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Captain On Lufthansa Flight to Spain Left Cockpit Just Moments Before The Only Other Pilot Became Incapacitated at the Controls

Captain On Lufthansa Flight to Spain Left Cockpit Just Moments Before The Only Other Pilot Became Incapacitated at the Controls

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The Captain of a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Seville in Spain was not in the cockpit when the First Officer started to feel unwell and became incapacitated at the controls, according to a preliminary report by Spain’s civil aviation accident commission.

Lufthansa flight LH1140 departed Frankfurt just before 10 am on February 17, 2024, and was flying at around 35,000 feet in Spanish airspace when the Captain decided to step out of the cockpit for a short time.

During that time, Spain’s Commission of Civil Aviation Accidents and Incidents reports that the First Officer – the only other pilot onboard the Airbus A321 aircraft with 199 passengers onboard – suffered an “in-flight incapacitation”.

The Captain was, however, able to gain access into the cockpit, where he took command and diverted to Madrid Barajas Airport, where the flight landed without incident.

Accident investigators did not share further details about the First Officer’s condition. Lufthansa has not replied to a request for comment.

The incident happened just over a month before the anniversary of the Germanwings flight 4U-9525, which crashed into a mountainside in the French Alps, killing all 144 passengers and six crew members onboard on March 24, 2015.

Investigators discovered that First Officer Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the Airbus A320 in a murder/suicide prompted by Lubitz’s belief that he was going blind and would lose his pilot’s license.

Lubitz had previously been treated for suicidal ideation and had conducted online research into suicide methods before crashing Flight 9525.

The cockpit voice recorder (black box) proved to be invaluable in the investigation of what occurred on Flight 9525. It was revealed that Lubitz was able to take control of the flight deck when the Captain stepped out to use the lavatory.

When the Captain tried to reenter the cockpit, Lubitz denied him entry and didn’t respond to requests to open the bulletproof door. As it became increasingly apparent what was happening, the Captain tried to break the door down using a crash axe but was unable to penetrate the reinforced cockpit door.

In the final moments of the recording, passengers could be heard screaming in the background.

Lufthansa now requires two crew members to be on the flight deck at all times. The airline group decided to retire the Germanwings brand in the same year as the accident, and it was eventually folded into Eurowings.

View Comments (4)
  • Your comment that LH requires at least two people in the cockpit at all times seems contradictory to the reference that the pilot was able to regain access to the cockpit and take control. If there was a second person in the cockpit, this would not be much of an issue as the second person could just open the door. I read somewhere some time ago that while after the Germanwings incident there was a requirement, it was later removed as a requirement in 2017. Personally I prefer how US airlines require at least two people in the cockpit at all times during flight.

  • thoughts exactly! I prefer flying U.S. carriers whenever possible. As a flight attendant, I have been the ” second person ” in the cockpit while the captain or first officer takes bathroom break. Safety first.

    • You are totally right! Why would you want to fly an airline with a crew that provides service instead of just having an attitude and playing games in the galley if you can fly one with two members of the crew in the cockpit all the time

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