Accident to the Airbus A320-211, registered D-AIPX and operated by Germanwings, flight GWI18G, on 03/24/15 at Prads-Haute-Bléone

Investigation progression Closed
Progress: 100%

The co-pilot had been flying for Germanwings since June 2014 and was the holder a class 1 medical certificate that was first issued in April 2008 and had been revalidated or renewed every year. Since July 2009, this medical certificate had contained a waiver because of a severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms that had lasted from August 2008 until July 2009. This waiver stated that it would become invalid if there was a relapse into depression.

In December 2014, approximately five months after the last revalidation of his class 1 medical certificate, the co-pilot started to show symptoms that could be consistent with a psychotic depressive episode. He consulted several doctors, including a psychiatrist on at least two occasions, who prescribed anti-depressant medication. The co-pilot did not contact any Aero-Medical Examiners (AME) between the beginning of his decrease in medical fitness in December 2014 and the day of the accident.

In February 2015, a private physician diagnosed a psychosomatic disorder and an anxiety disorder and referred the co-pilot to a psychotherapist and psychiatrist. On 10 March 2015, the same physician diagnosed a possible psychosis and recommended psychiatric hospital treatment. A psychiatrist prescribed anti depressant and sleeping aid medication in February and March 2015. Neither of those health care providers informed any aviation authority, nor any other authority about the co-pilot’s mental state. Several sick leave certificates were issued by these physicians, but not all of them were forwarded to Germanwings.
No action could have been taken by the authorities and/or his employer to prevent him from flying on the day of the accident, because they were informed by neither the co-pilot himself, nor by anybody else, such as a physician, a colleague, or family member.

In the cruise phase of the accident flight, the co-pilot waited until he was alone in the cockpit. He then intentionally modified the autopilot settings to order the aeroplane to descend. He kept the cockpit door locked during the descent, despite requests for access made via the keypad and the cabin interphone. He did not respond to the calls from the civil or military air traffic controllers, nor to knocks on the door. Security requirements that led to cockpit doors designed to resist forcible intrusion by unauthorized persons made it impossible to enter the flight compartment before the aircraft impacted the terrain in the French Alps.
The BEA investigation concluded that the process for medical certification of pilots, in particular self-reporting in case of decrease in medical fitness between two periodic medical evaluations, did not succeed in preventing the co-pilot, who was experiencing mental disorder with psychotic symptoms, from exercising the privilege of his licence.

The following factors may have contributed to the failure of this principle:
•    the co-pilot’s probable fear of losing his right to fly as a professional pilot if he had reported his decrease in medical fitness to an AME;
•    the potential financial consequences generated by the lack of specific insurance covering the risks of loss of income in case of unfitness to fly;
•    the lack of clear guidelines in German regulations on when a threat to public safety outweighs the requirements of medical confidentiality.
The BEA has addressed eleven safety recommendations to the WHO, IATA, the European Commission, EASA, BMVI and BÄK relating to:
•    medical evaluation of pilots with mental health issues;
•    routine analysis of in-flight incapacitation;
•    mitigation of the consequences of loss of licence;
•    anti-depressant medication and flying status;
•    balance between medical confidentiality and public safety;
•    promotion of pilot support programmes.

Cockpit Voice Recorder of flight GWI18G
Cockpit Voice Recorder of flight GWI18G
Cockpit Voice Recorder of flight GWI18G
Photo (c) Sébastien Mortier /
Photo (c) Sébastien Mortier /


Press release

  • (02/29/16) The BEA will release the final investigation report Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 11H AM during a press briefing. Contact for media registration: / +33 1 49 92 72 01

  • (Information released 02/13/2016)

    The BEA will release the final investigation report Sunday, March 13, 2016 during a press briefing. Note to media: schedules and accreditation arrangements will be communicated in the coming weeks . Contact: Sébastien Barthe / +33 1 49 92 72 01

  • In accordance with the provisions of European Regulation 996/2010 the BEA has initiated a Safety Investigation after having been informed, at the end of the morning, that an Airbus A320-211 crashed near the commune of Prads-Haute-Bléone (Alpes de Haute-Provence, France).

    The aeroplane, registered D-AIPX, operated by Germanwings, flight GWI18G, was flying the route from Barcelona (Spain) to Düsseldorf (Germany). According to information from the airline, there were 144 passengers and 6 crew members on board.

    Seven investigators from the BEA, accompanied by technical advisers from Airbus and CFM International, are travelling to the accident site. They will be joined by a team of three investigators from the BFU (Bundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung) the BEA’s German counterpart.

    A press conference will be organised at the BEA tomorrow, Wednesday 25 March, from 16h to 16h45. Journalists who wish to attend are asked to confirm their presence with Sonia Festou, sonia.festou[at]

  • The Safety Investigation is continuing.

    It will be focused on:

    • Describing more precisely, from the technical perspective, the history of the flight. This work will be based on detailed analysis of data from the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) as well as analysis of any flight parameter data that may be available.
    • Studying the systemic weaknesses might possibily have led to this aviation disaster or other similar events. Within this context, the Safety Investigation will be oriented towards the cockpit door locking system logic and cockpit access and exit procedures, as well as the criteria and procedures applied to detect specific psychological profiles.
  • The aeroplane's Flight Data Recorder (FDR) was brought to the BEA's premises yesterday evening. The BEA team started opening operations as soon as it arrived.

    The initial readout shows that the pilot present in the cockpit used the autopilot to put the aeroplane into a descent towards an altitude of 100 ft then, on several occasions during the descent, the pilot modified the autopilot setting to increase the speed of the aeroplane in descent.

    Work is continuing to establish the precise history of the flight.