• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Airbus 'nearly crashed' when pilots fell ill

The Local · 28 Sep 2012, 10:21

Published: 28 Sep 2012 10:21 GMT+02:00

The budget airline Germanwings was accused on Friday of deliberately playing down the incident so that no investigation was launched for a year, by which time the black box and cockpit recorder information were no longer available.

Friday’s Die Welt newspaper worked with public broadcaster NDR to dig up reports on the incident which could have ended in catastrophe – and yet was reported to the air safety authorities in such a harmless manner that no investigation was undertaken.

But pilot association Cockpit on Friday accused Germanwings of "irresponsible downplaying" of the incident.

Flight 753 from Vienna to Cologne on December 20, 2010 was starting to land when first the co-pilot and then the pilot became cripplingly nauseous and barely conscious, the report says.

“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.

A medical examination afterwards showed the captain had a blood oxygen level of around 70 percent, while that of his co-pilot was less than 80 percent. Healthy people have a blood saturation level of nearly 100 percent, while 70 percent is close to the level at which people pass out, Die Welt.

The co-pilot wrote in his report that the plane would have crashed into the ground in Cologne with 144 passengers and five crew – and eight tonnes of fuel. The captain said he was in fear for his life.

Yet they managed to land the plane without incident, and accompanied by emergency teams, it taxied off the runway and came to a halt, whereupon passengers watched as the two men were driven in an ambulance, said Der Spiegel magazine.

Although Germanwings submitted a report to the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation (BFU), the incident did not appear in the BFU’s monthly bulletin and no further action was taken. Experts now believe this is because Germanwings – a subsidiary of Lufthansa – downplayed the event to avoid investigation.

Die Welt said that it was only a year later that experts received new information and started looking into what had happened – by which time no information from the black box and cockpit recorder remained.

A spokesman for Germanwings told Die Welt there had been no problem and the pilots had not suffered any reduction in their capacities.

But the paper said it had seen a medical report from Lufthansa referring to an examination of the co-pilot six months after the incident, which said he was fully capable of service – after six months of being incapable. He had undergone weeks of counselling.

Story continues below…

It is though the bad air may have been due to de-icing fluid getting into the cockpit’s air supply.

Contaminated cabin air was scheduled to be discussed by MPs in the lower house of parliament on Friday afternoon.

The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

17:48 September 28, 2012 by hanskarl
No surprises here. On a recent transcontinental flight on an Airbus the cabin air was so terrible I begged the stewardess to have the pilots increase the exchange of cabin air with outside air. They hate to do it as it makes the planes less efficient in cruise and therefore Euros in operating costs. Notwithstanding, Lufthansa had us packed in like cattle. It was the first time I had ever experienced oxygen deprivation in flight apart from the occasional gastric relief of other passengers nearby.
21:09 September 28, 2012 by Dr.D.11
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
00:33 September 29, 2012 by The-ex-pat
17:48 September 28, 2012 by hanskarl

No surprises here. On a recent transcontinental flight on an Airbus the cabin air was so terrible I begged the stewardess to have the pilots increase the exchange of cabin air with outside air. They hate to do it as it makes the planes less efficient in cruise and therefore Euros in operating costs.-----------

Not sure what movies (Macgyver probably) you have been watching, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to increase or decreases the the amount of air that enters the fuselage. The only thing that can be altered is the temperature. The amount of air in the cabin is a direct result of maintaining around 8000 feet of equivalent outside value air pressure in the cabin during the flight. You are correct though, cabin air is exchanged with "outside" air, bleed air from the engines, but that is also a fixed non adjustable amount. As I said, cabin air is a direct reflection of the required amount of pressurisation in conjunction with aircraft altitude. Most probably, the cabin temperature had been increased if it was a long flight as this especially after a meal makes most passengers sleepy.............and means the cabin crew get a bit of a break (but you did not hear that from me............)

PS before you disagree I am a licensed engineer or Boeing, Air Bus and Bombardier aircraft...........
09:37 September 29, 2012 by nota LAME
@Hanskarl:

I do disagree. I suggest your explanation omits some detail.

Whilst the rate of bleed air input to the cabin may be fixed, the outflow rate is variable. The flight-deck crew still have control over choosing the cabin altitude. This being achieved by controlling the rate at which air escapes the cabin via the outflow valves. Thus the pilots might select a cabin alt. of anywhere between 5-8000ft and the outflow valves are regulated automatically to maintain the selected alt. Therefore, for a lower selected alt. air escapes the cabin at a lower rate to achieve the selected pressure altitude and a lower alt. has greater relative air pressure, hence more fresh air (or a greater concentration of oxygen) in the cabin.*

All of which is academic in the case of contaminated air to the extent of the crew affected in this instance. Oxy masks and expedited landing is what you need in such a situation.

* Disclaimer: Studied this a while back. Nothing new about how it's done (unless the laws of physics have changed recently).
10:21 September 29, 2012 by The-ex-pat
The crew do not select anything other than the landing elevation so that the cabin pressure elevation reached ground level at the same time as the aircraft and the cruise altitude. The rest of the time they do not touch it. It is computer controlled system. They set it and then do not touch it again. But as you say, academic.

However what is interesting, the crew get their air from the same supply as the passenger. Why were the passengers not effected in the same way as the crew??
Today's headlines
Germans cut home energy usage by six percent in a year
Hamburg at night. Photo: DPA

The Energiewende is the German government's ambitious policy of drastically reducing carbon emissions. New figures show one remarkable success.

Merkel party MP under fire for using Nazi propaganda term
Bettina Kudla. Photo: Büro Bettina Kudla MdB/DPA.

A member of Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party is in hot water after tweeting over the weekend a Nazi propaganda term in her criticism of the country’s refugee policies.

Govt denies planning bailout for troubled Deutsche Bank
Photo: DPA

Germany's finance ministry on Wednesday said the government was "not preparing rescue plans" for Deutsche Bank, denying a newspaper report that state aid was being considered for the embattled lender.

Munich at high risk of housing bubble: report
A view of Munich. Photo: Pexels.com

Considering buying property in Munich? This report might make you think twice.

After fatal hail storm, south Germany set to see sun
The hail storm in Baden-Württemberg on Monday night left the streets looking like a winter landscape. Photo: DPA.

A hail storm in southwest Germany on Monday night led to the death of one woman, but forecasters predict a bit more sun in the days to come.

Police shoot dead father who attacked daughter's abuser
Police at the scene of the shooting in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Berlin police on Tuesday night shot and killed the father of a young girl at a refugee home as he tried to attack a man who allegedly sexually abused his daughter.

TV celebrity criticized for claiming 70 kg is overweight
Sophie Thomalla. Photo: DPA

Model Sophie Thomalla claimed that promoting models who weigh over 70 kg sets as dangerous an example as skinny supermodels.

UK files show how Spanish spy tricked Nazis over D-Day
Photo: DPA

Secret files released in Britain Wednesday shed new light on how a Spaniard dubbed the greatest double agent of World War II tricked Germany with false intelligence about the D-Day Normandy landings.

Pegida take to Dresden streets - to march against Pegida
Pegida demonstrators. Photo: DPA

Followers of the xenophobic Pegida movement marched in two factions on Monday evening in the capital of Saxony, brandishing fierce accusations of treason against one another.

Analysis
Is it fair to call the AfD far right?
AfD leaders, from left, Georg Pazderski, Frauke Petry and Jörg Meuthen. Photo: DPA.

The AfD has been dubbed "far-right" over the past year as it has taken on a tougher stance against immigration and made gains in state elections. But at what point does one call a group far-right?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,591
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd