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America Is On The Same Glide Path As The Fatal Germanwings Flight

America Is On The Same Glide Path As The Fatal Germanwings Flight

Germanwing airplane plane

The pilot was locked out of the cockpit. That phrase finally revealed the full horror of the crash of Germanwings flight 9525.

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz waited for the pilot to leave the cockpit then locked the door to prevent his re-entry. After which Lubitz, for reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable, deliberately steered the jet into a harrowing 8-minute plunge, ending in an explosive 434 mph impact with a rocky mountainside. One hundred fifty men, women and children met an immediate, unthinkably violent death.

Lubitz, in his single-minded madness, couldn’t be stopped because anyone who could change the jet’s disastrous course was locked out.

It’s hard to imagine the growing feelings of fear and helplessness that the passengers felt as the unforgiving landscape rushed up to meet them. Hard, but not impossible.

ISIS Tweet: We Are Coming to America
ISIS Tweet: We Are Coming to America

America is in very deep trouble and we feel the descent in the pits of our stomachs. We hear the shake and rattle of structures stressed beyond their limits. We don’t know where we’re going anymore, but do know it isn’t good. And above all, we feel helpless because Barack Obama has locked us out.

He locked the American people out of his decision to seize the national healthcare system.

He locked us out when we wanted to know why the IRS was attacking conservatives.

He locked us out of having a say in his decision to tear up our immigration laws and to give over a trillion dollars in benefits to those who broke those laws.

Obama locked out those who advised against premature troop withdrawals. He locked out the intelligence agencies who issued warnings about the growing threat of ISIS.

He locked out anyone who could have interfered with his release of five Taliban terror chiefs in return for one U.S. Military deserter.

And, of course, Barack Obama has now locked out Congress, the American people, and our allies as he strikes a secret deal with Iran to determine the timeline (not prevention) of their acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Was Andreas Lubitz depressed, insane, or abysmally evil when he decided to lock that cockpit door and listen to no voices other than those in his head? Did he somehow believe himself to be doing the right thing? The voice recordings from the doomed aircraft reveal that as the jet began its rapid descent, the passengers were quiet. There was probably some nervous laughter, confusion, a bit of comforting chatter with seat mates, followed by a brief period in which anxiety had not yet metastasized into terror. It was only near the end of the 8-minute plunge that everyone finally understood what was really happening. Only near the end when they began to scream.

Like those passengers, a growing number of Americans feel a helpless dread as they come to the inescapable conclusion that our nation’s decline is an act of choice rather than of chance.

The choice of one man who is in full control of our 8-year plunge. I wonder when America will begin to scream.

Dr. RICHARD S. WELLS

Homeland Security steps up screening of aviation employees

Homeland Security steps up screening of aviation employees

By KATHRYN A. WOLFE

A TSA agent is shown. | Getty

The Department of Homeland Security tightened screening requirements for airport and airline employees today, following a three-month review triggered by allegations of gun-smuggling by airline employees last year.

The changes mean that all airport and airline employees traveling as passengers will have to go through TSA security screening. Aviation workers will also have to submit to a “fingerprint-based criminal history records check” every two years, until TSA can create a real-time system for criminal background checks.

In addition, airports will have to reduce the number of ways to access secure areas to an “operational minimum.” Aviation employees will also be screened more often, including randomly throughout the workday.

Two Senate Democrats were quick to praise the action. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the new steps a “prompt response and a significant first step,” but also said “more is needed.”

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees the TSA, said it’s a “decent first step. But we need to continue to look at the long-term picture and see how we can broaden this in a cost-effective way.”

This additional screening won’t be “100 percent physical,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, because it would “not completely eliminate potential risks, but would divert critical resources from other critical security functions to mitigate other risks.”

In the gun-smuggling case, authorities said four men including a Delta Air Lines baggage handler were able to smuggle guns from Atlanta to New York on board airplanes, including getting the guns through security. One of the defendants was traveling using the “Buddy Pass” privileges of his mother, a retired Delta gate agent, ABC News reported at the time.

Flights diverted at airport as drone sighted over runway

Flights diverted at airport as drone sighted over runway

Manchester airport suspended flights on one of its runways for 20 minutes after members of the public reported spotting a drone

An airport diverted flights and suspended one runway after a drone was sighted flying nearby.

