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Phoenix aviation expert: Airlines need mental-health checks of employees

LISTEN: Jim Tilmon - Retired Airline Pilot and Aviation Expert

PHOENIX — A former pilot said the deliberate crashing of a Germanwings airplane should be a wake-up call for better industry screening of employees’ mental health.

Officials said a co-pilot purposefully flew an airliner into the French Alps earlier this week, killing all 150 people onboard.

Jim Tilmon, a Phoenix-based aviation analyst who flew for American Airlines for nearly 30 years, said airlines needed to make sure employees in turmoil got all the information available that could be of help.

“What can we do … to get better at examining employees?” Tilmon said.

“We need to examine all of our protocols.”

No distress call ever went out from the cockpit of the Airbus, and the control tower’s pleas for a response went unanswered.

Andreas Lubitz’s “intention (was) to destroy this plane,” Marseille, France, prosecutor Brice Robin said.

Tilmon said U.S. airlines do not allow a pilot to be alone in the cockpit. A flight attendant will step in when one of the pilots has to leave.

As a veteran pilot Tilmon said it was unimaginable what the pilot was feeling and thinking as he tried in vain to get past the locked cockpit door.

“That had to be the height of frustration. He knew the aircraft was descending before the passengers did.

“He knows what the sounds are and what the picture out the window looked like. He couldn’t override the systems the plane had in operation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.