One year ago this week, on March 24, 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. The aircraft was flying from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany. Initial reports seemed to indicate that the co-pilot deliberately caused the Germanwings plane crash by flying the aircraft into the ground. Given these facts, many questions were raised regarding general aviation security and the importance of background checks for airline employees.

Aviation Security Management: The Germanwings Plane Crash

After controlling the ascent of Germanwings Flight 9525, the pilot released control of the aircraft to the co-pilot. Based on the black box recording, investigators believed that the pilot then left the cockpit to use the restroom. One minute later, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz manually changed the autopilot from to 38,000ft to 100ft. After 5 minutes, the radio control tower tried to contact the flight but received no response. Then, the pilot attempted to return to cockpit, knocking lightly on the door. Unable to gain access, the pilot started pounding on the door, attempting to break it down. At 9:40 the final flight elevation was recorded, just 2000 ft. above the French Alps.

Corporate Risk Assessment and Aviation Security

Germanwings Plane CrashIn order to become an airline pilot, candidates must complete a background check. These checks are detailed investigations that are conducted to determine the suitability of a candidate. They are often geared at uncovering criminal acts or questionable conduct. Due to the accessibility of legal documents, it is relatively simple to access criminal records. However, it is often more difficult to determine if an individual has had a history of depression, emotional instability, or mental illness.

In addition to background checks, airline pilots must undergo a rigorous screening process. This evaluation includes checks for vision and color blindness, a thorough physical exam, a review of financial history, and a mental health evaluation. Prior to being declared fit to fly, Andreas Lubitz had passed a background check and a medical evaluation. Despite this, there were indicators in his past. For example, Lubitz’s training was suspended briefly in 2009 for undisclosed reasons, believed to be related to depression. However, his training resumed after doctors re-established his suitability.

Reviewing Safeguards and Improving Aviation Security

It’s important that background checks and psychological screening procedures should continue to be re-evaluated in the wake of the Germanwings plane crash. To become an airline pilot, candidates must undergo an evaluation process more intensive than almost any other profession.

The tragedy of the Germanwings plane crash shows that no process, no matter how thorough, is perfect. However, the corporate risk assessment professionals at IMG believe airlines and other companies can take some measures to improve public safety. For example, periodic unscheduled psychological screenings could help uncover signs of depression and mental instability. Employees could also be trained to detect the signs of psychological stress and report these observations to mental health professionals. Finally, the scope of background checks could be expanded to include individual interviews with former neighbors, coworkers, and classmates. Such interviews can be more effective at uncovering mental instability than simply reviewing public records. The background checks should also be re-administered periodically to uncover potentially dangerous changes in behavior. While no method is foolproof, techniques such as these are valuable (especially following the Germanwings plane crash) and can do a lot to improve aviation security and support public safety.

Learn More About IMG’s Experience in Corporate Risk Assessment, Psychological Screenings and Background Checks

IMG has extensive experience in psychological screenings, background checks, and aviation security. To learn more about the solutions offered by IMG, please visit:

About the IMG Group

The IMG Group is a leading international security consulting firm with considerable experience in corporate risk assessment and crisis management consulting. Corporate or business organizations concerned about their need for global security expertise can reach out to the IMG Group for assistance. The company’s expert security consultants provide services such as employee travel security, VIP and executive travel security, forensic psychology consulting, workplace violence consulting, technical surveillance countermeasures and more.

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