Germanwings tragedy sheds light on pilot regulations

There are lingering questions about how much Lufthansa knew about the medical history of the man at the controls of Germanwings Flight 9525, and it's raising questions about U.S. regulations regarding pilot certifications.

As workers search through the wreckage of the Germanwings plane, officials are learning more about the mental condition of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. Prosecutors now say he had received treatment for suicidal tendencies several years ago. They say he had also received psychotherapy for several years before becoming a pilot. Lufthansa will not say whether it knew about his medical history, citing privacy laws.

"You cannot have any history of suicidal tendencies, which apparently this young man did, or psychotic episodes," says Dr. Jacqueline Brunetti, FAA doctor at Holy Name Hospital.

Brunetti performs medical evaluations on pilots. By law, prospective pilots in this country must disclose their entire medical history, which is then reviewed by doctors and the FAA. 

The form actually asks you questions such as: Have you seen a doctor in the last three years? What medications are you taking? It asks for a thorough history as far as loss of consciousness, heart problems, and psychiatric problems. It also asks about DUIs and other convictions.

Prospective pilots must undergo a thorough physical and psychological evaluation. More severe conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, will automatically disqualify a candidate. But less severe conditions can be approved.

A pilot with mild depression can get certified and back in the cockpit. There are very strict regulations. The only drugs that approved are Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft.

In both Germany and the United States, pilots are required to self-report ongoing medical treatment and issues, especially if a doctor deems them unfit to fly. 

Meanwhile in Europe, officials investigating Andreas Lubitz have not found any sign of a physical illness and have no evidence that he told anyone his intentions.

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