Markets at Work: Following Germanwings Crash, Airlines Voluntarily Implement New Safety Precaution

No regulation necessary

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A Norwegian branded airplane
Norwegian Airlines

Earlier this week, 150 people lost their lives when an aircraft operated by the carrier Germanwings crashed inexplicably into a mountainside. Evidence now suggests the tragedy was not an accident: According to investigators, the co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit and then intentionally downed the plane.

In recordings, the locked-out pilot can reportedly be heard trying to force his way back in. He wasn't able to do so because of safeguards put into place after the 9/11 attacks. Cockpit doors on planes today are heavily reinforced, and a pilot inside has the ability to override attempts by someone outside to input an emergency code and gain entrance. Once the flight's captain had exited—presumably to use the restroom—there was nothing he could do to stop the crash.

This adds a ghastly twist to an already horrible event. But several airlines, seeking to soothe passenger fears, are reacting by voluntarily rolling out measures to try to prevent anything like this from happening again. Per a news release from Norwegian Airlines:

Norwegian has been looking into changing its cockpit procedures for a while. However, in light of the tragic Germanwings accident, we are speeding up the process so that two crew members always are present in the cockpit. This means that if one of the pilots leaves the cockpit, one crew member must replace him/her during this time. Our passengers' and crew's safety always comes first, which is why we have decided to change our procedures, in line with US regulations.

Air Canada too is changing its rules to require two people in the cockpit at all times, according to an Associated Press report. U.S. carriers already have such a requirement, but the practice was apparently not common in Europe.

The sad truth is that no system or set of protocols can protect us against every eventuality. From a movie theater in Colorado to a naval vessel docked in Yemen, we've seen time and again that when people are determined enough to cause death and destruction, they will find a way to do it. As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote today at The Week:

The simple fact of the matter is that not everything can be planned, not everything can be predicted, not everything can be managed. The same cockpit locks that would have prevented 9/11 may have helped cause the Germanwings crash.

The world is simply too complex, and our minds too narrow to quantify everything. … In the end, we humans are really prideful monkeys, who not only don't know much, but are too arrogant to realize it — the worst imaginable combination.

It would be shortsighted to assume that this particular precaution is some sort of silver bullet. But it's comforting to be reminded that faceless megacorporations don't always need to be whipped and chained before they'll want to do right by their customers. The anguish in the statements from Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, is telling. And no law is forcing Air Canada to implement the two-crew-member policy. The company is taking that step because it cares about its passengers—or, if that's a bridge too far for you, at least about its bottom line.

What's more, trying too hard to micromanage the world around us often makes things worse. Norwegian Air's press release explained that "the new procedures will be implemented as soon as Norwegian has received an approval from the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority." In other words, it's the need to get permission from a government agency—not greed, and certainly not a lack of humanity—that's standing in the way of this corporation putting better practices into action right away.

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  1. Earlier this week, 150 people lost their lives when an aircraft operated by the carrier Germanwings crashed inexplicably into a mountainside. Evidence now suggests the tragedy was not an accident: According to investigators, the co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit and then intentionally downed the plane.

    How did he manage to do so without a gun/bomb/knife? I fail to understand how humans commit violence against one another in the absence of these daemons and muses.

    1. I want to know when they pearl-clutching assholes who were blaming everything on a “cut rate airline” and insinuating that evul profits caused this crash, are going to walk back their words.

      Yeah, I know, never.

      1. Well if he were required to get more flight school hours and certification none of this would happen. All because of deregulationzzzz you see! Nationalize flight schools! /prog derp 101

      2. Where did you see this being said? I’d love to go and make fun of them.

      3. I’m sure american socialist will be here in no time to clarify that the real culprit is the corporation that underpaid this poor pilot. No doubt if he’d had a better pension plan and better healthcare he wouldn’t have felt compelled to murder 149 people.

      4. I’m sure american socialist will be here in no time to clarify that the real culprit is the corporation that underpaid this poor pilot. No doubt if he’d had a better pension plan and better healthcare he wouldn’t have felt compelled to murder 149 people.

        1. Actually, they are blaming the airlines from going from a crew of 4 to a crew of 2.

  2. A bit more about the reinforced cockpit doors:
    This happened.

    (pilot accidentally locked out, co-pilot has to make emergency landing)

    1. Further:
      Jet Blue Flight 191.

      (crazy captain has panic attack and goes nuts, justifiably locked out of cockpit by first officer)

      1. Both incidents were Las Vegas destinations. Sounds like we need to ban flights to Las Vegas.

      2. What I’m taking from these examples is that I should not fly to Las Vegas.

        1. I don’t recommend walking

    2. This happened.

      At least he didn’t have the fish.

      1. I just want to say good luck with that comment. We’re all counting on you.

        1. It’s like I’m speaking jive.

          1. It’s a good thing Sloopy doesn’t know how much I hate his gates.

              1. SLOOPYGATE

  3. In the future, an aircraft will be lost when a cabin crewmember enters the cockpit as the pilot leaves to visit the lavatory. The cabin crewmember the strangles the remaining pilot (part of a love triangle gone wrong). Then the cabin crewmember flies the aircraft into the dirt.

