When the news agencies reported that Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps on March 24, we never suspected that the crash was deliberately engineered by the 27-year-old German co-pilot – though an airplane pilot deliberately crashing the plane was not necessarily an unprecedented event. For instance, only 15 months ago, in November 2013, the captain of Mozambican Airlines (which was banned from operating into European Union in 2011) deliberately crashed the plane killing 33 people. We never suspected such a possibility partially because such a scenario was too close to home, disturbing our sense of equilibrium in our age of affordable air travels and frequent flyer mileage.
Some people, such as James Fallows of the Atlantic, seem to believe that it’s this democratized air travel milieu that is partly responsible for such a tragic incident. James Fallows writes on March 28: “After the Germanwings crash I argued that no single safety device or security protocol could protect the flying public against a pilot determined to do harm. A number of veteran pilots write in to agree, but also to suggest that this episode illustrates some structural problems within the modern cost-cutting air-travel industry.” He quotes a veteran pilot to highlight his point: “When people start looking for whom to blame, the answer is simple: Joe-six-pack who wanted a $99 flight from New York to L.A.” Judging from the testimonials of a number of pilots quoted by James Fallows, I would certainly agree that being a commercial airline pilot is highly stressful work and pilots’ working conditions should be improved. But I wonder if a poor working environment alone could have caused a pilot to become so stressed out as to murder, in cold blood, 149 people, each one of them had his or her individual life and life story as well as the loved ones.
As I came to know more about the co-pilot through sources such as CNN, I began to think of the co-pilot as suffering from one-track mindedness (someone should have guided him to diversify his interests and career choices) and unbridled narcissism. He also reminds me of the mass murderer in New Town, who seems to have committed the incomprehensible atrocity just in order to become famous, the desire that, regrettably, seems to afflict so many people nowadays.