Manchester airport halted operations on its Runway One to allow police to investigate the sighting, a spokesman said.

UAV UAS drone small

The runway was suspended for around 20 minutes and four inbound flights were diverted to nearby Liverpool and East Midlands airports.

The growth in civilian drone technology in recent years has led to concerns over how the new remotely-controlled aircraft may interfere with other aircraft.

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “Due to a report of a potential drone sighting in airspace near to the airport, some flights have experienced short delays and a small number of flights have diverted to alternative airports whilst Greater Manchester Police carried out an investigation using their Police Helicopter. Upon inspection, nothing was found.

“As the safety and security of all of our passengers is paramount, operations on Runway One were suspended for 20 minutes. Runway Two, which was unaffected, will remain open for an hour so normal traffic flows can resume.”

John Mayhew, air traffic control company Nats’ general manager at Manchester Airport, said: “Flying drones in the close vicinity to any airport without permission is completely unacceptable, with the reported sighting causing delays to inbound and outbound traffic and the diversion of a small number aircraft to other airports.

“The matter has now been referred to the police.”

The UK board investigating aircraft near misses last December described how a device believed to be a small radio-controlled helicopter drone came within 20ft of an incoming Airbus A320 passenger plane at Heathrow airport.

The Airbus was 700ft from landing when the pilot reported seeing a small black object to the left of the aircraft, the report said.

Worker trapped in airliner cargo bay during flight, pilots heard screaming

Worker trapped in airliner cargo bay during flight, pilots heard screaming

An Alaska Airlines flight that had just departed from Sea-Tac Airport returned to the airport after pilots heard a person banging on the cargo compartment Monday afternoon.

Alaska Flight 448 to Los Angeles returned to the airport after only 14 minutes in the air to investigate the noise from the forward cargo hold beneath the plane’s passenger compartment. Air traffic controllers gave the pilots priority over other flights to get the plane back on the ground, the airline said.

Rescue workers and airline officials discovered a baggage handler, an employee of Alaska contractor Menzies Aviation, in the cargo compartment when they opened its door. The compartment is both pressurized and temperature controlled, said an airline spokesman.

The worker told investigators he had fallen asleep in the compartment.

Both airline and airport officials were investigating the incident. The compartment carries luggage and cargo.

The trapped worker was taken to a hospital to be checked. He was able to walk away from the aircraft under his own power after the cargo door was opened.

Passenger Marty Collins told KOMO-TV that the flight was surrounded by emergency vehicles when it returned to the airport.

She said passengers did not hear the worker banging or making noise.

“Nobody on the plane heard anything like that, nobody knew why we were turning around,” she told the station. “They just said we were fine and we weren’t in any danger.”

Passengers were later told about the situation.

“They just said there was someone in the cargo hold and he’s been escorted off and taken away,” she said.

Flight passenger Jesse Sycuro told KING-TV that passengers in first class “heard banging from underneath us and a person yelling for help.”

According to Sycuro, two air marshals jumped up and spoke with a flight attendant, who alerted the pilot.

“And shortly after that, we heard the announcement that the plane was going to be turned around,” Sycuro told KING-TV. “The banging continued for quite a while we were circling. … Air marshals banged back down trying to communicate with the person in the hold and yelling down that we were landing.”

The flight departed again at 3:52 p.m. and landed in Los Angeles about 6:30, around 80 minutes late, according to the airline’s website.

Intent of Russian military aircraft near U.S. shores remains unclear

Intent of Russian military aircraft near U.S. shores remains unclear

Russia Russian bomber fighter airplane plane aircraft

The air is frigid and the wind is howling as Air Force Col. Frank Flores lifts a pair of foot-long binoculars and studies a hazy dot about 50 miles west across the Bering Strait.

“That’s the mainland there,” he shouts above the gusts.

It’s Siberia, part of Russia, on the Asian mainland.

Named for an old mining camp, Tin City is a tiny Air Force installation atop an ice-shrouded coastal mountain 50 miles below the Arctic Circle, far from any road or even trees. The Pentagon took over the remote site decades ago and built a long-range radar station to help detect a surprise attack from the Soviet Union.

At least from this frozen perch, America’s closest point to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the Cold War is turning warm again.

