World / Europe

German pilot said to have suffered from depression, anxiety

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-03-27 18:42

German pilot said to have suffered from depression, anxiety
Picture of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. [Photo/IC]

MONTABAUR, Germany - The German pilot believed to have deliberately crashed a plane in the French Alps killing 150 people broke off his training six years ago due to depression and spent over a year in psychiatric treatment, a German newspaper reported on Friday.

The story in German tabloid Bild came a day after French prosecutors said they believed Andreas Lubitz, a 27-year-old co-pilot at Lufthansa's budget airline Germanwings, had locked the captain out of the cockpit and steered the Airbus A320 airliner into its fatal descent.

Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr acknowledged at a news conference on Thursday that Lubitz had broken off his training in 2009 but did not explain why. He said there was nothing in the pilot's background to suggest he was a risk.

"After he was cleared again, he resumed training. He passed all the subsequent tests and checks with flying colours. His flying abilities were flawless," Spohr said.

But Bild, citing internal documents forwarded by Lufthansa's Aeromedical Center to German authorities, reported that Lubitz had suffered from depression and anxiety, and had been judged to have suffered a "serious depressive episode" around the time he suspended his training.

Lufthansa and German prosecutors declined to comment on the report, which is likely to raise questions about the airline's screening procedures for its pilots and, if confirmed, could expose it to substantial liabilities in the crash.

An international agreement generally limits airline liability to around $157,400 for each passenger who dies in a crash if families do not sue, but if families want to pursue compensation for greater damages, they can file lawsuits.

Lawyers who have represented families in past airline disasters told Reuters that potential lawsuits could focus on whether Germanwings properly screened the co-pilot before and during his employment, and on whether the airline should have had a policy requiring two or more people in its cockpits at all times during a flight.

Several airlines have already changed their cockpit rules in response to the crash, although Spohr said on Thursday that he saw no need for Lufthansa to do so.

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