    Coming to We TV in the near future.

    1. Somebody proposed a similar scenario on airlinepilotforums.com (minus the love triangle). It was promptly deleted.

      1. This problem won’t be solved until HAL 9000 has complete control of the aircraft systems.

        1. Or every command seat has a catheter.

    2. Suppose a female flight attendant had entered the cockpit when the captain left. Why would that have made a difference? After all, I’m pretty sure the copilot could have A) put the plane in a descent and then B) physically restrained a women for 8 minutes (assuming he didn’t just strangle her instead).

      1. Heck, just turn the engines off. Unless we suddenly expect all flight attendants to have pilot licenses, they’re not going to be able to restart them and get the plane flying level again.

        1. It would take way more than 8 minutes to crash from 38000 feet.

      2. The door has a keypad on the outside to let someone with the secret code enter if the crew is disabled. If the crew is not disabled, they can block the person with the secret code from getting into the cockpit. All it takes is for the 2nd person inside the cockpit (such as a 90-lb flight attendant) is to make sure the pilot-flying does not hit the switch to block the person with the secret code from entering.

        1. The system is described in great detail in many of the recent news reports. Trying reading one.

          1. If everyone on the plane were trained in martial arts, equipped with the latest technology, taught to fly. We wouldn’t have a problem!

            The solution requires secret codes and a secondary pilot/flight crew that knows those secret codes and is equally/superiorly vetted not to be homicidal idiot(s).

            1. The solution requires secret codes and a secondary pilot/flight crew that knows those secret codes and is equally/superiorly vetted not to be homicidal idiot(s)

              WTF

              The pilot leaves the flight deck to take a piss. He/she uses a fucking pin number to get back in the door. Pretty much the same fucking technology as any entrance to any modern fucking office building.

              1. The pilot leaves the flight deck to take a piss. He/she uses a fucking pin number to get back in the door. Pretty much the same fucking technology as any entrance to any modern fucking office building.

                I’m confused is the co-pilot disabled or a homicidal maniac?

                If the latter, it seems like the door code and flying mattress are little protection unless the air waitress is really a 250 lb. guy with combat and flight training.

                1. I don’t think anyone is saying the extra safeguard would make downing a plane impossible, just considerably more difficult. It would require that two, rather than just one, person be homicidal lunatics, marginally less likely, or at the very least make it much more of a hassle for the one lunatic to down the plane while simultaneously subduing a hostage.

                  Your martial arts quip is a double edged sword. What makes you so sure sure that the hypothetical homicidal lunatic is so proficient in hand to hand combat that he’ll be able to judo chop the flight attendant to death in one blow before she can scramble to the door and enable the locked out pilot to re-enter the cockpit?

            2. Let’s not forget the Egyptian 767 that went down when both pilots were seated and in control of the aircraft. The first officer still managed to crash it into the ocean even with the captain trying to save things.

              There is no fucking perfect system.

    3. Arm all your passengers!

  4. Deterrence Recommended regulation is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy… the FEAR to attack to carry on independently, free of bureaucratic guidance…

  5. So if the stewardess is in the cockpit with the co-pilot while the pilot is going to the bathroom, and the co-pilot starts trying to crash the plane, the stewardess is supposed to…

    1. Be there to open the door. Same for if the pilot strokes out.

      1. … or talk him out of it,

        … or beat the crap out of him and take control of the plane.

        The notion that cabin crew are helpless waitresses … well, the 60’s called, they want their sexist memes back.

        1. It’s not a sexism thing. One the co-pilot has started to crash the plane, it’s an unequal fight. The attendant has to win, the co-pilot just has to not lose long enough to run out of altitude.

          1. The attendant has to win decisively enough to fly/land the plane, the co-pilot just has to not lose long enough to run out of altitude.

            1. NO NO NO NO NO

              The petite blonde stewardess that I dream about only needs to make sure the pilot flying does not override the door mechanism when the pilot on the outside types the magic code in to key pad.

            2. No, she needs to…. open the door. Then insane co-pilot is at the disadvantage of having to fight the captain and two hundred pissed off passengers.

            3. No, she needs to…. open the door. Then insane co-pilot is at the disadvantage of having to fight the captain and two hundred pissed off passengers.

    2. There are not stewardesses; only flight attendants (some female, some male).

      1. So if the flight attendant is in the cockpit with the co-pilot while the pilot is going to the bathroom, and the co-pilot starts trying to crash the plane, the flight attendant is supposed to…

        1. Oh! Now I understand.

        2. We have a snake eating its tail.

          The doors must prevent an intruder from entering the cockpit without permission of the flight crew.

          The doors must allow a “rescuer” to enter the cockpit when the flight crew is disabled.

          The flight crew must be able to block a “rescuer” from entering the cockpit if the rescuer is entering under duress (held at knife point).

