, if their problems are well-controleld by drugs, they can retain their licenses. Because nowadays, mental conditions aren't considered automatically a disability to fly a plane responsible. Fact is, we don't know how many pilots with possible problems are right now in the air and all that is between them and disaster are some pills ... lets hope, they took them this morning, shall we? So we have there a problem of entirely different dimensions. And still ... is this all we can think about?
Here is the problem: Maybe, probably, Lubitz killed himself and everyone on board of Flight 9525, but what can we do to prevent things like that in the future? The question is not who is to blame based on national bias or simplified Yahoo-board opinions, but what can effectively be done?
Now a lot of people call for regular psychological evaluations. Once per year. Which will not prevent anything because things develop fast if there are outside stressors involved. A girl friend leaves, the pilot in question goes into depression now ... not in six months when he is due for the next evaluation! And right now, in most countries, the pilot checkups are physical examinations. Eye tests, heart conditions, that kind of stuff. The doctor maybe asks some casual questions about the mental state of the pilot he examines, but that's it.
Those doctors are physicians, not trained psychiatrists. And even for a trained psychiatrist, things are often not that easy. If they would be that easy, Westenr societies wouldn't let go thousands of dangerous criminals go free every year because a psychiatrist determined, they would be no risk for themselves or others. They are often right, sometimes not so.
Mental problems are a wide field and yes, societies have to learn

Andreas Lubitz, the suspected suicide pilot

how to deal with it. It's an important subject. But it's not so much an important subject for airfare. Here, the discussion easily could prove as damaging because the blame game ("it was Germanwings responsibility to do this or that ...") will close out the view on some other details:
  • The pilot was locked out, the entry code overridden from the inside
    This is basically what the rules demand since 9/11. However, while a door to the cockpit makes access for terrorists harder, the overriding option of the entry code is over the top. The idea was, if someone on the outside needs to get in and terrorists get him, they can torture the code out of him. So the pilot in the cockpit can also lock out any crew member in possession of the code. But this enables of course the pilot in the cockpit to do whatever he plans to do and there is no way to stop him.

  • The copilot, Andreas Lubitz, was alone in the cockpit.
    Now, this happens when the pilot has to go to the bathroom. Fine. Many airlines have rules if one of the pilots leaves the cockpit, a flight-attendant has to sit in there with his colleague till he is back. So nobody is ever alone in there. Of course, there is a possibility a suicidal pilot could overwhelm a smaller female flight-attendant by pure physical power, but while he does that, he wouldn't be able to reprogram the flight computers, set the autopilot on descent or override the door code.

  • According to media reports, Lubitz pressed a button that sent the plane in descent
    Now, there is actually no single button to do that. Not in an Airbus, not in a Boeing. What he had to do was to reset the altitude on the autopilot and then sent the plane to a controlled descent to that new altitude. Since the second recorder, the data recorder, is not found yet, we don't know which buttons and knobs he used. All we know is, he didn't answer and, this is the weird part, he had done an oxygen mask ... now, some airlines demand that the remaining pilot wears an oxygen mask if the other pilot leaves the cockpit and the plane is above 18,000 feet altitude. So Lubitz may has donned the mask already at 38,000 ft when the descent started. But despite all gaps, we know, he didn't switch off the autopilot and flew the plane manually in the ground. Why not?
    The problem is, the ground proximity warning system gave at least one alert before the impact. Airbus' flight envelope protection system should have reacted unless it was disabled. So this is a much complexer picture here than the media hype tells us. A lot of details are still in the dark.

Bottom line is, the current hype talk prevents us all from looking at other options to prevent incidents like this one in the future and even worse, it maybe sends the whole crash investigation into a bias. Which is not a good thing because this kind of tunnel vision will in the end lead to other crashes with hundreds of victims more.

