|Last year, we had Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 And now, of course, we have Germanwings Flight 9525. See also my post from March 2014 on mass murder and suicide by aircraft.|
"While incredibly rare for a pilot to kill himself — and everyone else on a plane — there is both national and international precedent for what experts call “aircraft-assisted pilot suicides.” According to Federal Aviation Administration data, 24 American pilots have killed themselves while flying their planes in the last two decades. Twenty-three of those pilots intentionally crashed their craft, and one student pilot jumped out of his plane mid-flight.
All of the pilots who killed themselves were male and middle-aged.
While none of the American pilots who killed themselves were flying a big commercial aircraft, it has happened elsewhere.
In November of , a Mozambique Airlines E-190 jet carrying 33 passengers went down in Namibia [Flight 470]. No one survived the crash, which became the subject of great mystery because the plane was only one year old, flown by an experienced pilot, in good weather.
According to cockpit voice recordings reported by the International Business Times, the co-pilot left to use the bathroom, and when he returned, he found the door shut. Inside, the pilot had switched the plane’s altitude reading from 38,000 feet to ground level, IBT reports. Recordings show someone pounded on the door to the cockpit as the plane plummeted. Investigators later concluded the plane had crashed because of “intentional actions by the pilot.”
Echoes of that tragedy were found in a pair of late 1990′s crashes. In 1997, more than 100 people were killed with a pilot or crew member forced a plane to crash in Indonesia [SilkAir Flight 185]. Two years later, a Cairo-bound airliner that plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket in 1999 [EgyptAir Flight 990]. All 217 passengers and crew were killed. During the plane’s tailspin, its pilot, Gamal al-Batouti whispered the Arabic phrase, “I rely on God,” — traditionally uttered moments before death.
Depression appears to be the leading cause of aircraft-assisted suicides, and in 2010, the FAA did away with a generations-old ban on pilots taking anti-depressants . The aviation agency, which has mental health restrictions for pilots, now can issue certificates permitting pilots to take Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro, CNN reports."