Some things are easy to sweep under the rug — a former blinding passion for the Dave Matthews Band or when you stole a lollipop at the grocery checkout when you were five — but how in the heck did a Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa*, manage to cover up for almost two years the fact that a plane carrying 150 passengers almost crashed? At the time, the air in the cockpit was contaminated and both pilots were close to losing consciousness.
Germany’s The Local says the near miss happened at the Cologne airport on December 20, 2010 when a Germanwings flight was starting to land.
Suddenly the co-pilot and pilot both became nauseated by the air in the cockpit.
“You land the bird, I can’t fly anymore,” the 26-year-old co-pilot told the 35-year-old captain before reaching for an oxygen mask. His arms and legs had gone numb and he had the feeling he could no longer think clearly.
Yet as he took the controls, the pilot felt tingling in his hands and feet, began to get tunnel vision and became badly dizzy – all this as the plane began decending at more than 400 kmph.
Scary stuff — but somehow the pilots managed to land the plane safely. Afterward medical examinations found that the captain had a blood oxygen level of 70% or so, and his co-pilot was at less than 80%. You should have basically 100% to be healthy, and 70% is darn close to passing out, says the report.
The issue here is that Germanwings is being accused of deliberately writing off the ordeal as no big issue, and delaying an investigation for a full year. By that time, the black box and cockpit recorder information were unavailable. A pilot association is now accusing Germanwings of “irresponsible downplaying” of the incident.
But pilot association Cockpit on Friday accused Germanwings of “irresponsible downplaying” of the incident. The airline submitted a report at the time to the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation but somehow the incident wasn’t in the agency’s monthly bulletin and nothing more came of it — perhaps because Germanwings didn’t really relay how serious things could’ve been.
A spokesman told the media that there had been no problem, and the pilots hadn’t suffered any reduction in their capacities. However, the pilot said he was in fear for his life, and that the plane could’ve crashed and killed everyone on board.
We’re interested to know exactly how you can downplay “both pilots almost passed out” unless you just don’t report that little tidbit. Because that’s a pretty big deal.
*Which is why the image of Lufthansa is used here — it’s on the hook as well.
Airbus ‘nearly crashed’ when pilots fell ill [The Local]