In a letter to the Financial Times [£] Matt Andersson warned of the complexities of aircraft accidents and highlighted the possibilities of secondary contributing factors – including external electronic hacking.
A Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the southern French Alps last month, killing all 150 souls on board.
French prosecutors believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately locked captain Patrick Sondheimer out of the cockpit and sent the aircraft plummeting to the ground.
But Andersson, who is the president of Chicago-based Indigo Aerospace, points out that while assertions that the aircraft accelerated in its final descent may well be accurate: “It could be from any number of causes, including external electronic hacking into the aircraft’s control and navigation systems through malware or electromagnetic interception.”
He adds: “This is one reason military and head-of-state aircraft are generally installed with specific shielding and additional active protective measures. Civilian aircraft are not.”
Andersson did not comment on numerous media reports which state Lubitz was being treated by at least five doctors including psychiatrists and a neurologist shortly before his death.
Nor did he reference claims the 27-year-old apparently researched suicide methods and how to keep cockpit doors locked before the flight.
Audio retrieved from the A320’s black box recorder is reported to have revealed Captain Sondheimer at first pleading for Lubitz to open the door.
Sondheimer, 34, can then be heard for more than five minutes trying to break down the door with an axe or crowbar, shouting: “Open the goddamn door!”
Recordings from inside the cockpit are said to yield nothing but the sound of Lubitz “breathing normally”.
Andersson points out: “Both the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) of the Germanwings flight 9525, along with other sources of information, have yet to be subject to international aircraft accident investigation standards.
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“Until they are, many broad assertions currently presented to the public may turn out to be erroneous, misleading or in some cases lead to improper or counterproductive regulatory and other reactions — including misplaced liability, financial and insurance claims.
“Indeed the European Cockpit Association, which represents nearly 40,000 professional pilots, has rightly criticised the premature release of auditory interpretations of the aircraft’s CVR (whose condition remains unverified).
“Moreover, these and other data interpretations continue to be channelled in part through state legal prosecutors who obviously may not be experts in aviation safety investigation — and which could arguably prejudice a formal technical assessment.
Andersson also criticised the “slow drip” of piecemeal judgements as “not a professional investigation, nor is it a customary means of managing publicly disseminated accident information” and urged the public to “patiently wait for a thorough, multi-party professional air safety investigation, while maintaining an independence of judgment over preliminary official hypotheses.”
Andersson is not the first expert in the aviation field to have suggested the fatal crash may have been caused by hackers.
Former pilot Jay Rollins appeared on MSNBC in the aftermath of the crash, admitted he found it “perplexing” that a plane in a controlled descent would come down in the manner that it did.
Speaking before the black boxes were found, he said: “But something else comes to my mind… This aircraft is highly computerised and this was the same aircraft that was involved with the AirAsia situation.
“There’s one possibility that no one has brought up, and I wonder, could this be a hacking incident?”
When the anchor asked if it was not possible for the pilots to override computerised systems and take charge of the aircraft, Rollins replied:
"Well, this is the brave new world that we’re entering as we use more and more computerisation in an age when people are hacking and otherwise following with the system. The older aircraft, the Boeing aircraft in general use hydraulics. So even though you may have an auto pilot, if it malfunctions, you can disengage that auto pilot and regain manual control.
"But in a fully computerised setup like what you see in the Airbus and also the Boeing 787, these are are aircraft that are controlled by computers. so when the pilot puts in any sort of change for the aircraft flight controls, it first goes through the computer that mediates it, and then tells the controllers what to do. I find it problematic, actually."