Who are we entrusting our safety to?

Zara DeGroot

Zara DeGroot

Last Tuesday, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on the plane. This catastrophe has been dubbed a deliberate act by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. Recent reports say he suffered from a mental illness, but hid the diagnosis from his employers. As a result, 149 others lost their lives.

Like much of our news nowadays, this tragedy sparked a wide range of emotions. As if another plane disaster isn’t concerning enough, the general public is now questioning and facing the fear of their pilots’ intentions, something that hasn’t been a large concern for many of us in the past.


There are not many likely explanations as to why Lubitz put the plane into a descent after refusing to let the pilot back into the cockpit, other than a mental illness. The idea of suicide was brought up and might not be completely out of the question, but killing 149 people is not suicide, it is homocide.

Research shows that mental illnesses have not increased, but information and treatment has. However, shootings, attacks on pregnant women and intentional plane crashes make us wonder if these findings can really be taken seriously. When tragedy like this strikes, the mental health of those involved is often the first thing we question. How many more people are going to have to lose their lives in order for precautions ensuring safety in every area of our lives to be enacted?

This recent plane crash not only brings up questions of who we are trusting to fly our planes, but who we are entrusting our safety to when we use public transportation in general. While researching the screening process of hiring our local bus drivers, taxi drivers in big cities and even SuperShuttle drivers, there were no apparent indicators of mental health factors in their hiring procedures. We are trusting them to transport us to our destination, and while I personally have not seriously questioned my safety, recent events have told me that I should. If employers of transportation do screen for psychological problems, they should make it known and available to view for the general public. A if they don’t, they should start.

The fear of a deliberate plane crash happening again will be here for a while, especially for those who are skeptical of flying in the first place. But, a few different measures can be taken to ease the anxieties of passengers after this event. Profiles of the pilots could be available on the airline’s website so that passengers can view who will be flying them to their destination after reserving their seats. Pilots could also speak to the flight in person before take off so that passengers can put a face to a name, and feel more comfortable flying. Whatever it is, something needs to change.

The other issue here is allowing the pilot to leave the cockpit and surrendering control of the aircraft to the co-pilot. American air carriers require a flight attendant to replace the pilot if he or she leaves the flight deck for a few minutes, so that two people are in the cockpit at all times. Lufthansa Airlines, the parent company of Germanwings, states that the pilot or co-pilot can be alone if one leaves for a minimal amount of time. However, since the crash, other airlines are changing their protocol to mandate two crew members in the cockpit, and rightfully so.

Unfortunately, the fear of being safe is always going to be prevalent. But, with fatal incidents like this that point to the mental health of the perpetrator, you would think increased regulations and precautions would be put into action to ease tensions and anxieties of passengers. It is time that we take mental illness and public safety more seriously.

Collegian Columnist Zara DeGroot can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @zar_degroot