U.S. F-22 fighter jets scrambled about 10 times last year — twice as often as in 2013 — to monitor and photograph Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers and MiG-31 fighter jets that flew over the Bering Sea without communicating with U.S. air controllers or turning on radio transponders, which emit identifying signals.

The Russian flights are in international airspace, and it’s unclear whether they are testing U.S. defenses, patrolling the area or simply projecting a newly assertive Moscow’s global power.

“They’re obviously messaging us,” said Flores, a former Olympic swimmer who is in charge of Tin City and 14 other radar stations scattered along the vast Alaskan coast. “We still don’t know their intent.”

U.S. officials view the bombers — which have been detected as far south as 50 miles off California’s northern coast — as deliberately provocative. They are a sign of the deteriorating ties between Moscow and the West since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March of last year and its military intervention to support separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Similar Russian flights in Europe have irked leaders in Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and elsewhere. In January, British authorities were forced to reroute commercial aircraft after Russian bombers flew over the English Channel with their transponders off.

In all, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says its jets scrambled to monitor Russian warplanes around Europe more than 100 times last year, about three times as many as in 2013. Russian air patrols outside its borders were at their highest level since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, NATO said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement in November, as tensions heightened over Ukraine, that Russia’s strategic bombers would resume patrols in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

“In the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

Although the Arctic draws less attention, Russia is flexing muscles there after years of decline. President Vladimir Putin’s government has announced plans to reopen 10 former Soviet-era military bases, including 14 airfields, that were shuttered along the Arctic seaboard after the Cold War.

A shipyard in Severodvinsk, the largest city on the Russian Arctic Coast, has begun building four nuclear-powered submarines for the first time in decades, according to Russian news reports. The Pentagon says the reports are accurate.

The Pentagon has responded by spending $126 million last year to upgrade Tin City and other coastal radar stations in Alaska. It also has added military exercises with northern allies — including flying U.S. strategic bombers over the Arctic for the first time since 2011.

Last week, four B-52s flew from bases in Nebraska and Louisiana on simultaneous, round-trip sorties to the Arctic and North Sea regions, the Air Force announced. Along the way, the bomber crews engaged in “air intercept maneuvers” with fighter jets from Canada, England and the Netherlands.

The Air Force has said it may base the first squadrons of next-generation F-35 fighter jets at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska starting next year.

The buildup comes as melting ice caps are opening valuable new sea lanes, sparking a scramble for oil and other untapped natural resources by the eight nations with territorial or maritime claims in the far north.

“We’re experiencing a reawakening of the strategic importance of the Arctic,” said Navy Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the Pentagon’s Northern Command and of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

“Is this a second Cold War? It doesn’t matter what we think,” Gortney said. “Maybe they think the Cold War never ended.”

Analysts say Putin’s government may be ordering the bomber flights as a morale booster for a military that saw its ships turned to scrap, its aircraft grounded and its bases closed after the Cold War.

“The ability to project military power from bases in the Arctic region is one area in which they are still capable,” said Christopher Harmer, a military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a nonpartisan public policy group in Washington.

“This is much less compared to what they were doing in the Cold War,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a research analyst at the nonprofit Center for Naval Analyses in Washington. “I don’t think they’re threatening anyone. They just want to make sure that no one comes into the Arctic and messes with them.”

The U.S. military downsized but never fully disengaged in the Arctic after the Cold War.

If an alarm sounds, fighter pilots still sometimes slide down gleaming fireman poles at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage and run to F-22 Raptors kept idling in small hangars. The jets, in “hot-cocked” condition, carry fully armed cannons and missiles.

In an underground room on the base, rows of radar technicians sit at glowing screens watching small crescent-shaped blips, each representing an aircraft moving in Alaskan airspace. On the wall, four large screens track aircraft across the Arctic, including Russian airspace.

The wall also holds 261 plaques with red stars. Each represents a successful U.S. intercept of Russian aircraft. A total of 424 Russian planes have been detected since 1983, mostly during the Cold War.

“If they come this way, we’re going to track them, determine who they are and what their intent is,” said Maj. Carrie Howard, an officer in charge of the air defense squadron.

Most of the time, the blips are commercial planes that identify themselves by emitting transponder codes or communicating with regional air controllers. But some aircraft stay silent.

If commanders here decide to respond, they grab a tan telephone marked “scramble” in red letters. It rings in a wardroom by the runway where F-22 pilots are always on duty.

