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‘Suicidal Pilots are becoming main cause of fatalities’

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‘Suicidal Pilots are becoming main cause of fatalities’

Old 14th Dec 2022, 11:40
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‘Suicidal Pilots are becoming main cause of fatalities’

London Times yesterday analysis item triggered by new MH370 story.
The takeover of Flight MH370 by a pilot who crashed the Boeing in a remote site in the Indian ocean emerged as the most plausible explanation of the disaster after the airliner’s track was identified and debris was found in 2015 (Charles Bremner writes).

Pilots who deliberately crash their airliners, taking all aboard to their doom, have become a leading cause of fatal crashes as safety advances have greatly reduced accidents to a near negligible level, at least in the developed world. As recently as March this year, a pilot on a China Eastern Boeing 737 is thought to have taken over the aircraft and dived it into the ground near the city of Wuzhou, killing all 132 aboard.

The investigation is still open, but people involved in the downloading of the airliner’s black box flight recorders in the United States said in May that only human action such as murder-suicide by a pilot could explain the near vertical trajectory of the aircraft.

If the China Eastern crash is confirmed as intentional, it will raise suicide-murder by a pilot to the biggest cause of loss of life in commercial airline accidents in recent decades. In June, a Bloomberg study of crashes involving Western-built commercial airliners found that pilot murder-suicide was the second most common cause of deaths in airline crashes from 2011 to 2020. Apart from the China Eastern crash, at least five other airline pilots have deliberately killed themselves along with 543 people in the past 25 years.

Airlines have screened their flight crews for psychological difficulties for decades but medical secrecy and pilots’ reluctance to reveal troubles make it difficult to supervise their state beyond initial training. This was demonstrated by the crash of the Germanwings Airbus into the French Alps, killing 150, in 2015. Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot, had been treated for suicidal tendencies but concealed his depression from his employers. He locked the captain out of the flight deck and put the airliner into a dive until it hit the French mountains on a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. Airlines in Europe tightened their monitoring of crews’ mental state after the disaster as a result.

Most of the homicidal airline pilots have been under stress over legal, work, financial or relationship crises or suffering mental problems and all appeared to have planned their crimes, the accident record shows. The suspected rogue pilot of Malaysia Flight 370 would have gone to great lengths to divert the Boeing 777 while switching off its radar and radio transmissions then flying it for six hours across the Indian ocean, presumably with the passengers all dead from hypoxia (insufficient oxygen).

Airlines and their governments when national prestige is involved, are sometimes reluctant to accept crash investigators’ conclusions of murder-suicide by pilots.

American investigators concluded that the captain of a SilkAir Boeing 737 had deliberately crashed the aircraft into a river after plummeting from 35,000 feet in 1997. Indonesian authorities rejected the findings and their investigation concluded that there had been no identifiable cause for the disaster that killed 104 people..
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 12:23
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So the pilot became the most dangerous guy on board...
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 12:30
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"Well trained pilots are main cause of prevention of X times the number of fatal crashes that occur" would be a better headline. Dear oh dear.
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 14:14
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I did just post it without comment!
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 15:32
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Originally Posted by slast
I did just post it without comment!
Not aimed at you - just despair that the media are hell bent on attacking us at all possible opportunities!
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 15:54
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Originally Posted by slast
London Times yesterday analysis item triggered by new MH370 story.
In June, a Bloomberg study of crashes involving Western-built commercial airliners found that pilot murder-suicide was the second most common cause of deaths in airline crashes from 2011 to 2020.
Bloomberg seems unable to make up its mind:

