The destruction of Germanwings Flight 9525 and the killing of all 150 people aboard was a planned and "premeditated" act of mass murder by the co-pilot — and a terrible outcome of the airline's failure to require regular psychological testing of cockpit crews, says a nationally known psychologist and author.
"First of all there's no psychological testing that's a mandate there, with this airline and [with] a lot of Europe," Terry Lyles, popularly known as "The Stress Doctor," told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
Lyles called that policy a mistake, in contrast to United States-based airlines, which he said do repeat psychological testing of cockpit crews.
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Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked himself alone in the cockpit
on Tuesday and manually set the aircraft on a crash course, French prosecutors said on Thursday. Lubitz, 28, and the 149 others on board were killed when the Airbus A320 went down in the French Alps.
But French and German officials are at a loss for a motive, saying nothing as yet explains why the young German co-pilot who joined the airline in 2013 would have carried out a slaughter of so many.
Based on the investigators' initial review of the cockpit voice recordings, however, it appears that he did, said Lyles, commenting on reports that Lubitz could be heard breathing normally even as the captain banged on the door from outside, and right up until the plane smashed into a mountain at 6,000 feet.
"If he was just calm … he's already made the decision that he's going to kill everyone on board," said Lyles. "We could know that pretty much by his breathing rate. He wasn't hyperventilating, so he wasn't anxious, he wasn't frustrated. He was very calm."
Lyles cautioned that more information is needed to reach a definitive conclusion about Lubitz's state of mind.
"But breathing rate says a lot about the emotional, psychological state of a person any moment during the day," he said.
The CEO of Lufthansa, the parent company of the budget airline Germanwings, told reporters that all of the company's candidates for cockpit crews undergo psychological screening once they are hired, and that Lubitz had passed a psychological test.
But CEO Carsten Spohr also said
that his airlines' pilots do not undergo regular or routine psychological testing after that first exam.
It's time to start, said Lyles.
"We test people here in this country for all kinds of things," he said, "for just CEO positions and president positions. So someone who has the lives of 149 people behind them, they should be tested every way possible to make sure that they are competent, healthy, sane, alert. All those things should be taken into account, and that's why we do it here in the U.S."
"It's a huge issue," he acknowledged, noting that airlines and aviation authorities around the world would have to agree to the testing requirements observed by American commercial fliers.
But he argued that it's past due in the interconnected, post-9/11 world, with people of all nationalities flying various countries' airlines.
There were three Americans on board Germanwings Flight 9525.
"People have to start communicating together as a larger global community because things happen like this," said Lyles. "We don't know what the motive was with this guy, whether it was a terrorist attack from him, whether he was suicidal. We don't know at this point."
But he definitely had intent, said Lyles.
"He didn't intend just to kill himself," Lyles said of Lubitz. "For some reason, he was making a statement. Whether it was to an organization, whether it was to his own psychosis, we may not ever know. But this had to be premeditated, in my opinion."
Asked how regular psychological testing might have prevented Lubitz from turning violent, Lyles said it can spot warning signs of mental exhaustion or psychosis by noting changes over time in comparison to a healthy, positive baseline test result.
"You're looking for irregularities," he said, adding, "there's variations of testing that you can do periodically that would at least give you a head's-up if something was there deeper."
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