The individual on your right is Andreas Lubitz. He was the co-pilot of a Germanwings jetliner who apparently committed mass murder/suicide by steering his Airbus A320 flight into the mountainous French Alps, killing everyone aboard. This may lead to a simple change in airline policy where the cockpit cannot be occupied by one individual alone. If, for example the pilot exits to use the rest room, a flight attendant would have to be present in the cockpit until the pilot returns. From the front page of today’s New York Times:
“Andreas Lubitz, who was flying the Germanwings jetliner that slammed into a mountain in the French Alps on Tuesday, sought treatment for vision problems that may have jeopardized his ability to continue working as a pilot, two officials with knowledge of the investigation said Saturday.
The revelation of the possible trouble with his eyes added a new element to the emerging portrait of the 27-year-old German pilot, who the authorities say was also being treated for psychological issues and had hidden aspects of his medical condition from his employer. The police found antidepressants during a search of his apartment here on Thursday, an official said Saturday.
It is not clear how severe his eye problems were or how they might have been related to his psychological condition. One person with knowledge of the investigation said the authorities had not ruled out the possibility that the vision problem could have been psychosomatic.”
Dr. Carole Hong and I wrote a paper for California Optometry that came to mind as I read this article. Although our paper addressed the influence of childhood behavioral issues and visual problems, these problems are not necessarily limited to childhood. They tend to come under the general category of functional visual loss, and there have been reports in the past that visual problems among psychiatric patients are under-reocgnized and under-diagnosed. What may have also been a factor in this tragedy is side effects of drugs that Mr. Lubitz was apparently taking to treat his psychiatric problems. It takes some searching to come up with in-depth articles that lend proper gravity to these issues, but I suspect that this tragedy will focus a spotlight on them at least in the short-term.