“When the phone rings, it stops your heart, it rings so loud,” said one pilot, who asked not to be named for his security.

Once airborne, the pilots are supposed to get a visual identification of the other aircraft. But the F-22 can fly nearly three times as fast as the lumbering Tu-95 bomber, so slowing down is the challenge.

“You want to go fast,” the pilot said. “The jet wants to go fast. But you just have to ease up alongside of them.”

On Sept. 17, he scrambled in pursuit of radar blips that turned out to be two Russian “Bears,” two MiG-31s and two refueling tankers. The American pilot drew close, radioed his sighting back to Anchorage and returned to base.

“Our presence was felt,” the pilot said. “That’s all that’s needed.”

It was difficult to feel much of anything but cold at Tin City on a recent afternoon, where the temperature was far below zero, the wind was bone-chilling and the world faded into a blinding white of snow, ice and fog.

Vance Spaulding, 53, and Jeff Boulds, 52, two contractors, spend up to four months maintaining the radar site before they fly out on break.

While here, they hunt musk ox, a long-haired, long-horned animal known for its strong odor, and Arctic hare, which they claim can grow to 20 pounds or more, on the surrounding coastal plain.

“We get cooped up here, so we try to get out in the open whenever we can,” Boulds said. “But I never seen no Russkies. Not yet anyway.”

‘Mutiny’ on plane: Police called twice as passengers are forced to wait on tarmac for five hours

‘Mutiny’ on plane: Police called twice as passengers are forced to wait on tarmac for five hours

Police were twice called to a stationary aircraft after reports of passengers clashing with staff over being stranded on tarmac for over five hours when their plane was diverted.

Pilots of the Qatar Airways flight landed at Birmingham Airport on Monday night after severe winds prevented the plane landing at Manchester, where it had been scheduled to arrive at 7PM.

Passengers were instructed to remain in their seats as they waited for the plane to be refuelled and for new flight crew to arrive at the airport.

Police were first called to the aircraft after some passengers reportedly began vocally expressing their agitation and officers were forced to return two hours later after reports that angry passengers were attempting to disembark the plane.

Footage taken at Manchester Airport shows passengers waiting for the return flight becoming increasingly frustrated with staff after the events in Birmingham resulted in a knock-on delay to the aircraft’s return to Qatari capital Doha.

One passenger who was in the plane when it was on the tarmac and asked not to be named, spoke to The Daily Mail: “We were told they were waiting for refuelling and then a new crew.

“Some passengers started kicking off so the police were called. An old lady next to me was shivering so we asked for blankets but there weren’t enough.

“When we got home I had to sleep for two days to recover.”

A spokeswoman for Qatar Airways apologised for the delay. She said that after the diversion the plane was unable to fly back to Manchester as operating crew had exceeded their legal flying hours by the time that the aircraft had been refuelled.

French investigators: Co-pilot accelerated plane on descent

French investigators: Co-pilot accelerated plane on descent

By The Associated Press

Germanwing plane crash airplane

PARIS (AP) — The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight repeatedly sped up the plane as he used the automatic pilot to descend the A320 into the Alps, the French air accident investigation agency said Friday.

The chilling new detail from the BEA agency is based on an initial reading of the plane’s “black box” data recorder, found blackened and buried at the crash site Thursday.

It strengthens investigators’ initial suspicions that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally destroyed the plane — though prosecutors are still trying to figure out why. All 150 people aboard Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf were killed in the March 24 crash.

The BEA said the preliminary reading of the data recorder shows that the pilot used the automatic pilot to put the plane into a descent and then repeatedly during the descent adjusted the automatic pilot to speed up the plane.

The agency says it will continue studying the black box for more complete details of what happened. The Flight Data Recorder records aircraft parameters such as the speed, altitude, and actions of the pilot on the commands.

Based on recordings from the plane’s other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, investigators say Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed.

Lubitz spent time online researching suicide methods and cockpit door security in the week before crashing Flight 9525, prosecutors said Thursday — the first evidence that the fatal descent may have been a premeditated act.

German prosecutors have said Lubitz’s medical records from before he received his pilot’s license referred to “suicidal tendencies,” and Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, said it knew six years ago that Lubitz had had an episode of “severe depression” before he finished his flight training.