​​​​​​​
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 17:18
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Pilot suicide is only a relatively recent addition to accident statistics. There were many accidents in earlier days (prior to FDRs etc.) which remained unsolved. They were attributed to unknown factors and in those days suicide probably never entered the equation. It is not unreasonable to consider that a minority of those may indeed have been the result of suicide. We just don't know. Therefore, I'm not overly convinced that it is a more recent trend.
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Old 14th Dec 2022, 22:04
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I have stopped paying attention to anything written in Newspapers. Suggest you all do the same too. Nothing journalistic about The Times anymore. Just opinions.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 01:49
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This is the most uncomfortable topic this forum has ever debated or discussed. A problem

without a solution as long as pilots continue to fly airplanes.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 04:51
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Originally Posted by ferry pilot
This is the most uncomfortable topic this forum has ever debated or discussed. A problem

without a solution as long as pilots continue to fly airplanes.
The real problem is more the denial among the "professionals". For that to become reality, it seems, public attention may help to work on this issue.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 05:21
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Not denying the "issue" but at this time it feels like part of the next campaign to promote single pilot cockpits.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 05:51
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You could argue the complete opposite that this has anything to do with single man cockpits. Two pilots reduces the risk. At least that is what the authorities argued after the Germanwings disaster. As a now retired captain but with a solid background in work design I think this is much more about working conditions and job satisfaction. The pilot job has been continuously simplified and tasks automated. The focus from the manufacturers has been on safety and efficiency with a big upside for the paying public. The downside is that the job is much less interesting and ultimately requires less skill. If you pay people less and work them harder in uncomfortable shift work with boring repetitive routines where they don't feel they are adding much value, then some of them are going to struggle with their mental health.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 06:30
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Originally Posted by lederhosen
You could argue the complete opposite that this has anything to do with single man cockpits. Two pilots reduces the risk. At least that is what the authorities argued after the Germanwings disaster. As a now retired captain but with a solid background in work design I think this is much more about working conditions and job satisfaction. The pilot job has been continuously simplified and tasks automated. The focus from the manufacturers has been on safety and efficiency with a big upside for the paying public. The downside is that the job is much less interesting and ultimately requires less skill. If you pay people less and work them harder in uncomfortable shift work with boring repetitive routines where they don't feel they are adding much value, then some of them are going to struggle with their mental health.
I think, you make some fundamental mistakes. The amount of money one earns has little to do with its mental health. A declining amount of earning/respect can, though, somewhat trigger a revenge action, though that's only a trigger, not a fundamental cause. The problem is, each and every pilot individual will be in denial of mental issues for himself and in general for the profession (though, it's changing under the public exposure of the factual situation).

Even the GW situation, IIRC there was little going on, that he would lose his medical, his job, earning or position. It was just the existing mental illness turning into general revenge, he no longer could deal with it himself.

The changing job: Well, that counts for a lot of jobs. The world does change and the jobs have to follow. The issue is, how people deal with/accept the changes (in life).

Regarding skills: I highly doubt, the need for top-level skills will go down, to take-over when automation fails. It just will be more difficult to gain those capabilities, when to much automation is being brought in.

Regarding single man's cockpit (except for really small airplanes): Hmmmm. What a nonsense ......

What is important for the airline industry, is a level playfield for all airlines. Whether that be a 2-man or 1-man cockpit does not make a difference. Just let it be a level playfield, and it will not disturb the balance among airlines be it a 2-man or 1-man cockpit crew.

Whatever some "captains" of the airline industry (especially the LCC's), are promoting in the press, there is, at least in Europe, a strong political pressure to decrease the amount of airplane movements. So, a decline in number of flights is imminent and unavoidable for now. So, even the LCC's will need to shrink the number of flights. And, where the supply does decrease and demand does increase, the pricing will go up. So also for LCC's the 1-man cockpit will become less relevant to bring "lower" ticket pricings into the market, let more people fly, to increase their turnover. That mechanism is (at least in Europe) over and will move to increase turnover based on increased pricing. The A380-NG would still have its chance, bigger airplanes with a lower amount of airplane movements, can still bring an increase in passengers. ......
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 07:16
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Thank you for your lengthy if a little incoherent input WideScreen. I am unsure which fundamental mistakes you are referring to. Less Hair was suggesting that this was somehow part of a campaign to promote the single man cockpit. I happen to disagree for the reason I gave; namely that we were required by the authorities to always have two people in the cockpit after one of the more high profile and undisputed suicides.

