Germanwings – What’s going on in Aviation?
The Germanwings (4U9525) tragedy has hit our industry hard. Flight attendants everywhere started to question the age-old truth: pilots are part of the same team that we are part of. You can bring any concerns to them and they will listen. Because, they are there for your safety.
From the crew reaction on social media – indeed everyone’s reaction – I can say that it blew our minds that someone could do something like that.
It appears the man had many issues.
Yet here I am writing this and the investigation isn’t final. As I read a few days ago, the pilot’s mental health is a starting point for the investigation, but not the end point. There is more to be found.
The ex-girlfriend claimed Lubitz got angry and stressed when talking about work:
“He became upset about the conditions we worked under: too little money, fear of losing the contract, too much pressure”.
In case you were wondering: Pilots and cabin crew don’t have a glamorous life.
They have a stressful life.
Increasing pressure from the travelling public and our airline management for cheap fares, the cost of fuel, stagnant or falling wages, and longer hours with fewer crew to complete services or fly planes, means staff are on the edge.
In very simple terms, human beings need a few things to function optimally:
– Regular sleep
– Fresh air
– Good food and adequate hydration
– Relationships and social connections
– A sense of purpose and fulfilment
Flying severely compromises all of these.
Regular sleep? Enough sleep? Forget about it.
Fresh air? If you count the stench from crop-dusting, non-flushed loos and sock pong, sure!
Good food? Enough has been said about airline food for this point to be self-evident. Adequate hydration? Less than 20% air humidity sucks all the H2O out of you.
Relationships and social connections? Saying hello repeatedly to passengers who ignore you… I’m not feeling the love.
Purpose and fulfilment? I don’t think that making sure the man in 10A has enough ice for his Coke, cuts it. Does his propositioning me qualify as a ‘relationship’?
Pilots have similar and different stressors. Less of the ‘face-to-face-with passengers pressure’ and more of the ‘sit me in this seat for 12 hours per day of flying with on time pressures and ground crew/head office who never have paperwork ready on time’ etc . I could go on but I won’t.
Because the general public don’t give a flying fig.
The pressure to maintain professional smiles is starting to show. And behind the façade people are cracking. The way they are being worked is approaching their limits. Their mental health is suffering.
I know of an airline where there were five crew who committed suicide within ten years. More than a few are on anti-depressants. Yet rosters don’t ease up. And at the end of the day we stick them in a hotel room. Alone. With mini-bars. Like ticking time bombs.
Because if they don’t, there will be someone else ready to put their hand up for the chance to wear a shiny new set of wings.
Does this mean everyone is about to take down a plane? No, of course not. Is everyone losing it? No. But why do we have to wait for that to happen before we take action? Have Stephen Slater and Clayton Osbon taught us nothing? We blame the ‘crazy’ individuals but don’t question how the system they work within impacted them.
Like many others around the world, Australian airlines have now moved to employ the ‘two in the cockpit at all times’ rule. While I understand why, it’s not without its problems. As a flight attendant I wonder what the hell I could possibly do in the flight deck if corralled with a pilot intent on doing harm (however unlikely that is). Heather Poole said I could open the door. Perhaps. That my presence there might make someone ‘think twice’. Perhaps.
Will this make the travelling public feel more secure? Hopefully. Unfortunately, crew think it’s a band-aid solution to a more widespread issue.
Give the human beings more support/resources/sleep/work-life balance. Passengers, use your considerable clout with operators to demand that they treat their pilots and crew well. Pay the extra $10 (or whatever) per ticket to ensure that they can afford to do so. And hold them to it.
I bet you’d feel a lot safer.
In the mean time we remember those who died on Germanwings Flight 4U9525, our newest Angels of the Sky and we pray that a tragedy like this never strikes our industry again.
© ‘Happy Healthy Trolley Dolley’ for confessionsofatrolleydolly.com 2015
Happy Healthy Trolley Dolley has been flying long and short-haul for ten years and has (mostly) managed to stay in a good mood while doing so! She’s currently compiling all her travel health and wellbeing tips into an online resource for cabin crew and frequent fliers. Stop by her Facebook page when in need of tips, news and a short-black dose of sanity.