In Marseille, prosecutor Brice Robin said that his investigation focuses on France for now, but he has filed a formal request for judicial cooperation from Germany that could expand the scope of his probe.

Robin underlined French investigators’ conviction that he was conscious until the moment of impact, and appears to have acted repeatedly to stop an excessive speed alarm from sounding.

“It’s a voluntary action that guided this plane toward the mountain, not only losing altitude but correcting the aircraft’s speed,” he said Thursday.

The mountain rescue officer who found the data recorder, Alice Coldefy, described Friday the unexpected discovery in a spot that had already been repeatedly searched.

“I found a pile of clothes, we were searching it, we were moving them downhill and while doing this I discovered a box. The color of the box was the same as the gravel, of the black gravel, that is everywhere at the crash site,” she told reporters in Seyne-les-Alpes.

So-called black boxes are actually orange, but this one had burned up in the crash and blended with the dark earth covering the area, known to local guides as “the black lands.”

“I didn’t realize I had found it and I wasn’t thinking it was possible to find it among all this debris,” she said.

Mountain officers and trained dogs are continuing to search the site. When the terrain is fully cleared of body parts and belongings, a private company will take out the large airplane debris.

Iranian aircraft buzzed Navy helicopter in Persian Gulf

Iranian aircraft buzzed Navy helicopter in Persian Gulf

Washington (CNN)An Iranian military observation aircraft flew within 50 yards of an armed U.S. Navy helicopter over the Persian Gulf this month, sparking concern that top Iranian commanders might not be in full control of local forces, CNN has learned.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter approaches the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in November 2014.
An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter approaches the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in November 2014.

The incident, which has not been publicly disclosed, troubled U.S. military officials because the unsafe maneuver could have triggered a serious incident.

It also surprised U.S. commanders because in recent months Iranian forces have conducted exercises and operations in the region in a professional manner, one U.S. military official told CNN.

“We think this might have been locally ordered,” the official said.

The incident took place as the U.S. and other world powers meet with Iran in Switzerland to negotiate a deal limiting Tehran’s nuclear program. At the same time, Iran has been active in supporting proxies in several hotspots in the Persian Gulf and neighboring regions.

The Navy MH-60R armed helicopter was flying from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on a routine patrol in international airspace, the official said.

An unarmed Iranian observation Y-12 aircraft approached. The Iranian aircraft made two passes at the helicopter, coming within 50 yards, before the helicopter moved off, according to the official.

The official said the helicopter deliberately broke off and flew away in a ‘predictable’ manner so the Iranians could not misinterpret any U.S. intentions.

The Navy helicopter was in radio contact with the ship during the encounter, but there was no contact between the two aircraft and no shots were fired.

The Navy crew took photos of the incident but the military is not releasing them.

The U.S. administration is considering a potential demarche protest against Iran, the official said.

CNN has reached out to Iranian officials but has not received a response.

This type of Iranian observation aircraft generally operates over the Gulf several times a month. But after the recent incident, U.S. naval intelligence did not see it again for two weeks, leading to the conclusion that the incident may have been ordered by a local commander who was then reprimanded by higher-ups.

READ: White House readies Iran nuclear deal sales pitch to skeptical Congress

The Pentagon has noted for the last several years that most encounters with the Iranian military at sea or in air are conducted professionally, but that some missions run by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces have been too aggressive against U.S. forces in the area.

The U.S. military’s concern has been that one of these incidents could escalate into a military encounter.

This incident “might have been buffoonery” the official said, but there is always a risk from such actions.

The incident comes as the Navy patrols the Gulf of Aden to watch for Iranian ships the U.S. believes are trying to bring weapons to resupply the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Navy would share such intelligence with Saudi Arabia, a second U.S. official told CNN.

READ: Iran destroys mock U.S. carrier

Lufthansa knew of co-pilot’s previous ‘severe depression’ in 2009

Lufthansa knew of co-pilot’s previous ‘severe depression’ in 2009

The co-pilot who crashed Flight 9525 into a French mountainside last week had informed the German carrier Lufthansa in 2009 about a “previous episode of severe depression,” the airline said on Tuesday, raising fresh questions about the series of decisions that allowed Andreas Lubitz to stay in the skies.

The admission that the company knew at least some of the history of Lubitz’s mental illness came after the company’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, said publicly last week that Lufthansa — parent of the budget airline Germanwings for which Lubitz worked — had no previous knowledge of his medical history.

