Germanwings pilot was briefly refused medical certificate in US

US authorities temporarily refused a private pilot's medical certificate in 2010 for Andreas Lubitz (above), the pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a Germanwings plane last month, according to documents released by the Federal Aviation Administ
US authorities temporarily refused a private pilot's medical certificate in 2010 for Andreas Lubitz (above), the pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a Germanwings plane last month, according to documents released by the Federal Aviation Administration. -- PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US authorities temporarily refused a private pilot's medical certificate in 2010 for Andreas Lubitz, the pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a Germanwings plane last month, according to documents released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Voice and data recordings from the Germanwings flight on March 24 show Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit and set the plane on course to crash into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board.

Investigators in Germany have found evidence that Lubitz, who during his training six years ago had informed the Lufthansa flight school of a period of "severe depression", had researched methods of suicide in the period leading up to the tragedy. He had also hidden doctors' notes signing him off work from his employers.

In a letter dated July 8, 2010, published on its website following a freedom of information request, the FAA said Lubitz was ineligible for an airman medical certificate and that further reports from doctors on his medication and treatment were required due to his history of reactive depression.

Information provided by doctors to the FAA shows Lubitz was treated with Cipralex and Mirtazapine and received psychotherapeutic treatment from January to October 2009.

"Severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms in complete remission," states the diagnosis given by German doctors and provided to the FAA, which was scrutinising Lubitz because he applied privately for a pilot's licence in the United States.

After reviewing the medical records, the FAA awarded a third-class medical certificate, typically used by student pilots and those flying recreationally, to Lubitz but said in a letter dated July 28, 2010, that he should not fly should he develop new symptoms or require further medication or treatment.

The documents released also show that Lubitz initially checked the "no" box when asked in the application whether he had ever suffered any mental disorder but this was later changed to yes.

The crash and revelations of Lubitz's medical history have raised questions over the strict nature of doctor-patient confidentiality in Germany, which means employers do not have access to information on an employee's medical health.

The LBA German aviation authority, which issues pilots' licences in Germany, was unaware of his period of depression in 2009.

But it has said that Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, had followed correct procedures under rules that applied at the time.

A spokesman for Lufthansa highlighted that the application made by Lubitz to the FAA was a private one, using a private e-mail address.

It was unaware of the medical information provided to the FAA until the documents were published, the spokesman said.