          Someone on the flight deck must be able to let a rescuer in if one of the flight crew has gone rogue and is blocking a rescuer from trying to enter the cockpit.

          The system is totally fucked if all the people on the flight deck have gone rogue and are co-conspirators to do something bad.

          Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

          1. I’m tired of these motherfucking snakes eating their own motherfucking tails.

            People need to understand that there is no such thing as a risk-free or error-free system. The wife-unit is freaking out over this, but she freaks out over most flying related items.

            1. People need to understand that there is no such thing as a risk-free or error-free system.

              And not all human behaviors are problems in search of an engineering solution.

              1. Well then I guess we should just accept that we live in the best of all possible worlds and nothing can be fixed or improved. All bad things would have happened anyway.

                1. Yes, that’s exactly what I said.

                  You got me.

          2. Seems like a good comedy routine. Everyone on the flight is a rogue agent, and through each person’s machinations, the flight ends up landing as scheduled.

      2. At least Stormy didn’t use the term air hostess.

        1. I prefer the term sky wench.

  6. I remember a few years ago when the gun control crowd was claiming that it was too dangerous to arm pilots.

    Seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it?

    1. Seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it?

      Bringing a gun to an airplane flight always seems kinda silly.

  7. Thank God we have procedures in place for the next time this never happens.

  8. They say that since 2014 we average over 100,000 commercial jet flights per day.

    PER DAY.

    http://www.garfors.com/2014/06…..s-day.html

    There is no guarantee that implementing locking/unlocking/emergency codes/magic beans/super doors will 100% prevent situations such as these from occurring.

    It baffles me that out of 100K PER DAY we only have what, 7 or 8 crashes in the last couple years? Isn’t that insanely safe and well beyond a margin for error you protect against?

    1. Stop it with your blind optimist. Can’t you see planes are literally falling out of the sky around us?

    2. But weather problems/mechanical errors are getting to be rare enough that ‘crazy pilot’ is rising in the rankings of causes. There’s this list:

      http://www.nbcnews.com/storyli…..ed-n330521

      Plus Malaysia 370 may end up on the list, too, if it’s ever found.

  9. The world is simply too complex, and our minds too narrow to quantify everything. … In the end, we humans are really prideful monkeys, who not only don’t know much, but are too arrogant to realize it ? the worst imaginable combination.

    Yup. By its very nature, every system has assumptions built into it.

    It won’t work, or at least not optimally, for variables that are external to your assumptions, like batshit nuts pilots.

  10. I think the solution is clear: ban airplanes and bring back commercial flight Zeppelins.

    1. Oh, the humanity!! Won’t somebody please think of the humanity?!?

    2. Jesus! You want to blow us all to shit, Sherlock?

      1. For the last time, it’s helium! What about that do you not get?

        1. Well obviously the core concept.

          1. Thank you. JW was leaving me hanging.

            1. Sorry, I was air drying your unkempt bush.

    3. Everyone knows that commercial Zepplins only appear in alternate dimension versions of earth so a traveler from the weird world can see one in the sky and realize they’re not on their earth.

      (A corollary of this theory is that we live in a universe that was originally created from an alternate timeline version of the 1930s)

  11. U.S. carriers already have such a requirement, but the practice was apparently not common in Europe.

    U! S! A!

    We were built on mistrust of authority.

    1. “We were built on mistrust of authority.”

      I’m stealing this wonderful insight.

  12. Expect to hear the ALPA (and other Pilots’ Unions) to weigh in here with a call for a return to 3 or 4 man cockpit crews.

    CB

    1. And the Rugby Players Union. We can’t possibly afford to have non-union flight crews scrumming for control of the plane on the flightdeck.

    2. Incidentally, the German pilots’ union for Lufthansa was on strike a few days ago.

  13. I think this was already standard practice among reputable airlines. But would a stewardess actually be able to stop a male pilot from doing anything nefarious?

    1. She could always offer him a blowjob if he doesn’t crash the plane.

    2. I think the person from the cabin crew just has to interfere long enough to prevent the person inside the cockpit over-riding the access code of the person outside.

  14. World’s Stupidest Man, and worst editorial cartoonist of all time, Ted Rall, tweets =

    Airlines replaced navigators with GPS; now just 1 pilot in the cockpit while the other 1 is in the restroom. Capitalism killed 149 people

    Got that? apparently all the automation and investment into safety mechanisms to make flying safer and more efficient *IS MARKET FAILURE* because they don’t have redundant humans. Evil Capitalism to Blame.

  15. If the major players agree 2 people in the cockpit is the way to go then why not have a regulation stating 2 people should always be in the cockpit? That way there is a legal reason to abide by it instead of just company policy.

  16. Markets at work? Aren’t they just adopting what is already the regulation in the US? I understand the US has a two crew rule, longer required flight hours than many other countries, and regular medical exams that include mental health.

    Maybe we could just rely on the airlines for all the safety rules, which they can create separately, and then passengers can research the safety requirements. A few hundred years ago when we were good libertarians, we did not have some kind of FAA tell us what safety requirements there should be on ships.

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