In a statement Tuesday, however, the carrier said it wanted to issue a “swift and seamless clarification.” In 2009, Lubitz had taken several months off during his training to become a pilot. When he resumed the program, Lufthansa said, he provided the airline “medical documents” that noted his bout of severe depression.

The company said it had forwarded those documents to prosecutors who are now handling the crash as a homicide case.

Under European aviation law, pilots with active and untreated cases of depression are prevented from flying. But if deemed medically cured, there may have been no legal impediment for Lubitz to continue his training and obtain his license, experts say.

However, pilots who have attempted “a single self-destructive act” — such as suicide — are legally barred from commercial flying. Also, pilots who are taking psychotropic medications — such as popular antidepressants — as part of their therapy, for instance, have some limitations, including a stipulation that they not be alone in the cockpit.

German prosecutors said Monday that Lubitz had suffered from “suicidal tendencies” for which he was treated over an extended period. The prosecutors said that the treatment occurred before he was issued a pilot’s license and that they had found no indications that he was recently suicidal.

But Germany authorities have said that he had been issued multiple doctors’ notes judging him unfit to work, including one covering the day of the plane crash. At least one of the notes was found torn up in his apartment.

The system depends on employees reporting their own medical conditions to their employers, and Lufthansa has said that it was not aware of the recent medical problems.

An official familiar with the investigation said Tuesday that authorities were not examining the Lufthansa Group for any negligence. Lufthansa provided investigators with information about Lubitz’s airline medical examinations and copies of previous correspondence with the airline, the official said. But since the depressive episode occurred in 2009, the official said that investigators did not believe Lufthansa was immediately culpable.

During Lubitz’s employment with Germanwings, starting in 2013, his medical certificates and examinations declared him flightworthy.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman said that the company had graduated him from its rigorous flight school, despite the previous depressive episode, because following medical checks “he was perceived to be healed.”

“At any time he was flying, he was declared fit to fly,” the spokeswoman said, who spoke on the condition that her name not be used, a German custom.

When asked whether Lufthansa had known about any subsequent psychological condition, she said: “Not that we are aware of.”

Germany’s medical examinations for pilots give a yes-or-no answer to employers about whether aviators are ready to fly, offering no space for additional information or caveats. Officials familiar with the investigation have said that one working theory is that Lubitz was concerned about losing his medical certificate when it came up for renewal later this year.

Michael Müller, chief executive of ATTC, a company that helps prepare pilot candidates for entering flight schools, including Lufthansa’s, defended the carrier’s track record. He said he was aware of at least one instance, for example, when the company had pulled a pilot from the cockpit after his ex-wife had committed suicide.

“I’m afraid it will never be possible to prevent these things from happening entirely,” he said. “In my view, Lufthansa did not fail. When a doctor says someone is healthy and he is certifying this, then he is allowed to fly. In a pilot’s career, it can happen that you get ill, also psychologically. You can’t simply say, ‘We’ll let him go.’ ”

The Lufthansa Group has already offered $53,635 to families of every victim to cover immediate living expenses. The new revelation was likely to open the airline to far greater damages. A Lufthansa spokesman said Tuesday that its insurer, Allianz, had set aside $300 million to pay for liability claims from victims’ families.

French President François Hollande visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, where the two discussed the ongoing investigation into the catastrophe alongside a range of other issues.

Hollande called for bolstering the checks on pilots over European skies, saying that he was working toward “ensuring that we can strengthen our safety rules for piloting these aircraft.”

He said that more than 800 people were laboring at the mountain crash site to push the investigation forward as quickly as possible.

Separately, a French aviation investigation agency said Tuesday that it had begun a study of “systemic weaknesses” that may have led to the crash. The French Bureau of Investigations and Analyses for Civil Aviation Security said it would focus on the procedures used “to detect psychological profiles,” as well as look at cockpit safety rules.

German investigators offered few new details about the status of their inquiry on Tuesday. One official familiar with the investigation said that the initial questioning of Lubitz’s family and girlfriend had been completed but that investigators remained in contact with them as new issues arose.

The official said that neither Lubitz’s parents nor his girlfriend were aware of any suicidal impulses ahead of the plane crash.

Birnbaum reported from Düsseldorf.