The cockpit door that cannot be opened
Missing evidence of the cockpit door not opening
It has been described not only in various reports on the Germanwings crash that a pilot had locked the cockpit door in order to lock out a colleague, but also in the official final report of the French investigation authority BEA. But has this ever been proven?
What was the cause of BEA’s final report on the cockpit door that cannot be opened? The following findings were documented there. On page 108/110, Appendix 3, letter from the BFU (German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation), the following statement is made regarding the actions of the pilot in the cockpit:
“did not unlock the cockpit door and therefore prevented access by other persons.”
In this context, the question arises as to why the cockpit door was not opened. Because the pilot who remained in the cockpit didn’t want to let his colleague in? In the investigation file of the Germanwings crash, comprising more than 10,000 pages, the result of listening to the cockpit voice recorder related to the pilot is documented on page HA 04310:
“Listening to the different recording channels revealed that breathing was heard through the mouth microphones, which means that he was alive, but there was no evidence that he was conscious.”
That is, there was no evidence of conscious or deliberate action, just the assumption that he was alive because he was breathing.
The journalist and flight expert Mr. van Beveren investigated this issue in an expert report and addresses it on page 109.
He used the cockpit voice recorder transcript to examine the pilot’s breathing after the cockpit door was locked. His finding: Within the next 20 seconds, the pilot’s breathing suddenly accelerates to hyperventilation. As musicians and air passengers, as well as cabin crew, know from experience, this can lead to unconsciousness in a very short time. The breathing then remains stable in this state of tachypnea. Tachypnea – rapid breathing – is the body’s desire for more oxygen and therefore causes an increased breathing rate. Experts speak of “acute” tachypnea if a person takes more than 20 breaths per minute.
The pilot’s breathing rate was 26 breaths per minute and remained constant over the entire period, even at times when, according to BEA’s theory, the pilot activated the autopilot with extremely brisk movements and with appropriate physical exertion. Physicians argue that even in a state of psychosis the unconscious reactions of the autonomic nervous system are preserved and do not cease. They conclude from this that the person was not in a state of psychosis, but in a state of incapacity or loss of consciousness.
It should also be noted that there are no further noise recordings up to the aircraft impact, which indicates that there was no active intervention by the pilot in controlling the aircraft control.
It is not evident from the investigation file that this fact of increased respiratory rate has been officially investigated by medical and psychological experts. So the question remains: Was the person remaining in the cockpit indeed conscious during the final 10 minutes of the flight? If not, this would be another possible explanation for why he didn’t open the cockpit door. This should have been investigated as part of a full inquiry!
In an emergency, the cockpit door can be opened using a special three-digit code. This emergency code, exclusive to the respective airline, is known to all crew members and is entered into a keypad. The question arises: Why could the other pilot not open the cockpit door with the emergency code? Mr. van Beveren examined this question in his report.
He writes on page 98: “It was not discussed whether an investigation as to whether the keypad of the cockpit door on the day of the accident flight (or at any time in the past) had a defect. However, in the opinion of van Beveren, this is of fundamental importance, because shortly after the accident there were indications from Germanwings circles that this keypad had previously malfunctioned when trying to open the accidentally closed cockpit door while the aircraft was on the ground by entering the emergency code.”
Hence, the final question: Has the true state of consciousness of the pilot in the cockpit and the perfect functioning of the keypad really been determined?