The cockpit door in an A320

Even worse things become when I read the suggestions in the public discussion. For example to make planes remote controllable from a tower station for example, just like a drone. Now, if the radio network to control a drone is hacked by, lets say terrorists, you can always press a self-destruct button. Can you do that with a plane full of people? The idea to save terrorist organizations the work to build bombs and provide them with a potential backdoor to send planes remote controlled via a hacked network into buildings sounds not so bright to me. The same goes for ideas to take control away from pilots and transfer them to board computers. More Airbuses went down for problems caused by those computers than by pilot suicides and Airbus computers are somewhat infamous for their tendency to flood cockpit crew with many unsorted messages when something is wrong and thus to contribute to plane crahses by work overload. You don't want a confused computer in control of a plane full of people when things are iffy. Remember Air France Flight 446?
And, last but not least, there is another truth about air travelling. We see those plane disasters and in almost every case, hundreds die. It doesn't really matter if it was a disappearance, like MH370, a shotdown, like MH17 or a tehcnical failure leading to disaster, like with SR111. In every case, hundreds die and the grief isn unmeasurable. It appears, we hear more and more about those disasters, there seem to be always more planes crashing. But the simple statistical truth is, the number of planes in the skies has increased over the last twenty years to about double of what was. There are more planes falling out of the skeis because there are even more under way there. Day by day. If you cut it down to numbers, flying has become actually safer than it ever was. To fly in a plane over a distance of three-thousand miles gives you a better chance of arriving healthy and in one piece than driving thirty miles in your car. Why is that? For a very simple reason. Every accident is investigated acribic and thorough to leanr from it and to get rules in place to prevent this kind of accident ever again. That will of course, don't prevent another kind fo accident next year, but it makes air travel so dafe as no other way to travel. This worked out for millions of passengers and flight crews. We should stick with this cold acribic way to get things figure out instead of going into the media hype because the blame game never saved anybody's life!

- PB -
... back
Tue, May 17, 2016
12:00 AM CT

Daniel Lee Siebert
Daniel Lee Siebert is now also in our serial killer collection. A more or less garden variety strangler type who got away longer than necessary bacause some big PDs dropped the ball ... and left it to smaller ones, to get the job done.

Fri, Dec 18, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Christman Genipperteinga
THe legendary robber along the wine road Trier-Cologne made it finally into our collection. With a total of 970 victim, including six of them his own children, he is currently the most prolific serial killer in the Collection.

Thu, Oct 22, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Gerard John Schaefer
The allegedly most prolific Florida Serial Killer, "Killer Cop" Gerard Schaefer, finally also made his way into out collection.

Thu, Sep 24, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Royal Russel Long
Long was quite messed up in the investigation of the Wyoming Rodeo Murders, but details show, he was another kind of animal, y typeless pedophile serial killer. Now his file is in our collection.

Mon, Aug 17, 2015
12:00 AM CT

The Wyoming Rodeo Murders
A story of misperceptions and midnless cabinet cleaning by police authorities that ended up with someone getting away with at least two murders on young women. Now in our collection.

Wed, Jul 15, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Joseph Vacher, the French Ripper
Now new in our collection: Joseph Vacher, the French Ripper. The first case, blood spatter analysis was used in a court trial world wide!

Sat, Jun 20, 2015
12:00 AM CST

No new addition in June
Usually, we try to bring another case up in our serial killer collection every month, but this month, we simply had no time. Between working open cases and other activities, it was just not possible. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sat, May 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

The Beauty Queen Killer
New in the serial killer collection: Christopher Wilder, the Beauty Queen Killer. A case that shows how nonsensical the disctinction between serial and spree killers really is.

Thu, Apr 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Burton W. Abbott
Abbott killed only one victim, a case that caused some public attention in 1955. But he showed all hallmarks of a fledgling serial killer and thus, we added him to our collection.

Mon, Mar 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Darren Deon Vann
Ha is basically the usual garden variety strangler case if it wouldn't be for the early warnings statistical data cretated about serial killer activity in Gary/Indiana. Now he is in our collection.

Wed, Mar 4, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Due to technical problems, the March article was up late. Take my apologies for this glitch.

Mon, Feb 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Affaire of the Poisons
We have added the infamous Affaire of the Poisons to our collection. With more than 80 offenders, it breaks a little the format, but well, it's one of the biggest cases of "organized" crime ever, so how can we let it out?