I am interested by your argument that the job is not being deskilled. I am unclear what your qualification is to make this assertion. I spent the latter part of my working life flying glass cockpit Boeing and Airbus aircraft. The latest generation avionics even with failures are much easier to fly with than the steam gauge generation that preceded them. Raw data manual flying with multiple failures on a modern airbus is pretty straightforward compared to a normal day at the office on an early 707.

If you have spent much time in the cockpit then you will know how mind numbingly boring long flights can be. In the early jet glory days the Pan Am pilot's job was jokingly described as 8 hours of boredom with a couple of minutes of terror at either end. These days it is unusual to have any excitement at least as far as flying the aircraft is concerned. I think more attention needs to be given to improving the working environment. Where I do agree with you is that this is not just about money.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 07:36
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I tend to agree with lederhosen here. Back to suicidal pilots , in the well known GW event the reasons why the pilot was not prevented to fly are well docucumented and were debated ad nauseam in the years that followed. Basically he knwew how to play the system to remain undetected, Can it happen again , sadly yes , maybe not in all counytries, but in many other , yes. Reasons why piots would go though that extreme are too numerous to extract a definite pattern in order to make an effective general counter measure.
In addition mental health discussions are still taboo in most parts of the world and especialy in our industry.

As to think bringing the subject in tthe media now to push or counter single pilots operations , I sincelery doubt it , if it is indeed a coordianted PR lobby it would be more for autonomous aircraft.

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Old 15th Dec 2022, 09:24
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I am only at the very beginning of my airline career, but what strikes me is the disparity between the process I have to go through to get a security ID and the process I have to go through to prove my psychological fitness. I wonder if this is because there is a lack of knowledge around what psychological fitness is within airlines? It strikes me that if you were to tell the HR department you were in counseling, that might well be your job gone right there... perhaps airlines having a more nuanced understanding of what should raise red flags and what is a normal/acceptable level of looking after your mental health might be a good thing? That might then encourage pilots to be a bit more open in self reporting before they get to the point of no return?
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 11:49
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Busdriver & co, I'd be interested if anyone can provide examples of events preferably since 2000 which did NOT make big headlines like Sully, Qantas, etc. but where the crew had to "improvised" a solution to a completely unforeseen event that would otherwise have been catastrophic. For example the BA B744 at Nairobi where an out-of adjustment thrust reverser caused leading edge slat retraction on lift off, putting the aircraft into an immediate stalling condition.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 12:14
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slast,

Yes indeed. The problem with nearly all the statistics that we have is that there are very few, if any, which show when the pilots did save the day. There are so many undocumented 'near misses' which we never ever hear anything about because a major problem was nipped in the bud by prompt action or by good decision making somewhere along the line.

There are many causes of aircraft accidents, nearly always caused by a combination of factors (Professor James Reason's Swiss cheese concept) with pilot error or suicide being only one of them. In airline operations, the percentage due to pilot error is documented as around 15%, in smaller commuter operations it is around 65% and in general aviation it is around 75% (these figures probably need to be checked). These tend to be the ones we continually see trotted out by journalists and others. But one has to be very careful when using these figures, as there are very few accidents caused solely by pilots making mistakes or committing suicide. Most accidents have many contributory factors and occur when the pilots were already dealing with other problems/failures/weather factors, etc.

But we hardly ever hear of the times when the pilots prevented an accident by making good decisions and taking suitable action well before any event escalated into something more serious.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 13:04
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We don't know the exact picture and maybe we will never know. MH370 and MH17 crashed around the same time under suspicious conditions. It can not be a coincidence that this has happened at the same time or maybe it can be. Maybe we are all being part of the narrative.
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Old 15th Dec 2022, 14:19
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Originally Posted by palprthi
We don't know the exact picture and maybe we will never know. MH370 and MH17 crashed around the same time under suspicious conditions. It can not be a coincidence that this has happened at the same time or maybe it can be. Maybe we are all being part of the narrative.
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If you can explain how being shot down by a missile (17 July 2014 over Southeastern Europe) is the 'same suspicious condition' as being lost and never found (8 March 2014 somewhere over the Indian Ocean)
I am sure that your colleagues will receive this post more favorably.
I honestly don't see the connection.
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