Thoughts on 4U9525

I first read about flight 4U9525 on 24 March 2015 when my wife wrote me a message asking if I had already heard. She got that info via twitter or facebook only a couple of minutes after the probable crash had been observed on flightradar and long before it was confirmed by the authorities. I immediately checked our internal Lufthansa discussion board and people were just picking up the news there as well. Within moments all the fighting about contracts and the pilots strikes associated with it were gone and everybody concentrated on the fate of the lost aircraft.

It was not difficult to find out that the Airbus A320-200 with registration D-AIPX was involved. The aircraft had been flying with Lufthansa and Germanwings since its delivery to LH in February 1991. I had flown this aircraft a couple of times when I was flying passengers on the A320 fleet at the beginning of my career and landed it twice (once in Madrid and once in Munich). I therefore had some kind of personal connection to it. It was one of the first generation A320s produced, but that didn’t make it a bad aircraft. Even though it was 24 years old when it crashed this week, I would not have had any doubt flying with it as a passenger or pilot. In fact, I never have any doubt when boarding a Lufthansa Group airplane, because I know that the aircraft are in perfect condition (even on those older birds we very rarely flew with active MEL items) and the crews are still trained well.

Some people soon came up with how dangerous the A320 is and how they never liked it and it was all crap. Being type-rated on the MD-11 I know what it feels like to fly a “conventional” aircraft and can easily make a comparison to the “computer game” A320. The Airbus is a wonderful aircraft, a great working environment and has some really good features that help protect us everyday. Yes, it is very complex and the system design differs to that of older Boeing aircraft, as some background information on how systems work and interact are not being presented to the pilot. But all aircraft types have their flaws and no cockpit layout philosophy is perfect. Looking at the bare facts, there is no parameter in statistics that indicates an A320 is less safe than for example a Boeing 737 or Embraer jet.

Every crash is a combination of at least dozens of different factors and they all have to happen in the right combination to produce an accident. Most of you will probably know the Swiss Cheese Model, if not you can read more about it on Wikipedia:
Looking at the 4U9525 crash it is hard to make any quick assumption on what really happened. The aircraft flies rather constantly with a constant speed into the ground, just after reaching cruise flight. For that to happen there must have been many cheese holes involved…

Nevertheless, people start speculating right from the beginning and it is mostly the media that start pushing the subject because the have to fill their air time with some content, if there is none. The aircraft just came down, the site has been identified and already some poor blokes start popping up on the different news channels. But actually, there is nothing to say. Nothing. Except it is a really horrible accident about which we have no clue.

Many people have written messages to me, which is very nice of them. Most people asked me what I thought. And to be honest, I didn’t think much about it. It is a terrible day for those on board the aircraft and for their families and also for the company. But I am not going to speculate whether it were the pitot tubes, angle of attack sensors, decompression, cracks in the window or any of the stuff that was on the news. I think it was our minister of transport that said there was no indication a terrorist attack happened – well how does he know? The crash only happened hours ago, the biggest remains of the aircraft are a couple of meters wide and we know absolutely nothing about what happened… The news go on and on like this till the very late evening, which is why I never watched TV that day.

Germanwings and Lufthansa changed their logos on social media to black and white and many people followed that example. The hash tag #‎indeepsorrow‬ was used to show moral support, the German president interrupted his state visit in South America and everybody somehow wanted to take part in the mourning process. Many people were touched by the fate of the victims. But I honestly wonder what they all do the rest of their days? What about the innocent children that die on our roads, about people who get washed away by tropical storms in some far country not to talk of refugees from war-torn places all over the world? Do we think about them? In Germany we are getting many homeless refugees from the Arab world and poor countries where there is no hope. The same people who mourn about the victims of the crashed flight then take part in demonstrations against those “bad bad immigrants” that “ruin our country”. I simply don’t get it – we grieve for people we have no connection too but abandon those that need our help.

Maybe that is because flying is still something special, even though many have regarded it has being similar to taking the bus. I don’t want to elaborate on the differences between flying and bus driving, but being up in the air certainly is something non-natural for us humans. I am always fascinated about how a 250 ton piece of metal stays in the air while moving at 900 km/h, others a scared of flying and yet again statistics say that traveling by plane is much safer than riding your car (which I can agree to, given my experience of nearly 200.000 km on the road). Lufthansa and its airlines are one of the safest in the world, but we all learned yesterday and that it can happen to anybody, anytime. There is always a risk involved in flying, like in everything else we do. It is probably a good sign that most of us don’t think about it anymore when booking a flight.

Like the thousands of people on social media, I will probably not reach the families of the passengers and crew of flight 4U9525, because they will have more important stuff do than checking my website for some insignificant blog entry. I can only wish them strength to somehow get through this time.

For myself and everybody else I wish that we would be more considerate to others. Everything we do can change a life – for the better or the worse. Try not to get blearily by the obstacles of daily life. Show how much you appreciate your friends and how much you love your family. Try to make this world a better place for those who live! Don’t say why things can’t be, but make them happen. Don’t count the miles, count the “I love you’s”

6 Responses to Thoughts on 4U9525

  1. Robert C Richmond March 25, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

    Thank you for your thoughts! As an American, with very little relevant aviation experience, I do have plenty of life experience. As such, I am very appreciative of you, sharing your experience, and perspective on this tragedy. I will probably share your piece with friends who will also appreciate. Thank you.

  2. Felix Gottwald March 25, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    Hi Robert,

    thanks for your comment! I think experience in aviation is not needed with this matter…

    Best wishes, Felix

  3. Kate March 26, 2015 at 12:22 am #

    Hi Felix! That is why I wrote that taking the bus is more dangerous that flying. So many accidents of the road, so many people dying each day cause of hunger, disease.. But what I hate is press. On each tv today I had to watch about school in Germany, like journalists have nothing else to talk about that is why in one station they are showing the same on different channels. Plus speculation about that crash and conversation about reasons with people who are not really the specialists.. It is tragedy… but for more that only families of those children… many people know somebody from that plane and it is tragedy for them too. The only thing which was new for me is that some pilots refused to fly after. We had a few aircrashes in Poland and I did not hear that crew refused. On the other hand I thought that those pilots who refused maybe they were very close to the victims. I will wait for the result of investigation. Being in aviation I know about cheese holes.. Regards

  4. Stefan March 26, 2015 at 6:59 am #

    thanks for this great article that puts things in perspective! our society is dominated by media attention. since the crash happened just as many people died on Europe’s roads. the attention for that: 0.
    no doubt – this is a tragedy for those who lost a loved one. but there are just as many tragedys happening every day in front of our noses that we can actually do something about.

  5. Zak March 26, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Thank you for this article. Not just for providing a commercial pilot’s point of view, but also for putting things into perspective. This is refreshingly different from the increasingly annoying way general media handle this tragic crash. If you don’t mind, I will link the article and quote a short excerpt of it on our site.


  6. Kai Kruse March 27, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    Hi Felix,

    I agree whith what you said and I´m thankfull that people like you are around and in the cockpit. It´s hard to avoid this bad media world with it´s partly strength behaviour. Explaining my 2 10y old girls what happend is though due just to imagine sonthing like the crash happen to someone you like or love seems o irreal. That´s why I try to tell them how thankfull we should be for what we have and that we always should think about those who have not.

    Thanks you again and all the bests all the time!

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