Mon, Dec 8, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Joseph Bryan
Once he made the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, now nobody remembers the case anymore. Nevertheless, the father of all allegedly schizophrenic serial killers has entered our collection.

Fri, Nov 7, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Trailside Killer
David Joseph Carpenter has now become also part of the Serial Killer Collection ... complete with profile.

Tue, Oct 7, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Vampire of Duesseldorf
Peter Kuerten aka The Vampire of Duesseldorf roamed the city at the River Rhine for more than two years and left behind a trail of bodies-

Fri, Sep 12, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Grim Sleeper
Lonnie Franklin aka The Grim Sleeper has been added to our serial killer collection

Thu, Aug 14, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Michael Lee Lockhart
... and with a little delay, another serial made it into the serial killer collection. Michael Lee Lockhart, not so much interesting for his "achievements" but because his case appears as if he became a psychopath only after a serious head injury.

Tue, Aug 12, 2014
12:00 AM CT

A Game of Daggers
Diane's new novel A GAME OF DAGGERS is now available at Amazon for Kindle. A story of murder, mayhem and political intrigue set up in the year of the Lord 1096.
Pope Urban II has called for a crusade, but this news has yet to reach Cornwall. And people there have anyway to deal with other problems from storms to wreckers on their coast and when some murdered men are discovered on the beach, nobody guesses, this is only the prelude to much greater events coming to the so remote shores ...

Sat, Jul 5, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Ivan Hill
Ivan Hill, as the first of the many serial killers, who haunted Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s, is now added to our serial killer collection.

Sun, Jun 8, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Raya and Sakina
The famous Egyptian serial killers have become part of our collection. And as so often, things are not as simple as the urban legend tries to tell us.

Thu, May 1, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Dagmar Overbye
The infamous Danish baby farmer has been added to our Serial Killer Collection.

Thu, May 1, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Pharaoh Djoser added to the Egyptian Collection
I finally came around to add a new pharaoh to our collection: Djoser, 1st Pharoh of the 3rd Dynasty.

Fri, Apr 4, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Green River Killer
This month, we added Gary Ridgway to our serial killer collection, a case, not so much interesting for the profiling but for the lessons about case organization to be learned from it.

Tue, Mar 4, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Manson Family
The "Manson Family&quo; has been added to our serial killer collection. Especially interesting for those who think, brain washing isn't possible.

Fri, Feb 7, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Hans van Zon
Dutch serial killer Hans van Zon joined our serial killer collection. Not entirely voluntarily though.

Mon, Jan 6, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Syracuse Dungeon Master
John T. Jamelske aka the Syracuse Dungeon Master has been added to our Serial Killer Collection. While not a seria killer but a serial rapist, Jamelske represents a similar psychopathology as some OCD type serial killers, for example Dahmer and therefore is some valuable object for studies.

Thu, Jan 2, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The last of the 2nd dynasty pharaohs, the man who re-united Egypt, is now also in the Egyptian collection.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013
12:00 AM CT

Pharaoh Sekhemib added to the Egyptian Collection
I finally came around to add Pharaoh Sekhemib to the collection, the sixth of the 2nd Dynasty. So, with some luck, I can finish this year the 2nd dynsty, only one, Khasekhemwy is left.

Tue, Dec 10, 2013
12:00 AM CT

The Riha disappearance
In 1969, Dr. Thomas Riha disappeared and in the subconsequent series of events, Gloria Tannenbaum was arrested for forgery and under suspicion of two other homicides. She plead not guilty by reason of insanity and got away with it. The case has now been added to our serial killer collection.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013
12:00 AM CT

Richard N. Clarey jr.
Clarey is one of the lesser known serial killers, skirting the definition a little. Still, for some reasons an interesting case.

Wed, Oct 2, 2013
12:00 AM CT

Now in the collection: William E. Cosden
A garden variety sexual predator, notable only because his existence shows, how wrong the idea of 1 monster at 1 time in 1 area is.

Copyright if not otherwise mentioned Peter and Diane Brendt 2010-. All copies, also in parts, demand the written consent of the copyright holders